All eight region champions advance; No. 2 seed Stephenson makes early exit

It was a great night for the home teams on Friday as 14 of the 15 higher-seeded teams won their games in the first round of the Class AAAAAA football playoffs.

All eight region champions advanced to the second round, in most cases without much trouble. The average margin of victory for the No. 1 seeds was 23.3 points, and only two of the games were decided by fewer than 16 points.

There were some exceptions, however. Region 6 champion Harrison needed a 44-yard touchdown pass from Gavin Hall to Micah Davis with 44 seconds remaining and then a late defensive stand to preserve a 33-28 victory over Alexander. Region 5 champion Mays was tied with Sequoyah 28-28 in the third quarter before pulling away for a 48-28 victory. And Region 1 champion Lee County led Richmond Hill 26-14 in the third quarter and held on for a 29-21 win.

Six of the seven No. 2 seeds that played on Friday also advanced. The one team that failed to advance was Region 4’s Stephenson, which lost to Heritage-Conyers 20-7. It was the second first-round exit in three years for the Jaguars, who reached the quarterfinals last season.

Brunswick, the No. 2 seed from Region 2, will try to make it 7-for-8 when it faces Northside-Warner Robins on Saturday at Glynn County Stadium.

Here are more observations from the first round:

– There will be a new champion in Class AAAAAA this season as defending champion Valdosta was knocked out by Glynn Academy 27-3. The Wildcats’ first-round loss was their fifth in seven years, and the 4-7 record this season was their worst since the 2006 team finished 1-9. All of the other defending state champions are still alive. Grayson (AAAAAAA), Rome (AAAAA), Cartersville (AAAA), Cedar Grove (AAA) and Benedictine (AA) cruised into the second round, and Class A champions Eagle’s Landing Christian (private) and Macon County (public) had first-round byes.

– The only region that went 3-1 in the first round, remarkably enough, was 3-AAAAAA, which sent the same four teams to the playoffs that went 0-4 in the first round a year ago. Evans, Heritage-Conyers, Grovetown and Lakeside-Evans lost their playoff games last season by a combined score of 218-38. But that was against powerful Region 1. The Region 4 contingent was much kinder this season. Evans, Heritage and Grovetown advanced, while Lakeside was knocked out by top-ranked Tucker 55-7. Northside can give Region 1 a 3-1 weekend if it beats Brunswick on Saturday.

– Grovetown’s 35-27 victory over Lovejoy was the Warriors’ first playoff win in school history. The Augusta-area school opened in 2009 and had not reached the playoffs until last season, when it lost at Northside 52-0 in the first round. Grovetown also set a school record for victories in a season by improving to 7-4. The Warriors were the only higher-seeded team pegged as underdogs by the computer Maxwell Ratings, which had projected Lovejoy as a five-point favorite. Grovetown stopped Lovejoy’s Zion Custis for no gain at the 3-yard line as time expired to preserve the victory.

– Looking ahead to the second round, there will be two matchups between ranked teams. No. 6 Douglas County will travel to ninth-ranked Alpharetta, the Region 7 champion. Top-ranked Tucker will be at home and face either fifth-ranked Northside or No. 8 Brunswick. Tucker has reached the quarterfinals or better eight times in the past 10 seasons and won state titles in 2008 and 2011.

Here are the first-round scores and the matchups for Round 2:

First round

Douglas County 13, Dalton 6

Alpharetta 40, Gainesville 24

Coffee 52, Effingham County 32

Evans 69, Drew 32

Allatoona 27, Hughes 7

Dacula 42, Pope 14

(R1 #3) Northside, W.R. at (R2 #2) Brunswick (Saturday)

Tucker 55, Lakeside-Evans 7

Centennial 48, Lanier 14

Mays 48, Sequoyah 28

Grovetown 35, Lovejoy 27

Lee County 29, Richmond Hill 21

Winder-Barrow 36, Chattahoochee 7

Harrison 33, Alexander 28

Heritage-Conyers 20, Stephenson 7

Glynn Academy 27, Valdosta 3

Second round

(R5 #2) Douglas County at (R7 #1) Alpharetta

(R1 #2) Coffee at (R3 #1) Evans

(R6 #2) Allatoona at (R8 #1) Dacula

Northside-Warner Robins/Brunswick winner at (R4 #1) Tucker

(R7 #2) Centennial at (R5 #1) Mays

(R3 #2) Grovetown at (R1 #1) Lee County

(R8 #2) Winder-Barrow at (R6 #1) Harrison

(R3 #3) Heritage, Conyers at (R2 #1) Glynn Academy


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