Gainesville vs. Alpharetta
Where: Alpharetta Stadium, Alpharetta
Records: No. 4 Region 8-6A Gainesville (4-6); No. 1 Region 7-6A Alpharetta (9-1)
What to know: The Red Elephants are in the postseason for the 18th consecutive season and looking to avoid being put out in the opening round of state for the second straight season. Meanwhile, Alpharetta won its fourth region title this season since 2011. During the regular season, the Red Elephants lost to the Raiders 29-7 on Aug. 25. This is the first time Gainesville has opened the playoffs against a regular-season opponent since 1991, when it lost twice to Loganville. Alpharetta has a number of Division I commits, including defensive back Jaycee Horton (Tennessee) and offensive tackle Oyenmwen Uzebu (West Virginia). The winner tonight advances to face the Dalton/Douglas County winner.
Buford vs. Paulding County
Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
Records: No. 1 Region 8-5A Buford (8-1); No. 4 Region 7-5A Paulding County (5-5)
What to know: Buford is looking to advance past the first round for the 19th consecutive season. The Wolves are in search of another deep postseason run after playing for 10 consecutive state championships. Paulding County, however, is in the postseason for just the first time since 2007. The Wolves are paced by a trio of future Division I running backs (Anthony Grant, Christian Turner and Derrian Brown), and all three have eclipsed 500 yards on the ground. Buford freshman quarterback Aaron McLaughlin has put together a strong season in a run-first offense, throwing for 1,308 yards and 12 touchdowns. Paulding County quarterback Brantley Mauldin is at 2,195 yards through the air. This will be the first time Buford will play Paulding County in school history.
The winner tonight will advance to face Jackson-Atlanta/Miller Grove in the second round.
West Hall vs. St. Pius X
Where: George B. Maloof Stadium, Atlanta
Records: No. 4 Region 7-4A West Hall (5-5); No. 1 Region 8-4A St. Pius X (5-5)
What to know: The Spartans are in the postseason for the fifth straight season under sixth-year coach Tony Lotti. Last year, West Hall stunned eighth-ranked Troup on the road with a 24-21 win in the first round of the playoffs. The Golden Lions experienced an unusual regular season, losing five non-region games before winning all five in region play. St. Pius X has claimed five region championships since 2011 and is in the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season. This will be the first meeting between these two schools. The winner will advance to face the Troup/Heritage-Catoosa winner.
North Hall vs. Monroe Area
Where: Legion Field, Monroe
Records: No. 3 Region 7-3A North Hall (4-6); No. 2 Region 8-3A Monroe Area (9-1)
What to know: The Trojans are in the postseason as a result of winning their first three region games following a winless mark in region play. North Hall is led by quarterback David Seavey, who has thrown for 851 yards this season. Monroe Area is seeking its first playoff win since 2013, when it won the region championship in 8-4A. Purple Hurricanes quarterback Chandler Byron has passed for 1,402 yards, rushed for 1,239 yards and scored 21 touchdowns this season. Once regular opponents, North Hall last faced Monroe Area in 2015. Monroe Area has won 12 of 21 previous meetings against North Hall. The winner tonight will move on to face the Calhoun/Pace Academy winner.
East Hall vs. Morgan County
Where: Legion Field, Madison
Records: No. 4 Region 7-3A East Hall (6-4); No. 1 Region 8-3A Morgan County (9-1)
What to know: The Vikings are in the playoffs as a result of winning their first two region games the season (Lumpkin County and Union County). East Hall is steered by the state’s leading passer Austin Parker, who has thrown for 3,563 yards and 38 touchdowns. East Hall is looking to make it past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993, when it reached the state quarterfinals. Morgan County defeated Monroe Area 22-21 on Oct. 13, which ended up deciding the region title. The Bulldogs are led by quarterback Trey Patterson, who has thrown for 2,170 yards and 25 touchdowns, along with and wide receiver Anthony Cooper (814 yards). The winner advances to face the North Murray/Westminster winner.
White County vs. Jefferson
Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
Records: No. 3 Region 7-4A White County (7-3); No. 2 Region 8-4A Jefferson (8-2)
What to know: The Warriors (1-9 in 2016) experienced a resurgence this season under first-year coach Tim Cokely after they missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons. The Dragons, who are in the playoffs for the seventh straight season, have maintained their high level of play under first-year coach Gene Cathcart. Jefferson missed out on its shot at a region title when it lost to St. Pius X, 43-29, on Oct. 20. The Dragons have a five-year string of winning the playoff opener, which started with their Class 2A state championship in 2012.
The winner tonight moves on to face the Chapel Hill/Ridgeland winner.
Dawson County vs. Hart County
Where: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
Records: No. 2 Region 7-3A Dawson County (7-3); No. 3 Region 8-3A Hart County (3-7)
What to know: The Tigers are in the playoffs for the third straight season, largely because of the stellar quarterback play of Coey Watson. The senior has accumulated more than 100 career touchdowns and presents a threat with both his arm and his feet. Dawson County was in contention for the region title in the final week of the regular season but fell to No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian. Hart County has shown flashes of brilliance this year, most notably in its 70-0 victory against East Jackson to close the regular season. Tonight’s winner will face the Cedar Grove/Adairsville winner.
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