at Calhoun (11-0), 7:30 p.m.
The key: It's the second round of Georgia's Class AA playoffs and already a matchup between teams that rank first and second in victory margin in their classification. Calhoun has averaged winning 47.4-14.7. Washington-Wilkes has averaged outscoring its opponents 41.5-8.9. History is on the side of the host Yellow Jackets, who have won 15 consecutive home playoff games. The Tigers have lost 10 consecutive road playoff games. A more tangible gauge in determining the outcome could be how well Calhoun's offensive line protects quarterback Taylor Lamb. Lamb's uncle, head coach Hal Lamb, said the Tigers can be effective with their linemen stunts and blitz packages.
The key players: Washington-Wilkes is coming off a 66-28 first-round victory over Bowdon in which senior quarterback Buck Robinson, son of head coach Robby Robinson, threw for 407 yards and five touchdowns. He has 2,385 passing yards for the year. His main target has been senior Mark White, a first-year transfer. Junior Tomarkus Young is a key contributor in the running game. Brian Hardigree, a four-year starter at strong safety or linebacker, is a defensive leader. Calhoun's Lamb has completed 208 of 312 passes for 2,601 yards. The senior has thrown 27 touchdown passes and three interceptions. Classmate Josh Barnes has hauled in 73 passes for 897 yards. Junior Tydus Curtis, who leads with eight TD catches, has 677 yards on 46 receptions. Junior Alex Urbano spearheads the ground attack with 855 yards and 18 touchdowns on 124 runs. Junior Fields Chapman has nine tackles for loss and senior Donnell Anthony has intercepted four passes. Senior kicker Jonah Gallman has made five of six field-goal tries and 50 of 51 extra-point attempts.
The next step: The winner plays the winner between Brooks County and McIntosh County.
LaGRANGE (6-5) at RIDGELAND (10-1)
The key: If there is one weakness in the host Panthers, it's their defensive play against spread offenses. They'll see another one tonight, as LaGrange scored 55 points and passed for more than 300 yards in last week's opening-round win against Chestatee. The Grangers will move the ball, but keeping them out of the end zone will be the key.
The key players: LaGrange quarterback Zach Giddens doesn't have a big arm, but he's very accurate on the team's variety of screens and option routes. Receivers Dee Smith and Demonton Boyd are the top threats, and when the team runs it gets good yardage from Benny Gray, who had 167 yards and three touchdowns last week. Lineman Joe Sanders, a Tennessee commitment, will draw double-teaming. Ridgeland's wing-T attack revolves around the inside running of fullback Darrell Bridges, who had 202 yards and five touchdowns last week, and wingback Vonn Bell and his explosive speed. Safety Bell will be a key defensively tonight and will be in charge of limiting big plays, while linebackers Daniel Johnson and DeAngelo Smith will have to tackle well.
The next step: The winner will face the winner of the Cairo and Mary Persons game. As No. 1 seeds, if Ridgeland and Cairo both win, they will have a coin flip to determine home field in the quarterfinals. LaGrange, a No. 3 seed, would travel in any scenario.
DALTON (8-3) at SANDY CREEK (11-0)
The key: The Dalton defense has improved immensely over the past month, but it hasn't seen the combination of power and speed the top-ranked Patriots will put on the field tonight. The Catamounts, after allowing a couple of big plays early last week, adjusted to Carver's speed, but limiting those huge gains will be paramount against a Sandy Creek team that put up 55 points and 669 yards of total offense last week.
The key players: Dalton always wants to establish the run game, and that usually means electric sophomore tailback Kelvis Rhodes, but he was banged up last week and might be limited tonight with an ankle injury. Also, backup Marvin Hill is out with a knee injury, so the fullback combination of Robert Hardaway and Eder Mora may get more carries. Quarterback Cole Calfee needs to find dangerous wideout Brandon Dale for big plays. Hardaway, Mora, Jay Rockholt and the front seven on defense will have to tackle well. Sandy Creek is explosive on the ground with Delvin Weems and Eric Swinney, who combined for 360 yards last week, and through the air with quarterback Cole Garvin (2,000 yards) and SEC recruit receiver Demarre Kitt and the underrated Kyle Wilson. An aggressive defense is led by Chris Williams, who has nine sacks, and Georgia recruit Shaq Wiggins, a defensive back.
The next step: The winner will face the winner of the Burke County/Monroe game. As No. 1 seeds, a coin flip would determine home field if Sandy Creek and Burke County win. If Dalton and Monroe win, there would also be a coin flip since each is a No. 3 seed.
GORDON LEE (5-5) at EMANUEL COUNTY INSTITUTE (9-1)
The key: For the visiting Trojans to have any chance at making this a fourth-quarter game, they have to get the offense untracked early. Gordon Lee has been shut out in three of its last four games. Injuries have played a part, but with a week to get healthy most of the starters are back. Clock-eating drives would be the ideal way to keep this one close, so the ground game needs to click, which means the offensive line has to play up to its potential.
The key players: While Zack Cobb and Adam Vandiver are the top offensive playmakers, two-way linemen Randall Smith and Cory Jewell are the keys. They have the size and athletic ability to play against a very physical ECI front. Senior linebacker Bryce Bailey continues to collect tackles, but he needs help. ECI, which dominated defending Class A champion Savannah Christian in week 10, is a run-first offensive team and has a stable of backs. Greg Purcell is the leading rusher with 718 yards and 15 touchdowns, but four others, including quarterback Caleb Pressley, have over 400 rushing yards for a team averaging 43 points a game. Defensively, ends Des Williams and Troy Randall control the outside run game and can put pressure on quarterbacks, while linebacker Tiwain Daughtry cleans up inside.
The next step: The winner will face the winner of the Irwin County/Trion game. ECI would host and Gordon Lee would travel.
TRION (8-2) at IRWIN COUNTY (7-3)
The key: It's simple for Trion's Bulldogs -- tackle well and make the Indians earn every yard. Trion has fared well against wing-T teams this year, but the Bulldogs have not faced a team with as much team speed as they will tonight. It also will be one of the few times a team will have a size advantage up front on Trion, so the defensive staff may have to gamble a bit more with blitzes.
The key players: Trion does not have a 1,000-yard rusher, but the combination of Kingston Lanier and Scotty Lively have nearly 1,400 yards. Quarterback Cory Bethune likely will play a major role tonight as the Indians will limit the sweeps the Bulldogs regularly use for big yardage. The interiors of the Trion lines, anchored by Eman Wooten, Cody Brown and Daulton Hegwood, will be tested, as will corners Lively and Ryan Roach as the Indians will take some shots downfield when the opportunity arises. Irwin has two strong runners in Antuwanne Merritt and Ryan Peterson, while two-way linemen D.J. Peterson and Kerry Billingsley have dominated most games.
The next step: The winner will face the winner of the Emanuel County Institute/Gordon Lee game. ECI would host, while Trion would host if both the Bulldogs and Gordon Lee won.
TENNESSEE CLASS 2A
Boyd-Buchanan (12-1) at Friendship Christian (11-1), 8 p.m. EST
The key: Just like the 2011 playoffs when the Commanders took a controversial 21-20 third-round playoff win over Boyd-Buchanan, the teams are fairly well matched. The opposing defenses apparently can look across the line of scrimmage and pretty much see offenses very similar to their own -- run-oriented spreads. Each team has three shutouts and both beat Donelson Christian, Friendship by 41-7 in the season opener and the Buccaneers by 24-17 in Week 6. Boyd-Buchanan played five teams with winning records and four that advanced to the postseason. The Bucs' schedule also included four Class 3A or 4A teams and they won three of four. Their lone loss was to Class 4A Maplewood, and it cost them a top seed in their quadrant. Friendship, which played four teams with winning records, competed against either class 1A or Class 2A teams, and the Commanders, on a nine-game win streak, lost only to 1A power Gordonsville (28-21). Gordonsville knocked off South Pittsburg 14-13 by stopping a two-point conversion as time ran out in the second round. Boyd-Buchanan beat South Pittsburg 35-21. The Bucs are on a four-game win streak, and their last two wins have come on the road. They average 34 points per game while allowing 10.5, while Friendship averages 42.8 points while yielding 11.3. The Commanders allowed 26 or more in three games, and their best offensive output was 68 in a win over Watertown, which finished the regular season 7-3. They held seven of their opponents to eight points or less, and the most they gave up in any one game was the 28 in the seven-point loss to Gordonsville. The Bucs' highest offensive output was 53 against Unaka, and the defense gave up a season-high 26 in the 10-point loss to Maplewood. While Friendship had a first-round bye, the Bucs won over Rockwood at home and then traveled to beat their quadrant's No. 2- and No. 1-seeded teams (Oneida and Knoxville Grace Christian). Friendship beat Cascade 42-6 and then Marion County 35-12, both at home.
Key players: The defending Class 2A state champion Commanders had most of the components returning except for quarterback, and they landed one of those when A.J. Long moved in from Pennsylvania. The junior has compiled 2,507 yards and is responsible for 38 TDs this year, after a two-year Pennsylvania total of 6,552 passing yards and 74 TDs. The two-time Pennsylvania all-state selection also has rushed for 599 yards for FCS, which places him second on the team behind sophomore Steven Hollis, who has 850. Their top three receivers are Hunter Watts (27/635), Stefan Remus (24/689). Each has 11 TDs. Linebacker Austin Taylor and strong safety Cale Mitchell are the team's leading tacklers. Boyd-Buchanan counters with a multithreat quarterback of its own in Jim Cardwell and leans heavily on running back/linebacker Rance Harden. The two provide 80 percent of their team's offensive numbers. Look for Cameron Pope to get some carries and also some possible backfield receptions. The Bucs' leading receiver is Grant Mathis (24/320), and the leading tacklers are linebackers Steven Ingram and Harden.
The next step: The state championship game on Dec. 1 at Cookeville vs. the winner between Adamsville (11-1) and Dresden (11-1). Kickoff at Tennessee Tech is noon EST.
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