By Ryan Rohde
Playoffs get underway in Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and Kentucky while Alabama heads into round two. This is a big weekend down on the bayou in Mobile, Ala. as local rivals battle for their playoff lives. Georgia and Mississippi feature some highly talented teams facing off in round one of the playoffs. Quite simply, this is big weekend in the south as another electric postseason commences.
GHSAA AAAAA Playoffs Round 1
Milton Eagles (8-2, Region 6, No. 2 Seed) vs. East Paulding Raiders (8-2, Region 5, No. 3 seed): This is a tough first round draw for two top twenty teams. Milton lost an early season game to a subpar Campbell team, but has gone 7-1 since. East Paulding suffered a midseason loss to a very strong Harrison team and then fell to Woodstock last week. The winner of this game has a chance to do some real damage in the playoffs.
Harrison Hoyas (8-2, Region 5, No. 2) vs. Kell Longhorns (8-2, Region 6, No. 3): Harrison started the season strong with big wins over Peachtree Ridge and North Cobb, but struggled to finish strong with two losses in the last three weeks of the season. The Hoyas have a strong rushing attack led by Robbie Godhigh. Meanwhile, Kell has been tough all year. The Longhorns suffered losses to Walton and Milton, two very strong teams. Look for this to be a close battle that's decided in the fourth quarter.
Northside Warner Robins Eagles (9-1, Region 1, No. 2) vs. Union Grove Wolverines (8-2, Region 2, No. 3): Northside is one of the most talented teams in the state. The Eagles' resume includes victories over formidable squads Carver, Washington (FL) and Coffee. The Eagle defense is second to none. LB Eric Fields and DE Avery Jones headline this vaunted group that has allowed just 10 points per contest. Union Grove has made giant leaps this season, erasing any memories of its 3-7 campaign last season. The Wolverines will be riding high on emotion and will need all the help they can get to bring down Northside.
Etowah Eagles (9-1, Region 5, No. 1) vs. Lassiter Trojans (8-2, Region 6, No. 4): This is another interesting matchup in the class AAAAA playoffs. Lassiter has made waves this year after posting a 3-7 record in ’07. Etowah is coming off four straight wins and a region title out of the very tough Region 5. East Paulding was the only road block this season for the Eagles. This could be a high scoring affair with both offenses possessing big play capabilities.
Parkview Panthers (7-3, Region 8, No. 2) vs. Norcross Blue Devils (7-3, Region 7, No. 3): Parkview has been one of Georgia's best programs over the last 10 years, winning four state titles, including three straight from ’00-’02. The Panthers' offense is lead by QB Clayton Wilkins and RB Brandon Jacobs. Meanwhile, Norcross looks to make a deeper push into the playoffs after exiting in round two last season. The Blue Devils have a high-powered offense led by RB D.J. Adams and WR Price Kent. Both teams have a number of Div. I caliber players, which should make this one very exciting.
KHSAA 6A Playoffs Round 1
Bullitt Central Cougars (8-2) vs. Madison Central Indians (8-2): This matchup has the makings to be the best game of the first round. It shapes up to be more like a quarterfinal game rather than a first rounder. Neither coach could be happy with this draw. Both squads feature high-powered offenses, with the Indians averaging 33 points per game and the Cougars 32 per contest. Kentucky high school football fans will likely see some fireworks this weekend as this games poses to be a high-scoring affair.
Eastern Eagles (8-1) vs. North Hopkins Maroons (7-3): Eastern has reeled off six-straight wins since its shutout loss against Trinity. The Eagles are battle-tested, which is very important heading into the playoffs. The squad has won their last three games by a combined 15 points. North Hopkins has a big opportunity to really shake things up in the Kentucky playoffs.
NCHSAA Class 4 AA Playoffs Round 1
East Mecklenburg Eagles (9-2, West No. 8) vs. West Forsyth Titans (9-3, West No. 9): East Mecklenburg has been one of the stronger AA teams in the state all season long. The team's only two losses came to Butler and Independence, two North Carolina powers. QB Olen Little leads the Eagles offense by putting up nearly 2,000 yards in the air, while RB Ronald Howard has nearly 1,500 yards on the ground. The Titans closed out the season with back-to-back losses. West Forsyth is led by a great group of seniors who should be able to regroup the squad for a nice playoff push.
Butler Bulldogs (10-1, West No. 5) vs. Davie County War Eagles (7-4, West No. 12): Butler might be the second-best team in the state, but they received the No. 5 seed in the western bracket of the playoffs. They have the talent to win states, but face a tough opening round opponent. Butler’s Hawatha Bell is one of the states best and is a force at linebacker and running back. Davie County overcame a midseason three-game losing streak and finished the year with back-to-back wins. QB Zach Illing has thrown for 2,200 yards and the team's rushing attack, led by James Mayfair, has combined for over 1,400 yards on the ground. If Butler is not careful, they could take an early bow from the playoffs.
AHSAA 6A Playoffs -- Round 2
Mountain Brook Spartans (10-1) vs. Tuscaloosa County Wildcats (11-0): Revenge will be on the minds of Tuscaloosa County Friday night. Mountain Brook gave the Wildcats an early exit in this round last season. The circumstances are very similar with Tuscaloosa County coming into to the playoffs undefeated for the second-straight year. The Wildcats have made easy work out of their schedule, including last week's 35-8 win over Pelham to kickstart the postseason. Mountain Brook beat up a strong Hillcrest team last week in round one, and now has its eyes focused on this undefeated Wildcats squad.
Mobile, Alabama Two Game Special:
McGill-Toolin Yellow Jackets (8-2) vs. Davidson Warriors (9-2): Davidson won round one of this battle back on Sept. 26, 14-13. The Warriors missed out on the playoffs last season and look to make some real noise this time around. The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, were bounced out last season by eventual champ Prattville. McGill-Toolin has an explosive offense lead by the QB-WR tandem of Cullen Whacker and Jerome Jones. This is going to be another hard-fought game in Mobile.
Theodore Bobcats (8-3) vs. Murphy Panthers (9-1): Theodore and Murphy know each other all to well. The Bobcats struck first on Oct. 10, 28-13. Theordore also comes in off an emotional 7-6 opening round win over rival Daphne last week. Matt Rowser is having a big season for Murphy at QB and has thrown for more that 2,000 yards while rushing for 800. Throw the records out the window in this Mobile Bayou clash.
Minor Tigers (9-2) vs. Hoover Buccaneers (10-1): Minor showed its mettle in last week's 20-14 playoff win over an excellent Vestavia Hills team. Minor Head coach Randy Cook will have a homecoming of sorts seeing that he played and coached at Hoover prior to coming to Minor. Tigers running back Dezman Ivory is one of the most versatile players in the state. This season, the standout has rushed for 1,049 yards and has 563 yards receiving with 21 total touchdowns. He rushed for 247 yards and a score in last week's game. Hoover is a perennial power and this year is no different. The Bucs are 9-1 and crushed a solid Hueytown team, 45-13, in last week's first round contest. This game has the makings to be an instant classic.
MHSAA 5A Playoffs Round 1
Olive Branch Conquistadors (8-2, Region 1, No. 2) vs. Clinton Arrows (8-3, Region 2, No. 3): Olive Branch comes into Friday night's contest on an emotional high after defeating Tupelo in the regular season finale. Led by QB Clint Wilson, the squad's offense averages 39 points a game. Clinton QB Brent Chappell has some dual threat ability and RB Akiko Thompson can break a long run at a moment's notice. Keep your eye on this game because it could be the weekend's best.
Tupelo Golden Wave (8-3, Region 1, No. 3) vs. Northwest Rankin (9-2, Region 2, No. 2): Tupelo features arguably the best QB-WR tandem in the state. Chris Garrett is an LSU commit and could be the state's best quarterback. Wide receiver Chad Bumphis has offers from Florida, Alabama and Auburn. NW Rankin has a strong team this year and fell to a tough Pearl team in the second week and to Madison Central for the Region 2 title. Tupelo needs to be careful to not have a letdown game. The winner of this game faces a possible matchup against No. 1 South Panola. The Golden Wave almost ended South Panola’s 83 game win streak on Oct. 17, falling 14-13. The Golden Wave failed on a two-point conversion attempt on the last play, so you know they have revenge on their minds.
Catch Ryan's regional breakdowns every Thursday right here at FootballPower. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.