The brackets finally were filled Monday after the mini-games in Region 3, and now we head to the playoffs and games that really matter. The first-round matchups, as usual, seem predictable. But in the case of Class AAA, outcomes almost seem predictable throughout the bracket. Time to analyze:
In the top-left of the bracket: Jenkins and Greater Atlanta Christian should meet in the quarterfinals. GAC has made a habit of outscoring opponents by 30 and 40 points in the past six games and should have little trouble with Jackson County in first-round before facing Lovett or Bremen in the second-round. Both of GAC’s possible second-round opponents have quality programs, but there is little to indicate that GAC could fall in the second round to either. On the bottom half of the quadrant, Jenkins will face Jackson in the first round before facing Cook or Tattnall County in the second round. The Warriors are carrying momentum and have not lost a game since the playoffs last season. Assuming GAC and Jenkins meet in the quarterfinals, Jenkins will have to answer the “Can you hang with Atlanta teams?” question that has been asked of Savannah schools for years.
Bottom-left: Peach County will have little trouble making it through the first two rounds. The Trojans will host Savannah in the first round before facing either Pierce County or Monroe in the second-round, where the Trojans are favored in either game. The top part of this quadrant is a bit more interesting. Westminster will face North Murray in the first round, and East Hall will face Morgan County, which should be favored. If Westminster makes it through the first game and then defeats either East Hall or Morgan, we will be treated to a repeat of the quarterfinal game between Westminster and Peach from last season. Peach won 27-17 at Westminster. But Morgan County could move to the quarterfinals against Peach. In the end, Peach should have little trouble sweeping the quadrant and entering the semifinals against GAC … again. GAC won 13-7 last season in Fort Valley.
Top-right: Top-ranked Cedar Grove should have little trouble taking care of this quadrant. The Saints, like GAC, have won easily in the past five or six games. Cedar Grove will move past Adairsville in the first-round before facing Dawson County in the second round. On the bottom part of the quadrant, Crisp County will handle Appling County and either Southeast Bulloch or Pike County before falling to Cedar Grove in the quarterfinals — a repeat of last year’s quarterfinal game that Cedar Grove won 55-0 at Crisp.
Bottom-right: This quadrant is interesting because it pits Calhoun against Pace Academy in the first-round. The Yellow Jackets should move past Pace, but if there is a chance for a first-round upset in this quadrant, this is it. The Knights were a 13-point underdog to Lovett on Oct. 27, but won 17-14, so don’t count them out. If Calhoun prevails, it will meet either North Hall or Monroe Area in the second-round. (I pick the Purple Hurricanes of Monroe Area over North Hall in the first round). Liberty County should have little trouble getting past Dougherty in the first round and either Windsor Forest or Westside-Macon in the second round to earn a quarterfinal berth against Calhoun. Last season, Liberty fell in the quarterfinals, 44-38, to GAC. Calhoun should prevail, but Liberty is riding a five-game winning streak since entering region play. This game could prove to be a close one.
R6#3 Bremen at R5#2 Lovett
R8#4 Jackson County at R7#1 Greater Atlanta Christian
R2#3 Tattnall County at R1#2 Cook
R4#4 Jackson at R3#1 Jenkins
R5#3 Westminster at R6#2 North Murray
R7#4 East Hall at R8#1 Morgan County
R1#3 Monroe at R2#2 Pierce County
R3#4 Savannah at R4#1 Peach County
R8#3 Hart County at R7#2 Dawson County
R6#4 Adairsville at R5#1 Cedar Grove
R4#3 Pike County at R3#2 Southeast Bulloch
R2#4 Appling County at R1#1 Crisp County
R7#3 North Hall at R8#2 Monroe Area
R5#4 Pace Academy at R6#1 Calhoun
R3#3 Windsor Forest at R4#2 Westside-Macon
R1#4 Dougherty at R2#1 Liberty County