First round games
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe at Gainesville
Ringgold at North Hall
Flowery Branch at Ridgeland
Pepperell at Buford
Heard County at Jefferson
Riverside Military at Calloway
Landmark Christian at Commerce
It is good to finally see the playoff brackets. We can start to look at how teams matchup for early rounds, and beyond, in the playoffs.
From what I can tell, there are some teams that were dealt as favorable a hand as could be expected when they look at the teams in their bracket. Others, however, probably shook and cringed when they looked at probable second or third round matchups.
The first thing I looked for in the bracket was the long-term possible matchups for Class AAA’s top-ranked Gainesville (10-0). As expected, the Red Elephants do play on the hardest side of the bracket, but there isn’t anything that will keep Gainesville from making the Georgia Dome for the state finals.
It looks like Gainesville will play No. 2-ranked Peach County (10-0) in the third round, and probably fifth-ranked Carver-Columbus (9-1) in the state semifinals. That’s pretty tough but certainly manageable for the Red Elephants.
While those are good teams, I don’t think those programs have athletes on the same level as Gainesville. In my opinion, the only thing that would keep the Red Elephants out of the Georgia Dome would be a game against the Florida Gators or Alabama Crimson Tide.
I’ll spoil the surprise, and reveal my feeling that Gainesville will ride it out to a state championship.
Well, if Gainesville is in fact on the toughest side of the bracket, then which local team is on the most favorable side of the Class AAA bracket? I’d have to say second-seeded North Hall (8-2).
Remember, North Hall’s record is a little bit deceiving with both loses coming against teams ranked No. 1 in the state at the time. When it is all said and done, the Trojans could have only lost in the regular season to a pair of state champions. How is that for strength of schedule?
The Trojans open the playoffs against Ringgold (8-2) and should cruise to victory at The Brickyard on Friday night in the first round.
Then the next hurdle for North Hall would probably be a visit to No. 4 St. Pius X (10-0) in the second round, and the Trojans would have a solid chance of winning their first road playoff game in school history.
If North Hall could make the state quarterfinals, the likely third round opponent would be Baldwin (8-2). The Braves still have a very young quarterback and graduated their best defender, Corrico Hawkins, from the team that lost to Flowery Branch in the state quarterfinals last season.
In any game that North Hall can keep the score close, I give the Trojans the edge on the grounds of coaching and offensive execution.
Don’t sleep on Creekview (9-1) or Flowery Branch (7-3) in the playoffs either. Only a really bad night against North Hall kept Creekview from having a perfect regular season. And we all saw what the Falcons did with a low seed to the playoffs last year.
And I can’t help but feel a little bad about the draw Jefferson (10-0) got for the playoffs. The back-to-back Region 8-AA champions got absolutely no favors with regards to the brackets. Jefferson’s reward for making the second round would most likely be a home game against No. 3 ranked and second-seeded Buford (9-1).
Yeah, the same Buford that seems always wins a state title. I don’t think you could find me a region champion in any classification with a tougher second round matchup looming than Jefferson.
Aside from Jefferson, the other No. 1 in Buford’s quadrant of the bracket is Northeast-Macon (7-3). Northeast hasn’t even won a playoff game since 2002. The Wolves have back-to-back state titles. I would take Buford in that one.
Now it is easy to sit here and say what it looks like will happen in the postseason. Of course, predicting what is going to happen between teams comprised of 16-18 year olds on a football field isn’t always the most exact science.
We will watch and see how it all pans out from week to week in the playoffs.