Second-round previews: Class AAAA
*Northwest Whitfield (8-3) at No. 3 Woodward Academy (10-1): Northwest Whitfield’s 31-20 victory over Oconee County last week was the team’s first playoff win since 2007. Another victory would put the Bruins in the quarterfinals for the first time. QB Luke Shiflett passed for 2,234 yards in the regular season and had 216 against Oconee. Woodward Academy’s 42-0 victory over Upson-Lee in the first round secured the War Eagles’ third consecutive 10-win season, a first in school history. Colorado State-committed QB Ryan Glover (2,230 yards passing in the regular season) threw for 317 yards and four TDs, and leading receiver Josh Johnson had eight catches for 200 yards and three TDs.
*No. 8 Burke County (9-2) at No. 1 Cartersville (11-0): This is the only second-round matchup between ranked teams in AAAA. Burke County advanced with a 57-23 victory over Americus-Sumter. Jaylen Odom rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears are one win away from their first quarterfinal appearance since 2013. Cartersville’s 77-14 victory over Chestatee was the most-lopsided game of the first round in any classification. The defending state champion has won 26 consecutive games. QB Trevor Lawrence passed for 258 yards and seven touchdowns, giving him 2,922 yards and 40 TDs for the season.
*Heritage, Ringgold (8-3) at No. 7 Mary Persons (9-2): Heritage, which opened in 2008, beat Stephens County 37-30 last week in the first playoff game in school history. The Generals were held to a season-low 46 yards rushing but got 245 yards passing from Corbee Wilson (2,588 yards for the season). Top receivers are Ryan Carter (42-964-16) and Luke Grant (49-753-6). Mary Persons beat North Clayton 45-12 to reach the second round for the sixth consecutive year. The Bulldogs led 45-0 at halftime. RB Quen Wilson, who came into the game with 363 yards rushing, ran for 213 and a touchdown on 14 carries.
*Carver, Columbus (7-4) at No. 6 Blessed Trinity (9-2): First-year Carver coach Dremail King has the Tigers in the second round for the first time since 2013, but their four losses are the most since they went 3-7 in 2005. RB Cameron Jessie (1,079 yards rushing in the regular season) ran for 97 yards and two TDs in a 35-7 victory over Cross Creek last week. Blessed Trinity, the runner-up in AAA last season, is trying to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive season. The Titans advanced with a 33-0 victory over Chapel Hill last week. Sophomore RB Steele Chambers has rushed for 1,332 yards.
*West Laurens (7-4) at No. 4 Jefferson (10-1): West Laurens advanced to the second round with a 35-14 victory over Luella, and a win this week would put the Raiders in the quarterfinals for just the second time since 1994. Darius Bradford rushed for 225 yards against Luella and had his second consecutive five-touchdown game. Jefferson is 2-1 in second-round games since winning the Class AA title in 2012. Colby Wood rushed for a season-high 221 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries in a 59-21 first-round victory against Pickens last week. Jefferson averages 249.3 yards per game rushing.
*Sandy Creek (8-3) at No. 5 Cairo (10-1): Sandy Creek rallied from a 17-0 deficit last week to beat Marist 23-20 on a 14-yard pass from Bryant Walker to Parker Mallett in overtime. It was the Patriots’ 10th consecutive first-round victory and left Marist (7-4) with its fewest wins since 1993. Walker has passed for 1,610 yards and 17 TDs this season. Cairo had an easier time in the first round, dominating Baldwin 43-2. PK Cole Phillips made field goals of 44, 38, 27 and 55 yards (the 55-yarder came on a free kick) to give Cairo a 36-0 halftime lead. Cairo has 10 wins for the first time since 2011. Cairo RB/LB Walter Grant committed to Georgia this month.
*Spalding (7-4) at Ridgeland (9-1): Spalding is one win away from its first quarterfinal since 2003 after beating Eastside 24-17 last week. QB Naricuss Driver rushed for 159 yards and two TDs, including a 62-yard run early in the fourth quarter that broke a 17-17 tie. He has 1,119 yards rushing this season. Ridgeland advanced with a 21-14 victory over St. Pius, avenging a 28-19 loss to the Golden Lions in the first round last year. Ridgeland scored on all three of its first-half possessions, and neither team scored after halftime. Jalyn Shelton ran for 222 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 1,378 yards for the season.
*West Hall (7-4) at No. 2 Thomson (11-0): West Hall’s Ashun Favorite had four interceptions, nine tackles and a pass breakup in the Spartans’ 24-21 win over Troup last week. It was the first playoff victory since 2000 for West Hall, which was a 20-point underdog according to the Maxwell Ratings. Thomson ran for a season-high 567 yards in its 57-23 first-round victory over Americus-Sumter and is 11-0 for the first time since 2012. Region 3-AAAA player of the year Mike Thomas rushed for 335 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries, giving him 1,745 yards and 19 TDs for the season.
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