As the GHSA football playoffs enters the second round Friday, one of the marquee matchups is the renewal of hostilities between Class AAA's Calhoun (10-1) and Peach County (10-1) in Fort Valley. It will be the third consecutive year and fourth time in five seasons these state powers meet in the postseason.
However, this year it's Peach that is the prohibitive favorite against the Yellow Jackets, who for the first time since 2000 did not win their region. The top-ranked Trojans boast a balanced offense led by Jayden Gibson, who has thrown for 1,762 yards and 20 touchdowns, but their best player is linebacker Sergio Allen, who has 14 tackles for loss in his 74 total stops.
Calhoun has held 10 of its 11 opponents to 14 or fewer points in Clay Stephenson's first year as head coach, with the defense led by Zeke Brown and his team-best 130 tackles. The offense is led by the dynamic running of Jerrian Hames, who has 1,531 yards and 23 touchdowns, and quarterback Jake Morrow, who has passed for 1,531 yards.
In another Class AAA meeting, North Murray (10-1) hosts Jackson (8-3) and is seeking the program's first trip to the quarterfinals. The Mountaineers, coming off a first-round win over Monroe Area, are led by the all-around play of Ladd McConkey, a senior who has 2,200 total yards and 27 combined passing and rushing touchdowns and also has scored on multiple punt and interception returns.
Jackson's offense is led by Alexander Patrick, who has rushed for 1,292 yards.
In Class A private, Dalton's Christian Heritage (9-1), which had a first-round bye as the No. 8 overall seed, welcomes perennial state playoff contender Wesleyan (9-2).
The host Lions have a balanced offense triggered by quarterback Christian Thomas, who has 1,800 total yards and 21 touchdowns, and coach Jay Poag's team has allowed an average of less than 10 points per game. Wesleyan, which is in the playoffs for 18th time in a 20-year span, will test that defense with its pass-happy attack led by quarterback J.C. French, who has 2,067 yards and 26 touchdowns.