Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Top 5 games to watch in AAAA

On Tuesday, I broke down the upcoming weekend for all of Class AAAA's 52 teams, but today I look at five of the most intriguing on the slate.

Northside-Columbus at Americus-Sumter

Northside-Columbus is off to a historic start to the season and a win over Americus-Sumter on Friday would put the Patriots at 5-0 for the first time in program history. Northside-Columbus grabbed a No. 3 seed in Region 1-AAAA last year and is still looking to win what would be the region title in its 13 years as a program. Last Friday’s 23-20 victory over last year’s No. 2 seed in the region, Carver-Columbus was a huge step in the right direction if the Patriots are to make a run at the region crown. Americus-Sumter made the playoffs as the No. 4 seed last year, but also look have made strides in 2017. The Panthers opened their region slate last week with a 21-20 win over Westover. A 2-0 start in region play would be a huge boost of confidence for either program, and that is exactly what is at stake Friday night.

Troup at Chapel Hill

Undefeated Troup visits Chapel Hill in a pivotal Region 5-AAAA battle. Expect Chapel Hill to be focused after successfully bouncing back from their 56-21 Week 3 loss to Class AAAAA’s Star’s Mill with a 21-14 victory over Whitewater last Friday. Last season was the first time Troup and Chapel Hill had ever met on the gridiron and Troup broke open a competitive game to run away with a 42-21 win. Troup quarterback Montez Crowe is back under center this season, but Chapel Hill’s has a new quarterback in K.J. Burton that has done a good job keeping the Panthers’ offense moving so far this season with a great balance on the ground and in the air. The junior Burton already has six passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns through the first four games, and four different receivers have caught touchdown passes. Crowe has been outstanding through his first four games, averaging 329 passing yards per game and tossing 11 touchdown passes with four interceptions. Junior receiver Jamari Thrash has been Crowe’s favorite target and leads the corps with four touchdowns off his 17 catches and 418 receiving yards (104.5 yards per game, 24.6 yards per catch). This game will be a test for both defenses, as these up-tempo offenses square off.

Burke County at Effingham County

For the second straight season, a Burke County team will take on Class AAAAAA Effingham County after demolishing its first four opponents. The undefeated Bears have outscored their opponents 163-54, but there was a similar margin of victories paving last year’s 4-0 start, before Effingham County’s dished out a 28-21 defeat at the season’s halfway mark. The two teams have shared Statesboro as a common opponent this year, and it was Burke County that looked like the better team. Burke County took a 42-27 win on Aug. 25, while Effingham County escaped last Friday night with a 38-34 victory. Burke County is likely to be the biggest threat to defending region champion Thomson this season and closing out their non-region schedule 5-0 would be the perfect way to head into their upcoming bye week.

Ridgeland at Northwest Whitfield

This is the first of two Region 6 matchups that I will highlight and I strongly suggest that they both remain on your radar as you surf the scoreboard tomorrow night. Region 6 has intriguing storylines developing throughout it and as region play opens, we will get to watch two outstanding matchups. First, (3-1) Northwest Whitfield will host undefeated (4-0) Ridgeland. These were the top two seeds coming out of Region 6 a year ago. With just 21 points allowed in its first four games this season, (5.25 points per game), Ridgeland has allowed the fewest points per game in all of Class 4A. Northwest Whitfield’s offense has been explosive in each of its three victories with 43 points per game. In the Bruins’ only loss they nearly upset Dalton in a 21-17 battle. Last year, these two teams combined for 90 points as Ridgeland held on for a 48-42 victory.

LaFayette at Southeast Whitfield

With 184 points scored through its first four games, Southeast Whitfield has scored more points than any other team in the classification this season and 55 more points than they registered at this point a year ago. The 4-0 Raiders are also one win away from matching their win total from each of the past two seasons. LaFayette proved to be a challenging opponent for the Raiders a year ago in a narrow 24-21 defeat and the Ramblers’ only shot to make the postseason out of this competitive region with Pickens, Ridgeland, Northwest Whitfield and Heritage-Catoosa still on the slate, could be finding a way to win on Friday.



Region 1

Northside-Columbus at Americus-Sumter

Shaw at Cairo

Carver-Columbus vs. Westover (CM)

Columbus at Hardaway (K)

Region 2

Perry vs. Veterans

Spalding at Houston County (FF)

Upson-Lee vs. Jordan

West Laurens vs. Warner Robins

Mary Persons, Howard BYE

Region 3

Baldwin vs. Evans

Burke County at Effingham County

Cross Creek vs. Greenbrier

Hephzibah vs. Hancock Central

Richmond Academy vs. Grovetown

Thomson BYE

Region 4

Druid Hills at North Clayton (SC)

Eastside vs. Oconee County (SH) Saturday

Salem vs. Woodward Academy

Luella, Henry County BYE

Region 5

Cedartown at Cartersville

Central-Carroll at LaGrange

Troup at Chapel Hill

Sandy Creek BYE

Region 6

Heritage-Catoosa at Gilmer

LaFayette at Southeast Whitfield

Ridgeland at Northwest Whitfield

Pickens BYE

Region 7

Blessed Trinity vs. McCallie TN

Chestatee at Habersham Central

Marist at Chamblee (ND)

West Hall at Rabun County

White County vs. Dawson County

Region 8

Jefferson at Gainesville

Madison County vs. Franklin County

North Oconee vs. Winder-Barrow

Oconee County at Eastside (SH) Saturday

St. Pius at Lanier

Stephens County vs. Hart County



Abbreviation Key

(SH) Sharp Stadium, Covington

(ND) North DeKalb Stadium, Chamblee

(SC) Southern Cresent Stadium, Riverdale

(FF) Freedom Field, Warner Robins

(CM) Columbus Memorial, Columbus

(C) Callaway Stadium, LaGrange

(K) Kinnett Stadium, Columbus

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