In the first round, the higher-seeded teams won 99 of 112 games, an 88.4 percent success rate that represents the highest opening-round domination in playoff history. Only seven Top 10 teams lost, and three of those were beaten by other ranked teams.
This week, there are 15 games between Top 10 teams, three matching top-five teams.
Here is a review, preview and primer of the state playoffs as they enter the round of 16.
*Defending champions: Valdosta is the only 2016 champion that is out. The Wildcats lost to seventh-ranked Glynn Academy 27-3 in Class AAAAAA and finished 4-7. Still in business are No. 4 Grayson (AAAAAAA), No. 1 Rome (AAAAA), No. 1 Cartersville (AAAA), No. 1 Cedar Grove (AAA), No. 1 Benedictine (AA), No. 1 Eagle’s Landing Christian (A private) and No. 5 Macon County (A public). Five carry school-record winning streaks. They are Cartersville (41 straight), ELCA (32), Benedictine (26), Rome (23) and Cedar Grove (21).
*Top players: Eight of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s preseason Super 11 are still suiting up. They are DE Adam Anderson of Rome, DE Brenton Cox of Stockbridge, RB Dameon Pierce of Bainbridge, WR Kearis Jackson of Peach County, RB/CB Kyler McMichael of Greater Atlanta Christian, WR Matthew Hill of Brookwood, DB Otis Reese of Lee County and QB Trevor Lawrence of Cartersville. All play for Top 10 teams.
*Best second-round game: Eighth-ranked Colquitt County, thrice-beaten this season but never counted out in the playoffs, travels to undefeated and third-ranked Walton in Class AAAAAAA. With Rush Propst as its coach, Colquitt has beaten 11 Top 10 teams in the playoffs, five when Colquitt was the lower-ranked team. Propst is 5-0 against teams from Cobb County, of which Walton is one. Walton is under a first-year coach, Daniel Brunner, who replaced Mo Dixon last spring. Dixon is now Colquitt County’s defensive coordinator.
*Ranked on ranked: As noted, 15 of the 64 second-round games are between ranked teams. Here is that list:
No. 10 Mill Creek at No. 2 Archer
No. 8 Colquitt County at No. 3 Walton
No. 4 Grayson at No. 5 North Gwinnett
No. 5 Northside (Warner Robins) at No. 1 Tucker
No. 6 Douglas County at No. 9 Alpharetta
No. 7 Bainbridge at No. 8 Starr’s Mill
No. 5 Jones County at No. 6 Wayne County
No. 8 Cedartown at No. 2 Marist
No. 5 Blessed Trinity at No. 1 Cartersville
No. 9 Lovett at No. 3 Greater Atlanta Christian
No. 6 Brooks County at No. 7 Dodge County
No. 10 Jefferson County at No. 1 Benedictine
No. 8 Calvary Day at No. 4 Wesleyan
No. 6 Charlton County at No. 7 Commerce
No. 10 Washington-Wilkes at No. 1 Manchester
*Unranked on unranked: Six second-round games are between unranked teams. Of those, two have teams that have not been ranked all season. Those are Marietta at Woodstock (AAAAAAA) and Schley County at Mitchell County (A). The others are Mountain View at Parkview (AAAAAAA), Allatoona at Dacula (AAAAAA), Flowery Branch at Carver of Atlanta (AAAAA) and Westside of Macon at Liberty County (AAA).
*Top 10 success: Also as noted, only seven of the 80 Top 10 teams did not survive the first round, and three – Brunswick, Griffin and Bremen – lost to other ranked teams. The other four were South Forsyth (lost to Mountain View in AAAAAAA), Morgan County (lost to East Hall in AAA), Tattnall Square (lost to First Presbyterian Day in A) and Trion (lost to Dooly County in A).
*Historic wins: Seven teams won their first-ever playoff games last week, and another won its first since 1960. First-time winners (and their first season of football) were B.E.S.T. Academy (2011), Eagle’s Landing (1992), Grovetown (2009), Jackson of Atlanta (1985), Mount Vernon Presbyterian (2004), Mountain View (2009) and Pike County (1971). Jenkins County won its first playoff game since reaching the Class B semifinals in 1960.
*Great finishes in review: The first round didn’t have many upsets, or even close games, but it was not without some great finishes. Fellowship Christian and Parkview won in overtime. Here are five others that went down to the wire:
– Flowery Branch made a defensive stop inside its 1-yard line on the final play of a 21-14 victory over Kell.
– Groveton stopped Lovejoy’s Zion Custis for no gain at the 3-yard line as time expired to preserve a 35-27 victory.
– Harrison has lost five-star QB Justin Fields for the season with a broken finger, but his backup, Gavin Hall, threw a 44-yard TD pass to Micah Davis with 44 seconds left in a 33-28 victory over Alexander.
– Starr’s Mill QB Joey DeLuca threw a 34-yard TD pass to Branden Rew with 40 seconds left in a 31-28 victory over Dutchtown.
– Toombs County QB Dalton McBride threw an 18-yard TD pass to D.J. Matthews with 24 seconds left in a 34-31 victory over Fitzgerald.
*Top individual performances in review: Bo Lawson, a junior at Dooly County, threw eight TD passes in the first round. That ties Hutson Mason’s state-playoff record. Lawson was 22-of-27 passing for 450 yards and had 66 yards rushing. Desi Lester had 13 catches for 289 yards and five touchdowns. Here are five other impressive first-round performances:
– Dodge County DE Jaden Johnson had 5.5 sacks in a 44-8 victory over Butler.
– East Hall QB Austin Parker was 21-of-36 passing for 463 yards and six touchdowns (also rushed for 72 yards) in a 50-36 victory over Region 8-AAA champion Morgan County. Sedrion Morse had six receptions for 225 yards and four touchdowns.
– Monroe Area QB Chandler Byron rushed for 320 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries in a 42-7 first-round victory over North Hall.
– Stockbridge WR Marquez Ezzard had six catches for 255 yards in a 40-7 victory over McIntosh.
– Woodstock QB Garrett Bass was 26-of-40 passing for 385 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-14 win over North Paulding.
*What’s next: The quarterfinals are next week. The quarters mark the first time that region champions can face off. Any time that same-seeded teams meet, the lower team on the bracket will be the home team. That was determined today with a universal coin flip at the GHSA’s office. Also noteworthy next week is Monday’s implosion of the Georgia Dome, site of the state finals since 2008. This year’s eight state championship games will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 8-9.
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