The first round of the Class AAA playoffs went about as expected, except for a few lower-seeds prevailing over their higher-seeded opponents. Next week we will break down the 16 remaining teams and the eight games they’ll play Friday. But for now, let’s look at the first round in each quadrant of the bracket:
In the top-left: Lovett, the No. 2 seed from Region 5, was victorious against the Region 6, No. 3 seed Bremen, 32-0. The Lions were led by Blaine McCallister, who passed for 154 yards and two touchdowns. The victory sets up a meeting between Lovett and Greater Atlanta Christian in the second-round.
GAC defeated Jackson County 49-0 to advance. GAC took a 14-0 lead after the first quarter and led 42-0 at halftime. Kyler McMichael, a Clemson commitment, scored each of GAC’s first three touchdowns, one from 73 yards. Jackson Hardy passed to Jeffrey Blake and Ty James for touchdowns. Blake also caught a pass from Josh Rose for a score.
No. 5 Jenkins defeated Jackson 28-21 in a game that was a bit closer than the Warriors would have liked. The victory sets up a meeting between Jenkins and Cook in the second round. Cook defeated Tattnall County, 26-14, in the first round.
In the bottom-left: Tenth-ranked Westminster, the No. 3 seed from Region 5, defeated North Murray, the No. 2 seed from Region 6, 37-7 to advance. Westminster entered the playoffs as a top-10 team with a 5-5 record. If the Wildcats are going to move deeper into the playoffs, they will have to silence East Hall’s Austin Parker.
East Hall, the No. 4 seed from Region 7, upset Morgan County 50-36 to advance. It marked the first playoff victory for East Hall since 1993. Parker passed for six touchdowns and nearly 500 yards. The Vikings were behind by 15 points late in the first quarter but went on a 32-0 run to take a 38-21 lead in the third before adding another touchdown.
Second-ranked Peach County defeated visiting Savannah, 45-0, and will face Pierce County in the second round. The Trojans’ Trevon Woolfolk scored on runs of 75, 6 and 2 yards. Kearis Jackson scored on passes of 22 and 26 yards from Antonio Gilbert. Peach’s Mitchell Fineran, who kicked a 53-yarder last week, the longest in school history, was perfect 6-for-6 on extra points and added a 45-yard field goal.
Pierce moved past Monroe, 28-21, to advance to the second-round game against Peach.
In the top-right: Dawson County, the No. 2 seed from Region 7, moved past Hart County, 49-14, and will need every ounce of that offensive production against Cedar Grove in the second round. Cedar Grove, the defending champion, defeated Adairsville in the first round, 48-13. Cedar Grove’s Jimmy Smith recorded his 51st victory, which tied Ray Bonner for the third all-time in coaching victories at Cedar Grove.
Jadon Haselwood led the Saints with four receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns with a 50-yard punt return for a score. Xavier Dennis was 11-for-14 passing for 164 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for 67 yards and a score on three attempts. Israel Spivey had five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown. Darrell Neal led rushers with 115 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
After being behind early, Pike County, the No. 3 seed from Region 4, came back to handle Region 3 No. 2 Southeast Bulloch, 43-28, to advance. Pike will face Crisp County in the second-round. Crisp, who hasn’t lost since Sept. 29 against Brooks County, defeated Appling County 56-7 to advance. Crisp’s offense was led by the dynamic Quay Walker, an Alabama commitment. Walker, who’s listed as a linebacker on 247Sports, plays receiver as well.
In the bottom-right: Monroe Area, the No. 2 seed from Region 8, moved past Region 7 No. 3 North Hall, 42-7, and will face Calhoun in the second round. Fourth-ranked Calhoun, the No. 1 seed from Region 6-North/South, handled Pace Academy in the first-round, 27-3, to advance. Calhoun was led by Zach Fuller, who scored on runs of 27 and 4 yards. Elmer Gutierrez kicked field goals of 27 and 22 yards for the Yellow Jackets.
Westside-Macon, the No. 2 seed from Region 4, handled the Region 3 No. 3 seed Windsor Forest, 14-0, to move to the second-round game against Liberty County. Liberty seems to be playing to form, moving past Dougherty 43-6. Liberty did all of its scoring in the first half, 16 points in the first quarter and 27 points in the second. Markel Johnson scored on an interception return in the first quarter. Dionte Bowens passed to Russell Dandy to give Liberty a 22-0 lead with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter. Johnson added a 7-yard rushing touchdown to push the lead to 29-0 with eight minutes remaining before halftime. Kris Coleman scored on a short run to extend the Panthers’ lead to 36-0. Bowens found Coleman again, this time on a 54-yard pass, on the Panthers’ final score of the game.