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Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

AA in brief: Round 1 playoff talk

In Tuesday blogs following a round of the Class AA playoffs is where I usually breakdown which picks I got wrong from my playoff predictions. I can't do that this week because I'm batting 1.000. So instead, I'll use this space to brag about how right I was.

Just kidding.

Though there was nothing bold about my picks — I picked the higher seed in Round 1 every time — there were definitely two games that I felt could go either way. One was Fitzgerald at Toombs County. Sure, Fitzgerald was 4-6 heading into the game and Toombs County was 9-1, but the records are misleading.

Fitzgerald quarterback, team leader and one of AA's best athletes, James Graham, missed a month of the season, with the Purple Hurricane going 1-3 in that span. But with Graham, they also played No. 2 Hapeville Charter and No. 4 Thomasville close, with a chance to beat both. Not to mention, the Purple Hurricane reached the AA title game the previous two seasons, granted with JD King — now at Oklahoma State — and now-departed coach Jason Strickland leading the way. Given all of that, It would not have been an upset for them to beat a Toombs County Bulldogs team whose only loss was 28-14 to top-ranked Benedictine.

Toombs County did beat Fitzgerald as predicted, 34-31, and you can read more about it — and all of Friday's games — here.

The game was certainly as close as expected, with six lead changes and a 10-point deficit for the Bulldogs in the second half. But Toombs County rallied to pull off the victory and send Fitzgerald home. Now the Bulldogs travel to No. 3 Screven County. I'll talk more about this on Thursday, but I expect Toombs County to keep the game competitive but ultimately come up short in Round 2.

The other game I wasn't sure about: Temple at the B.E.S.T. Academy Eagles, which featured two teams with 5-5 records heading in. While the winner of the Fitzgerald-Toombs County game had potential to make noise in the next round, I considered — and still do — this game to be inconsequential in the big picture. But for the sake of maintaining a perfect bracket, I had to make a choice and I went with B.E.S.T. for no other reason than they were playing at home and were hungry for the first playoff win in program history. As it turned out, those two factors may have been the difference, as B.E.S.T. won 34-27.

The game — played on Saturday — was competitive, with Temple bringing the score to its final margin with 1:40 remaining, then recovering the ensuing onside kick to give themselves a chance to tie the game. But, as Nick Simon writes for the Times-Georgian, Temple came up short in its comeback attempt and the Eagles escaped with the victory.

The Eagles will now travel to face a No. 5 Rabun County team that's 11-0 and coming off a 49-6 opening-round win over Chattooga. If B.E.S.T. were to somehow win, it would be one of the the biggest upsets in the history of Class AA football in Georgia.

There were two other games played on Saturday: Southwest-Macon at the No. 10 Jefferson Warriors and Jeff Davis at the No. 4 Thomasville Bulldogs. Neither ranked team struggled.

The Warriors won 45-14. The game stayed close through the first quarter, after which the Warriors led 14-6. But they continued to steadily build their lead while shutting Southwest out in the second half. A box score with stats can be found on MaxPreps. The Warriors now travel to Benedictine, where I expect them to meet their fate.

Thomasville continues its season for the ages with a 35-14 win and advance to the second round for the first time since 2013. David Almeda has the story for the Thomasville Times-Enterprise.

Last year, the Bulldogs showed signs of the team they'd become this season, winning four of their last five games heading into the playoffs. I'd picked them to reach the quarterfinals last season but they were bounced in the first round by Dodge County. I have them reaching the semifinals this year, and they'll host Dublin next.

On Thursday I'll preview what to watch in Round 2.


In brief

  • Callaway's win over Douglass means the Cavaliers advance past the first round for the ninth time in the past 10 years, as the LaGrange Daily News' Kevin Eckleberry points out. That's an impressive a run.
  • I'm not sure which player this is, but someone from Rockmart wasn't letting this Monticello receiver make the catch.
  • WTOC has Round 1 highlights of the Benedictine, Screven County and Toombs County games.
  • When a play doesn't go as planned and looks to be disastrous, Callaway's Cartavious Bigsby will save the day . It was quite the night for Bigsby.
  • Thomasville Bulldogs running back Benjamin Tillman III is tough to bring down .
  • Thomasville's Kevon Shy has been nominated for WTXL's 2017 Play of the Year for his punt return touchdown earlier in the season. You can vote for him here .
  • WMAZ and WGXA have highlights of Dodge County's win over Butler.
  • WSAV  and WJCL have highlights of Benedictine's win over Berrien.
  • WJBF has highlights of Screven County's win.
  • Here's a highlight of Benedictine's Travis Blackshear running past everyone.
  • Here's Hapeville Charter scoring a touchdown with a helmet-crunching hit that could be heard throughout the stadium.
  • Pepperell's Marquedon Watkins has been selected to compete in the Georgia Elite Classic.

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