Friday marks the first playoff game for nine local football teams, with five of the matchups being the first games between the two schools. Below is all you need to know leading up to kickoff:
AHSAA, CLASS 7A
No. 4 Theodore (6-4, 4-4 Region 1-7A) at No. 1 Central (9-0, 6-0 Region 2-7A)
Past Meetings: Central has a 3-0 all-time record against Theodore, but the two teams have not faced off since 2000.
Key Player: Central running back A’montae Spivey. The Red Devils have a number of offensive weapons such as quarterback Peter Parrish and wide receiver Justyn Ross, but the ground game will likely go a long way in Central’s pursuit of a state championship.
Newsworthy Nugget: The Red Devils enter the season with a 9-0 record, which was the first undefeated regular season in Jamey DuBose’s 12 years as a head coach.
Coach’s Quote: “This team has accomplished some things last year’s team didn’t accomplish. Every year, it’s a different look and a different thing. What you try to do is use the last few years as lessons and a growing tool to where you want to go. Our goal is to get back to where we were and then take that next step.” - Central’s Jamey DuBose
GHSA, CLASS 5A
No. 3 Harris County (5-5, 2-2 Region 1-5A) at No. 2 Ware County (4-5, 3-1 Region 2-5A)
Past Meetings: This will be the first meeting between Harris County and Ware County.
Key Player: Harris County running back Cal’von Harris. Harris has been a workhorse for the Tigers and ended the regular season of his junior year with 1,590 rushing yards. Harris is an important piece in the offense, and he will likely get the ball quite a bit come Friday night.
Newsworthy Nugget: This is Harris County’s first playoff appearance since 2014 and first ever under head coach Zac Howard.
GHSA, CLASS 4A
No. 3 Northside (8-2, 5-2 Region 1-4A) at No. 2 West Laurens (5-5, 3-2 Region 2-4A)
Past Meetings: This will be the first meeting between Northside and West Laurens.
Key Players: The Northside offensive line. The Patriots dealt with injury issues on the line late in the season before getting everything back in order, but the offensive line as a whole will be huge in the first round. If they have trouble keeping quarterback Chandler Blanton upright or struggle to open holes for running back Fred Davis, it could be a long ride home for the Patriots.
Newsworthy Nugget: Northside enters the postseason with eight wins, which tied the school record for most wins in the regular season. The Patriots’ seniors are also the winningest class in program history.
Coach’s Quote: “Our senior class, they’ve made the playoffs all four years so they don’t know anything else. With their experience of going to playoff games, they understand and have been through the process. We rely on them to help guide the younger kids.” - Northside’s Morgan Ingram
No. 4 Carver (3-7, 3-4 Region 1-4A) at No. 1 Mary Persons (8-2, 5-0 Region 2-4A)
Past Meetings: Ten years ago, Carver beat Mary Persons 46-6 in the first round en route to a Class AAA state championship. This was the only previous meeting between the two teams.
Key Player: Carver wide receiver Jacobi Cunningham. The Carver defense has been the strong side of the ball this season, meaning the offense needs to show up in full force to escape the first round. To do that, the Tigers need to get Cunningham the football early and often.
Newsworthy Nugget: Carver enters the playoffs having lost three of its last four games. The Tigers face a Mary Persons squad that is riding a five-game win streak.
GHSA, CLASS 2A
No. 4 Spencer (5-5, 2-3 Region 5-2A) at No. 1 Hapeville Charter (9-1, 6-0 Region Region 6-2A)
Past Meetings: This will be the first meeting between Spencer and Hapeville Charter.
Key Player: Spencer defensive lineman Robert Murray. Spencer head coach Pierre Coffey praised Murray’s play this season, saying he was a backbone on a stout Greenwave defense. Murray will face a huge test Friday against a strong and determined offensive line. The Hapeville Charter offense is capable of doing a little bit of everything, and it’s up to Murray and Co. to slow their efforts down.
Newsworthy Nugget: The Greenwave have made the playoffs all three years under Coffey, marking the first time Spencer has made it three consecutive years since 1957-1959.
Coach’s Quote: “Everybody in the postseason can play football, so don’t think that you’re going to be matched up with somebody who isn’t a quality football team. There’s five weeks, and you want to go 1-0 each week. That has to be the attitude that you take.” - Spencer’s Pierre Coffey
GHSA, CLASS A PUBLIC
No. 24 Telfair County (4-6, 3-4 Region 2-A) at No. 9 Marion County (8-2, 4-1 Region 4-Division-A-A)
Past Meetings: This will be the first meeting between Telfair County and Marion County.
Key Player: Marion County quarterback Trice McCannon. The Eagles are a run-happy team with talented tailback Travon Matthews, but McCannon’s play may mean the difference in winning and losing. McCannon can run as well, but it’s his throwing ability to players like Josh Rodgers that will likely come in handy.
Newsworthy Nugget: Marion County lost only one divisional game in 2017, marking the eighth straight season the team has lost no more than one.
No. 17 Chattahoochee County (7-3, 7-2 Region 1-Division-A-A) at No. 16 Washington-Wilkes (6-4, 4-1 Region 7-Division-B-A)
Past Meetings: This will be the first meeting between Chattahoochee County and Washington-Wilkes.
Key Player: Chattahoochee County quarterback Deandre Masten. Masten and running backs Ty Lucas and Malic Bonner combined for 1,596 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground in the regular season. Masten will have to take care of the ball Friday night for the Panthers to reach the second round for only the second time in school history.
Newsworthy Nugget: Two of Chattahoochee County’s three losses in 2017 were by three points or less.
GHSA, CLASS A PRIVATE
No. 23 Brookstone (5-5, 3-2 Region 4-Division-A-A) at No. 10 Savannah Country Day (8-2, 4-1 Region 3-Division A-A)
Past Meetings: Brookstone holds a 2-0 record against Savannah Country Day, but the two teams have not played since 2008.
Key Player: Brookstone fullback Richard Hill. Hill was a bulldozer through the first 10 games, rushing for 1,162 yards and 19 touchdowns. Brookstone relies a great deal on the run game, which means Hill will likely be counted on to get a number of carries Friday.
Newsworthy Nugget: Brookstone averaged just under 32 points per game in the regular season. That’s the Cougars’ most productive regular season offensively since 2010.
Creekside Christian Academy (9-2, 2-1 GICAA East) at Calvary Christian (5-5, 3-0 GICAA West)
Past Meetings: Friday’s meeting will be the third consecutive time these teams have met in the playoffs. Creekside won both times, beating Calvary 38-20 in 2015 and 48-45 in double overtime last year.
Key Players: Calvary Christian quarterback Kasen Andrews and wide receiver Bryce Andrews. The Andrews brothers have been huge for the Knights’ offense, with Kasen throwing for 1,906 yards and Bryce making 45 receptions for 1,224 yards. The last two meetings with Creekside were high-scoring affairs, and Friday’s looks to be no different.
Newsworthy Nugget: Calvary Christian enters Friday’s game after having a bye week thanks to winning its region.
Coach’s Quote: “Last year, we played as individuals, and we didn’t reach the goals we knew we could. In the offseason, we really worked on coming together and playing together as one unit. Our seniors bought into that idea, and they’ve been the backbone of our team this year.” - Calvary Christian’s Brian Osborne
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports