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High school football playoff capsules

POSTED: November 11, 2010 8:36 p.m.

Gainesville vs. Haralson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: City Park Stadium, Gainesville

Radio: 102.9 FM

Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; Haralson County, Davis Harvey

Records: Gainesville (9-1, No. 1 Region 8-AAA); Haralson County (3-7, No. 4 Region 6-AAA)

Key players: Gainesville, LB A.J. Johnson (6-3, 235 Sr.), QB Deshaun Watson (6-1, 170 Fr.), DT Thomas Niles (6-2, 265 Sr.). Haralson County, RB Antoine Phillips (5-9, 170 Jr.), QB C.J. Meeks (6-0, 185 Sr.), DL Hunter Davis (6-1, 260 Sr.).

Outlook: Eleven months removed from playing for a Class AAA state title, the Red Elephants begin their quest for a return trip against the Rebels, who run the triple option on offense and like to blitz on defense.

“You live by the blitz, you die by the blitz,” Miller said. “If we can hit a crease, with our folks, it could be a touchdown.”

The Rebels can just look at last week’s Region 8-AAA championship game for proof, as Watson connected with Michael Lorentz for a 92-yard touchdown against White County.

Gainesville can also break the big play on the ground with running backs Devon Pierce, Markece Robertson and Ray-Ray Thomas, a freshman who could see plenty of action if the score gets one-sided. Add in receivers Stephen Mason and Keyontra Harrison, and there’s little doubt as to why Gainesville averages 37 points per game.

“From the way I look at it, who do you stop?” Miller said. “I almost expect someone different to show up and make a play to win the ball game.”

Haralson County is also capable of making the big play, evidenced by Jerrod Phillips’ 94-yard interception return for a touchdown during last week’s playoff-clinching win over Shaw. That’s just one reason why Miller is making sure his players don’t overlook this opponent.

“Each game has its own set of circumstances and situations,” he said. “You have to go out and play.”

And after last year’s tough loss in the state title game, these Red Elephants are more focused than ever.

“I think they want to get back there,” Miller said. “Last year was OK, we got there, we lost. Now let’s get back. This group has had that workman-like attitude all year long.”

Prediction: GAINESVILLE. The Red Elephants gear up for another deep playoff run with a lopsided win.

LaGrange at White County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Warriors Stadium, Cleveland

Radio: 105.1 FM

Coaches: LaGrange (5-5, No. 3 Region 6-AAA), White County (8-2, No. 2 Region 8-AAA)

Records: LaGrange, Steve Pardue; White County, Tommy Flowers

Key players: LaGrange, QB Braxton Smith (6-2, 180 Sr.), WR Dee Smith (6-1, 170 So.), LB Chauncey Smith (6-1, 230

Sr.). White County, QB Cole Segraves (6-4, 190 So.), RB/DB Ashely Lowery (6-2, 200 Sr.), LB Eathan Eaton (5-11, 175 Sr.).

Outlook: This is a matchup of two programs with vastly different histories.

LaGrange is a winner of 11 state titles and is making its 11th straight playoff appearance.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are in the postseason for the first time since 2007 and looking for their first state playoff victory, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.

Still, White County is the higher seed as a result of winning all five subregion games and the north subregion title. However, that is little comfort to Flowers since he knows the history of LaGrange football.

“This is a typical LaGrange football team,” Flowers said. “On offense, they line up in the wing-T and also like to go out of the shotgun and use the play-action pass.

“They have big-play receivers and a heady quarterback.”

This season, the Grangers have been extremely balanced on offense with 1,142 rushing yards and 1,393 passing yards.

Braxton has completed 79 of 150 passes for 1,393 yards and 17 touchdowns. Q. Ferrell (113 carries, 488 yards) and Quint Jackson (71 carries, 247 yards) have accounted for most of the team’s rushing yards.

In the region title game last Friday, Lowery led White County with 175 rushing yards. Cole Segraves connected with Ethan McCallister on a touchdown pass for the Warriors’ only score.

“I feel White County has a very good football team,” Pardue said. “They are very physical on defense and a very explosive team offensively.

Lowery is White County’s leading rusher with 1,047 yards and 12 touchdowns. Segraves has passed for 1,210 yards and eight touchdowns.

“Lowery is a great player on both sides of the ball, but not the only player. ... “The QB (Segraves) is a great operator to be just a sophomore, and we will have to play our best to have a chance.”

Prediction: WHITE COUNTY. Warriors have enough muscle on defense to contain the Grangers.

Hart County at Buford

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Coaches: Hart County, Joby Scroggs. Buford, Jess Simpson

Records: Hart County (6-3-1, No. 4 Region 8-AA), Buford (9-1, No. 1 Region 6-AA).

Key players: Hart County, QB Landon Beck (6-2, 200 Sr.), RB Stephon Eades (6-0, 195 Jr.), LB Deonte Allen (5-9, 180 Jr.). Buford, QB Alex Ross (6-2, 198 Sr.), RB Seon Jones (5-9, 180 Sr.), TE/LB Dillon Lee (6-4, 228 Jr.).

Outlook: Buford has a postseason history that is rivaled by few in recent years. Hart County’s isn’t that bad either.

While the Wolves begin their quest for a fourth consecutive state title, the Bulldogs are making their 19th consecutive appearance in the postseason.

“Our goal now is to get past the first round,” said Scroggs, referring to opening round playoff losses in 2008 and 2009.

For Buford, the offense is led by Ross, who has completed 60 of his 107 passes for 1,237 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jones (797 yards) and Dominique Swope (459 yards) lead the Wolves in rushing. Last week in the region championship, Eric Barr rushed for two touchdowns for the Wolves in a win against Westminster.

Lee, a tight end, is Buford’s leading receiver with 10 catches for 322 yards and eight touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Beck has been proficient as a three-year starter for the Bulldogs with 1,182 passing yards and nine touchdowns this season. Eades has rushed for 864 yards this season, including a season-high 201 yards and two touchdowns against East Jackson.

In its three losses (North Oconee, Stephens County and Elbert County), Hart County turned the ball over a total of 15 times.

On defense, linebacker Deonte Allen (106 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss) and defensive end Dylan Mitchell (73 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss) are Hart County’s top tacklers.

Prediction: BUFORD. The Wolves are clicking now on offense and defense. That’s bad news for the rest of Class AA.

Commerce at Bremen

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Bremen Athletic Field, Bremen

Coaches: Commerce, Steve Savage; Bremen, Ricky Tolleson

Records: Commerce (5-5, No. 3 Region 8-A); Bremen (9-1, No. 2 Region 6-A)

Key players: Commerce, QB Cody Streetman (6-0, 185 Jr.), LB Josh Swistak (5-9, 190 Jr.), CB/RB Jessie Savage (5-7, 150 Sr.); Bremen, QB Brent Copeland (Jr.), TE/LB Austin Warren (Sr.), T Mick Driver (Sr.).

Outlook: The Tigers are in the playoffs for the 14th straight season but will face a tough test in Bremen. Tolleson will be seeking revenge against his off-the-field friend Savage. Commerce put Bremen out of the Class A state playoffs in the second round of 2003 and 2006.

Savage has already made clear that this his 22nd season at the helm of the program will be his last and if the Tigers want to prevent having a losing season for only the second time during Savage’s tenure, they’ll need a win Friday night.

Warren had 13 solo tackles, four assists and an interception on defense last week and added three catches for 83 yards and a touchdown on offense.

If the Tigers want to slow him down, they’ll need to use their big defensive line to get penetration and disrupt Copeland. The quarterback had the game-winning 2-yard run last week and added a 31-yard strike to Warren for a touchdown.

The Tigers’ 5-5 record may be misleading: they’ve lost three games by seven points or less and managed to score more than 25 points in six of their 10 games.

“We’ve only been beaten up one time this year,” Savage said. “But the team hasn’t quit fighting, despite losing a lot of close games.”

Commerce was defeated by Class AA’s North Oconee 42-0 on Sept. 10, but only lost by three points to Class AA’s Jefferson and Class AAA’s Franklin County.

Commerce runs the triple option with Streetman and Savage at its head. Savage managed 140 yards on 20 carries last week as the Tigers beat Social Circle 49-21.

Running back Marquavius Little also plays a big part for the Commerce offense. The sophomore had three touchdowns on the ground last week.

Bremen runs the same type of offense as Commerce, focused mainly on an option attack and the occasional bootleg pass to Warren. Covering the bootleg played a big part in practice this week, so the Tigers should be able to limit the Blue Devils to veer running plays.

Prediction: BREMEN. The Blue Devils are outscoring their opponents by 17.6 points per game this season.

Flowery Branch vs. SW DeKalb

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Falcon Field, Flowery Branch

Radio: 550-AM

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw; Southwest DeKalb, Buck Godfrey

Records: Flowery Branch (9-1, No. 2 Region 8-AAAA); Southwest DeKalb (8-2, No. 3 Region 6-AAAA)

Key players: Flowery Branch, QB Austin Brown (6-1, 195 Sr.), DB Kyle Famiano (5-9, 180 Sr.), WR Logan Conley (5-11, 175 Jr.). Southwest DeKalb, RB George Kennedy (Sr.), DB Toran Davis (5-10, 160 Jr.), DE Terrance Smith (Sr.).

Outlook: The Panthers rushing attack averages 250 yards a game out of the wing T formation. Kennedy is their leading rusher with 826 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by Andrecas Jackson (572 yards, seven touchdowns). Quarterback Andre Wilson has thrown for 900 yards, 12 touchdowns and has four interceptions.

Out of the 3-3 stack, their defense has returned four interceptions for touchdowns and Davis has two of those. He also leads the Panthers with 76 tackles, adding three sacks. Defensive end Terrance Smith, Southwest DeKalb’s most recruited player, has committed to Florida State over Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and a number of SEC schools. He has 50 tackles — 11 for loss — and seven sacks.

Since 1986, the Panthers have been to the state playoffs every year but three. Godfrey, in his 28th season at Southwest DeKalb, is 258-81-1. He was elected into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame in June.

Flowery Branch runs its offense out of the shotgun spread and is led by Brown, who has 2,296 yards on 152-for-233 passing, 21 touchdowns and two interceptions. Jeremy Haley has rushed for 1,270 yards and 17 touchdowns on 178 carries.

Conley has 50 receptions for 945 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Casey Osborne has 48 catches for 668 yards and six touchdowns.

Out of the eight-man front, the Falcons defense has three shutouts and is led by Famiano’s 108 tackles. Linebacker Jacob Allen leads the team with three sacks.

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. The defense has played solid all season long and the offense has had a week to work on weaknesses exploited last week by Clarke Central in a 21-0 defeat.


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