As the regular season winds down and the postseason inches closer, upcoming region games will further define the playoff picture. This week in AA, there are three games involving four ranked teams that will go along way in determining region winners.
In Region 1, No. 6 Brooks County Trojans (6-1, 2-1) travels to the No. 2 Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane (6-1, 2-0). Before the season began, this was a game circled on the calendar as one of the most anticipated of the season. Last year's game was an instant classic in the rivalry, and both teams are in the top 10 again this year.
But the hype of this game has been taken down a few notches with Brooks County suffering from the injury bug. The Trojans lost their starting quarterback and defensive back to injuries and have been adjusting ever since. Since the injuries, they've lost 16-14 to Crisp County, ranked No. 6 in AAA, and barely beat winless Early County 18-14 in a game they were favored to win by 35 points. They were favored to beat Crisp by 11.
In this week's Maxwell Projections, Brooks County is the underdog with Fitzgerald picked to win by 12. It's hard to gauge if the game will be even that close or, on the contrary, even closer. The Trojans may be acclimated with its current personnel and turning a corner, as they're coming off a 42-0 shutout over Albany.
However, the Purple Hurricane coming of a 42-0 win of their own over Berrien. Since suffering a 35-28 loss to AAAAAAA's Tift County, they've outscored opponents 90-7 in two wins. Both teams are two wins removed from their only loss and both are coming in off blowout, shutout wins. And the winner all but clinches Region 1.
Regardless of injury to the Trojans' roster, this game should be competitive. But while Brooks County adjusts to roster turnover on the fly, Fitzgerald's nucleus is very much intact from last year's state runner-up finish. Because of that, it's hard to imagine anything other than a Purple Hurricane win in front of the home crowd.
In Region 8, another game that in all likelihood serves as the region title game takes place. The No. 5 Rabun County Wildcats (6-0, 3-0) travel to the Elbert County Blue Devils (6-1, 3-0) to play at The Granite Bowl.
This year's game is the first-ever matchup between the two programs but it isn't projected by Maxwell to be close -- the Wildcats are a 21-point favorite. That doesn't mean the Blue Devils won't catch a break, however. They already caught one earlier this season when an ugly mark on their record, a tie with AAA's Hart County (now just 1-6), was changed to a win by forfeit when it was learned Hart County used an ineligible player.
The Blue Devils will need more than a break or two to hang with with Rabun County though. The Wildcats are rolling with an unblemished record, riding the back of a high-powered offense that's come to be expected from Lee Shaw-coached teams. And it's not just the offense, the defensive is doing its part as well. In the Wildcats' last three games they've outscored opponents 168-10.
(For more on the Brooks County-Fitzgerald and Rabun County-Elbert County games, see the GHSF Daily previews.)
In Region 4, the No. 8 Screven County Gamecocks (6-1, 4-0) travel to the Josey Eagles (4-3, 3-1). Like the Wildcats-Blue Devils game, Maxwell's Projections don't have this being a close game, with the Gamecocks a 25-point favorite. Though the region will likely come down to the Gamecocks and first-place Jefferson County, the Eagles can make things interesting with a win, which would move them into a tie for second place with Screven County.
The Eagles' come into Friday in a good position with regards to the standings, but their one region loss is stain on their record and one that shouldn't have happened. Bottom feeder Glenn Hills 21-14 in a game they were projected to win by 12, so while they have a solid league record, they've yet to play a formidable league opponent.
The Gamecocks, on the other hand, are riding a six-game losing streak. In fact, they're undefeated against teams in the Peach State, with their season-opening loss coming at the hands of Bluffton (South Carolina) by a 32-25 score. Bluffton is currently its state's No. 2-ranked team in AAA. The Gamecocks have outscored region opponents 316-34.
Other matchups involving ranked AA teams: No. 1 Benedictine (7-0, 4-0 Region 2) at Bacon County (1-5, 1-3); No. 4 Callaway (7-0, 2-0 R5) at Temple (5-2, 0-2); Swainsboro (2-5, 2-2 R2) at No. 7 Vidalia (5-2, 3-1); Dade County (2-5, 1-3 R7) at No. 9 Pepperell (5-1, 4-0); Jordan (0-7, 0-2 R5) at No. 10 Heard County (5-2, 1-1).
AA ranked teams with a bye this week: No. 3 Jefferson County.
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