Second round playoffs
No. 2 Buford (10-1) vs. Jones County (7-4)
West Hall (7-4) at No. 2 Thomson (11-0)
No. 4 Jefferson (10-1) vs. West Laurens (7-4)
All second-round playoff tickets are $10, per GHSA guidelines
If Tony Lotti is nervous about what’s next for West Hall High in the football postseason, he wasn’t showing it Monday. Still proud of their first-round playoff win just four days earlier, the Spartans (7-4) were back at work preparing for a second-round playoff football game for the first time since 2000.
This week, it’s a trip for West Hall to face No. 2 Thomson (11-0).
“We’re going to keep everything business as usual, same schedule this week,” said Lotti.
Only three area programs remain standing this week in the football postseason. In Class AAAAA, No. 2 Buford welcomes Jones County to Tom Riden Stadium on Friday, while in Class AAAA No. 4 Jefferson plays host to West Laurens at Memorial Stadium.
West Hall’s win against Troup in the first round was a resilient effort. Senior defensive back Ashun Favorite intercepted four passes as the Spartans rallied from a 11-point first-half hole to secure a 24-21 victory in LaGrange.
“Our kids just never stopped believing,” said Lotti, who has guided West Hall on four straight playoff trips.
West Hall’s players were thrilled with the realization that it was the class to put it over the hump and into the next round of the postseason. Singing commenced on the bus ride home after the Thursday night game. Players were received warmly by fellow students and staff the next day at school.
“It feels great to see all the changes in the program here at West Hall,” said senior offensive lineman Jetrin Rattanaxay.
West Hall was bolstered by a pair of 100-yard runners in the opening-round win: Tyrese Osborne (134 yards) and A.J. Favorite (118 yards), along with a strong blocking effort from the offensive line, according to Lotti.
“Tyrese really gutted out the hard yards,” Lotti said.
Ashun Favorite’s last interception came in the final minute near the goal line as Troup was seeking the go-ahead score. Lotti said Favorite cut all the way across the field for the interception.
“We focused on each individual play, doing the very best we could,” said Lotti. “We didn’t want to leave there thinking, ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda.”
Ashun Favorite feels like the Spartans have something left to prove against undefeated Thomson, which won 57-23 against Americus-Sumter in the opening round.
“We want to show we can play with the best teams in the state,” said Ashun Favorite.
For Thomson, senior running back Mike Thomas is its leading ball carrier, picking up 1,785 yards through the first 11 games. Thomas has picked up more than 200 yards in a game four times this season. A high-powered offense centered around its running game, Thomson has scored 50 or more points five times in 2016.
“They’re No. 2 in the state for a reason,” said Lotti. “They’re big, physical and very athletic.”
The Bulldogs are in the second round of the playoffs for the fourth time since 2010.
Jefferson marched into the second round with its 59-21 victory against Pickens at Memorial Stadium. Led by Colby Wood’s 222 rushing yards, the Dragons are in the Round of 16 for the fifth consecutive season. Through 11 games, Wood stands at 1,332 yards.
West Laurens advanced with a 35-14 first-round win against Luella.
In Class AAAAA, Buford is in the second round of the playoffs for the 18th straight season. The Wolves powered through the first round with a 45-7 win against North Springs.