Gainesville at Harris County
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Tigers Stadium, Hamilton
Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; Harris County, Dwight Jones
Records: No. 2 Region 8-AAAAA Gainesville (9-2); No. 1 Region 1-AAAAA Harris County (9-2)
Key players: Gainesville, QB Mikey Gonzalez (5-9, 165 Sr.); LB J.D. Sosebee (6-0, 220 Sr.); RB Michael Byrd (5-7, 170 Sr.). Harris County, RB/WR/DB Tae Crowder (6-3, 212 Sr.); QB/DB TaQuon Marshall (5-10, 170 Sr.); LB Easton Hart (5-8, 165 Sr.).
Outlook: For the second time in just three seasons, these two schools separated by 140 miles are meeting in the postseason. Both had to survive a neck-and-neck battle in Round 1 to advance to face one another in the second round. Led by a career-best 217 rushing yards by Byrd, his fourth consecutive game with more than 100 yards on the ground, the Red Elephants outlasted Creekview 42-37 to open the Class AAAAA state tournament Nov. 14 at City Park Stadium. Gainesville came out on top in a game with six lead changes, starting late in the second period.
Harris County had an even closer contest against Warner Robins in Round 1. The Tigers’ Hart blocked a 42-yard field goal from Warner Robins with only 13 seconds left on the clock to preserve a 33-31 win in Hamilton. Crowder was the catalyst for Harris County’s offense to open the postseason with two first-quarter touchdown runs, and another in the fourth quarter to take the lead.
On the season, Gonzalez has completed 212 of 300 passes for the Red Elephants for 2,584 yards and 31 touchdowns. Byrd is tops in the running game with 745 yards and five touchdowns for the Red Elephants. The majority of Gonzalez’s throws have been to three wide receivers: Rodney Lackey (637 yards, 11 touchdowns), Messiah Dorsey (765 yards, nine touchdowns) and Chris Wiliamson (669 yards, eight touchdowns).
Sosebee has continued to excel for Gainesville, recording a team-high 145 tackles (eight for a loss), followed second on the team by Kash Jones’ 89 tackles (14 for a loss).
The 37 points allowed to Creekview was the second-highest point total given up by Gainesville’s defense in 2014.
Five times this season, the Red Elephants’ defense has held the opposition to 7 points or less.
Harris County started the season with non-region losses to Central High (Ala.) and Westside-Macon. The Tigers cruised in region play, winning by an average margin of 28. Harris County won its final two games in region play against LaGrange and Shaw at the end of the regular season by 10 points each to lock up the region title.
For the season, Crowder (1,342 yards, 21 touchdowns) and Marshall (1,217 yards, 11 touchdowns) are leading the way rushing the ball for the Tigers. Marshall has thrown for 1,034 yards and 15 touchdowns.
On defense, Monterio Wyatt has 77 tackles (six for a loss) for Harris County, and Hart has 67 tackles and four interceptions.
In 2012, Gainesville beat Harris County, 64-13, in the state quarterfinals en route to the Class AAAAA state title.
The winner advances to face the Coffee/Allatoona winner on Nov. 28.
Buford vs. Mary Persons
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Mary Persons, Brian Nelson
Records: No. 1 Region 8-AAAA Buford (11-0); No. 2 Region 2-AAAA Mary Persons (9-2)
Key players: Buford, RB/CB Xavier Gantt (5-10, 163 Jr.); RB/LB Joshua Thomas (6-1, 208 Sr.); TE/DE Isaac Nauta (6-4, 244 Jr.). Mary Persons, RB Dee High (5-10, 171 Sr.); QB Jake Johnston (6-3, 185 Jr.); CB/WR Rahim Lowe (5-11, 175 Sr.).
Outlook: Buford will put its 36-game win streak on the line against the Mary Persons Bulldogs in a second-round matchup at Tom Riden Stadium. The Wolves ride into tonight’s game on the back of three straight shutouts after notching their sixth such accomplishment in a 63-0 dismantling of Southeast Whitfield in the opening round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
Running back Dee High (247 carries for 1,387 yards, 17 TDs) ran for both of the Bulldogs’ first quarter touchdowns to defeat Westover last week and earn their fourth straight second-round berth. High is by far Mary Person’s biggest offensive threat, and has taken 55 percent of the team’s carries.
Quarterback Jake Johnston (1,440 passing yards) has found a constant connection with wide receiver Malik Bledsoe (41 receptions, 611 yards), who has caught 12 of Johnston’s 15 touchdown passes.
Johnston, Bledsoe and High will find stiff opposition by Buford’s unforgiving rush defense. The Wolves have given up just 57 points all season, and only one rushing touchdown. Buford has done the most damage in the first quarter, where Jess Simpson’s team has scored 197 points, while allowing opponents just six points.
Senior outside linebacker Konnor Houston has tallied a team-high 30 tackles (seven for loss) with two sacks, while senior defensive end Jordan Perlotte has recorded six of Buford’s 25 sacks.
Buford’s rush attack, led by junior Xavier Gantt (55 carries, 671 yards, 10 touchdowns), will look to have another impressive day against the Bulldogs. The Wolves have gained 2,946 yards on 374 carries for 52 touchdowns on the ground to out score opponents by an average of 47-5. Gantt scored three touchdowns to open up an insurmountable lead over Southeast Whitfield last week.
Mary Persons will need defensive standouts Trey Weaver (34 tackles, six assists and Keri Brown (33 tackles, 10 assists) to have big games to slow down Gantt and Buford’s large stable of backs.
After a shutout loss to Class AAA power Washington County on Sept. 5, Mary Persons defeated five of its six region opponents to earn a No. 2 seed in Region 2-AAAA.
Meanwhile, Buford ran the table in its Region 8-AAAA schedule, winning all seven region games by an average margin of 47 points.
Buford has kept opponents to scoring 10 points or fewer nine times this season.
The winner advances to face the Marist/Griffin winner on Nov. 28.
Jefferson vs. Dodge County
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
Coaches: Jefferson, Ben Hall; Dodge County, Rex Hodges
Records: No. 1 8-AAA Jefferson (11-0); No. 3 Region 1-AAA Dodge County (9-2)
Key players: Jefferson, RB Sammy Williams (5-7, 170 Sr.); QB Evan Shirreffs (6-5, 195 Sr.); LB Trent Sorrells (6-0, 190 Sr.). Dodge County, QB/CB Landon Martin (5-10, 165 Sr.); RB/CB/FS Roscoe Wilcox (5-11, 160 Sr.); FB/MLB Kyle Glover (5-10, 186 Jr.).
Outlook: Differing offensive styles will collide tonight as Jefferson hosts Dodge County in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs. The Dragons, led by senior quarterback Evan Shirreffs (2,246 yards, 21 TDs), are riding an 11-0 season into its fourth straight postseason appearance.
Receivers Dalton Hill (916 yards, 9 scores) and T.J. Skelton (748 yards, 8 touchdowns) have helped lead a talented Jefferson team to its first undefeated regular season since 2009. The Dragons have scored over 48 points five times this year.
Meanwhile, Dodge County’s dedicated rush attack is picking up momentum at the right time after a late-season stumble. The Indians went 7-0 to start the regular season before losing two crucial region matchups to Cook and Pierce County to drop them to the No. 3 seed in Region 1-AAA.
Senior running back Roscoe Wilcox (617 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns) has scored in every other game this season for Dodge County leading back to Aug. 29.
The Indians struggled to pull away from first-round opponent Westside, but were able to execute a midfield screen pass to Wilcox, who raced home for a 53-yard touchdown. Dodge County went on to win 14-3, and earn its first trip to the second round of the playoffs since 2007.
Quarterback Landon Martin (51-of-85, 583 yards) has scored just five touchdowns and thrown four interceptions this season. He’s more of a mobile threat and has picked up over 300 yards in 2014, while scoring three times on the ground.
Stopping the pass will be crucial if Dodge County expects to stick around against Jefferson. Junior middle linebacker Kyle Glover has recorded 59 solo tackles and provided 21 assists this season. Wilcox and senior OLB Luke Walker have combined for six interceptions.
But Jefferson’s Sammy Williams and Colby Wood have proved they can be just as dangerous. Williams, a senior, (1,168 yards, 18 TDs) has accounted for more than half of the Dragons’ rushing yards. His second-quarter score from a yard out last week gave Jefferson a 24-0 lead over first-round opponent Franklin County with eight minutes until halftime.
The Jefferson defense has picked off opposing quarterbacks 16 times, including five picks by senior cornerback Kendrick Robinson. Jefferson has out scored its opponents by an average score of 41-7.
The winner advances to the quarterfinals to face the winner of Adairsville/Blessed Trinity on Nov. 28.
Commerce vs. Clinch County
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Ray Lamb Stadium, Commerce
Coaches: Commerce, Michael Brown; Clinch County, Jim Dickerson
Records: Commerce (8-2), Clinch County (6-4)
Key players: Commerce, QB/SS Caleb Brooks (5-10, 160 Jr.); RB/S Cole Chancey (5-10, 175 So.); RB/CB Grant Mayberry (Sr.).
Outlook: The Commerce Tigers will be looking to avoid a fifth straight first-round playoff exit when they host the Clinch County Panthers tonight in the opening round of the Class A-public state playoffs. Commerce’s last postseason victory was a 29-19 win over Landmark Christian in 2009.
The Tigers come into tonight’s game riding a four-game winning streak, while the Panthers (6-4) have won five of their last six contests following a 1-3 start to the season.
Commerce has been dominant on the ground this season, with four players rushing for at least 550 yards and six touchdowns.
Cole Chancey leads the Tigers ground attack with 677 yards and 7 touchdowns on 97 carries.
Commerce quarterback Caleb Brooks has thrown for only 248 yards and 5 touchdowns this season, but has tallied 557 yards and 11 scores on the ground.
The Tigers have averaged 30 points per game this season, while holding opponents to 16 points per game. Clinch County is averaging 31 points per game, while allowing 21 per game.