TRION (9-2) at EMANUEL COUNTY INSTITUTE (10-1)
The key: Trion must contain ECI's speed to have any shot at upsetting the team many feel is the best public school Class A team in the state. ECI doesn't do anything special from its wing-T base offense, but what stands out, according to Trion coach Justin Brown, is the downfield blocking that often springs big gainers. His Bulldogs have the size to keep the middle clogged, but controlling the outside will be the key.
The key players: Trion relies on its large offensive line to maintain long drives and frustrate opponents. That line, anchored by Eman Wooten, Daulton Hegwood and Cody Brown, leads the way for quarterback Cory Bethune and running backs Kingston Lanier and Scotty Lively and a ground game that has amassed over 2,000 yards. ECI also has a balanced rushing attack. Four backs, led by Greg Purcell, have more than 450 yards rushing. Trion linebackers Lanier, Luke Gilliland, Chandler Lathem and freshman Maleek Martin will have to tackle well. ECI is led defensively by ends Des Williams and Troy Randall, though linebacker Tiwain Daughtry is the leading tackler.
The next step: The winner of this battle of Bulldogs will face the winner of the Marion County/Wilcox County game. ECI would host and Trion would travel.
BROOKS COUNTY (12-0) at CALHOUN (12-0)
The key: The third installment of this cross-state rivalry will revolve around quarterback play and the ability/inability to control the short-passing game on each side. For Brooks County to control the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans must do a better job of keeping up with the pace of the Calhoun offense. The Jackets must contain the edge defensively.
The key players: Brooks quarterback Malcolm Parrish has thrown for 2,856 yards and 29 touchdowns as coach Maurice Freeman and staff have gone to more of a spread attack this year. Parrish also has rushed for almost 700 yards and 15 touchdowns. Receivers Deric Herring, Atta Jenkins and Exavius Medlock can all turn short passes into long gains, and when the Trojans run it, Brandon Golden is the main threat. Calhoun quarterback Taylor Lamb, though not the runner Parrish is, has similar numbers. He's thrown for 2,801 yards and 30 touchdowns with five interceptions and has scored nine touchdowns while rushing for 302 yards on 56 carries. His main three offensive weapons are receiver Josh Barnes, who is closing in on 80 receptions, receiver Tydus Curtis and running back Alex Urbano.
The next step: The winner will face the winner of the Lamar County/Lovett game. Since all four teams are No. 1 seeds, a coin flip will determine home field.
MARY PERSONS (10-2) at RIDGELAND (11-1)
The key: Mary Persons is a power offense that lines up in two-tight-end formations 80 percent of the time and tries to pound opponents into submission. Ridgeland will try to use its speed on the outside to create enough big plays early so the visitors can't settle for consuming the clock.
The key players: Ridgeland running back Darrell Bridges has rushed for 1,919 yards in nine games, which is fourth-most in Georgia this season. Offensive lineman Gannon Hampton is a college prospect and is the lead blocker for most of the team's wing-T plays. Vonn Bell has game-breaking potential as a ball carrier and as a defensive back, where he is a ballhawk. He has 922 rushing yards and 12 TDs and averages 14 yards per reception. He has 63 solo tackles. Mary Persons, which won 3-0 in triple overtime last week, has two special athletes worth watching closely. Junior Akebren Ralls has returned two punts for touchdowns, returned two fumbles for touchdowns, caught two touchdown passes, blocked two punts, intercepted six passes and forced four fumbles. Running back Nick Davis has rushed for 1,352 yards and nine touchdowns. He was fourth in the state 100-meter dash last spring. Mary Persons is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1998. This is Ridgeland's first quarterfinal.
The next step: The winner gets the winner of third-ranked Marist against Stockbridge.
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