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Posted: Friday, November 20th 2009 at 4:16pm

Playoffs week 2: Old rivalry renewed in Jefferson

By Morgan Lee Editor
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Jefferson and Buford will battle in the Class AA playoffs on Friday night in Jefferson.
With nine area teams left in postseason play, there are several intriguing match-ups on the docket for tonight's high school football -- including the renewal of an old rivalry.

Jefferson and Buford used to play each other regularly when both were Class A, but tonight they will face off in the second round of the Class AA playoffs.

Gainesville, North Hall, Flowery Branch, East Jackson, Commerce, North Gwinnett and Apalachee all face huge games as they look to reach the quarterfinals.

Read on below to learn all you need to know about tonight's contests, and be sure to check with Access North Georgia throughout the night for in-game updates and afterward for complete game coverage...


SECOND ROUND PLAYOFF MATCH-UPS:

-- DUNWOODY at GAINESVILLE

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: City Park, Gainesville
RADIO: 1240 AM ESPN
DUNWOODY: (7-4; No. 2 seed Region 5-AAA) Defeated Elbert County 26-14 in the first round.
GAINESVILLE: (11-0; No. 1 seed Region 7-AAA) Defeated Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 42-0 in the first round.
LAST MEETING: This is the two teams’ first meeting.
NOTABLE: Gainesville can notch its second straight Class AAA quarterfinal appearance with a win tonight, but standing in the Red Elephants way is a battle-tested Dunwoody team that also reached the Class AAA quarterfinals last season. The Wildcats feature a grinding wing-T offense (which includes some triple option) and an athletic 3-5 defense that will try to match No. 1-ranked Gainesville’s athleticism man for man. “They’re the most athletic team we’ve faced all year,” Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller said of the Wildcats. Dunwoody is under a new head coach in Michael Youngblood, but he came from a name program in Tucker that knows how to win big ballgames -- including last season’s Class AAAA championship. “I keep harping to my kids that we know what it takes to win,” Youngblood said. “We’ve just got to go out there and execute.” Youngblood’s plan on Friday is to try and keep the Red Elephants’ explosive offense – averaging a Class AAA best 47 points per game – on the sideline. “The more they’re on the field, the more they’re going to score,” he said. “They’re the best offense we’ve faced all year. You just have to pick your poison. So we’ve got to find a way to control the football.” That means running, running and more running for a team that is averaging 223 yards per game on the ground. Dalen Claytor, Tracey White, Will Crochet, Ishmael Adams and Justin King have all taken turns carrying the ball this season for Dunwoody, though the Wildcats are still uncertain who will start at quarterback on Friday. Freshman Ryan Gaines started and played through their first round win over Elbert County after an injury to King, who had been taking most of the snaps. Yet King should be healthy and ready to play. The switch didn’t seem to hurt last week, as the Wildcats ran for more than 300 yards on the Elbert County defense. Gainesville’s defense, which also leads Class AAA in allowing just 6.3 points per game, will look to stuff Dunwoody at the line. Meanwhile, Dunwoody’s defense will look to contain the Red Elephants explosive attack. Gainesville quarterback Blake Sims showed he was ready for the postseason last week, rolling up 286 total yards and five touchdowns -- three through the air on 7 of 10 passing. Sims also ran for 68 yards, including a 62-yard blast. For the season, Sims has 1,748 yards passing, 649 yards rushing and 37 total touchdowns. Leading receiver Tai-ler Jones also has 1,090 yards and 16 TDs, while leading rusher Teryan Rucker has 940 yards and 11 TDs. In all, the Red Elephants have rolled up 4,671 yards of offense this season. “They’ve got a lot of great skill players, and it’s going to be tough,” Youngblood said. Juniors Tracey White and Breon Isaacs help pace the Dunwoody defense, and each interceptions in last week’s win. The Wildcats offense also showed it can play with the best earlier this season, losing just 10-7 to fourth-ranked St. Pius in the Region 5-AAA championship game.
KEY MATCH-UP: Gainesville’s defensive front versus Dunwoody’s offense. The Wildcats are the third leading rushing team in Dekalb County this season and will try their best to keep the Red Elephants’ explosive offense off the field. If Gainesville wins this battle, the Red Elephants roll.
WINNER PLAYS: Baldwin versus Cairo winner


-- NORTH HALL at SAINT PIUS X

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Maloof Stadium, Atlanta
RADIO: Majic 102.9 FM
NORTH HALL: (9-2; No. 2 seed Region 7-AAA) Defeated Ringgold 39-21 in the first round.
SAINT PIUS: (11-0; No. 1 seed Region 7-AAA) Defeated Franklin County 34-0 in the first round.
LAST MEETING: This is the two teams’ first meeting.
NOTABLE: Expect an old-fashioned slobber-knocker tonight in Atlanta; in fact it’s a shame this game won’t be taking place on grass, as it will be the kind of contest to make Vince Lombardi proud. (Yet with the weather being what it has been this fall, both coaches will be glad that the field won’t be an issue when the two squads kick off on Pius’ FieldTurf surface.) Both teams have rolled up approximately 3,000 yards rushing this season and both teams feature stingy defenses. The Golden Lions’ defense has been especially tough to score on this season, giving up just 6.5 points per contest. Yet while North Hall is allowing 17.2, it’s average is just 12 over the Trojans current eight-game winning streak. “They’re the best team we’ve played so far,” St. Pius coach Paul Standard said of North Hall. “They’re so efficient, and they execute extremely well on both sides of the ball.” To hear Trojans coach Bob Christmas speak, you’d think both coaches were looking in a mirror. “Both teams are very comparable,” Christmas said. “I think it’s going to be very hard-hitting, and we’re going to have to play hard for 48 minutes.” St. Pius features an option offense in which three players have rushed for 600 yards or more. Fullback Cole Moon leads the way with 1,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, while running back George Kennedy is third on the team with 699 yards and nine scores. Quarterback Trey White, a sophomore, has also been key to the Golden Lions’ success, rolling 708 yards on the ground and 10 scores. He doesn’t throw it much, but White has completed 29 passes for 561 yards and eight TDs and has been sacked just three times. That means that North Hall’s defense, led by linebacker Peyton Wilhoite, defensive tackle Daniel Blitch and safety Nathan Jones will have to be up around the line of scrimmage most of the night, and wrapping up on tackles when the opportunity presents itself. “They look like they’re happy with three yards a carry every down,” Christmas said. Meanwhile, Standard is certainly concerned with slowing North Hall’s wing-T attack, also led by a number of ball carriers. “I say slow them down, because I don’t think you can stop them,” Standard said. “Their quarterback, Nathan Jones, is just an outstanding athlete – on both sides of the ball.” Wilhoite leads the Trojans with over 700 yards, while Jordan Chaffin is second with over 500 yards. Robert Humphrey, who missed much of last week’s win with a sprained ankle, is third with approximately 500 yards. Pius’ defense is led by middle linebacker Robert Lucisano with 102 tackles. Adam Hall has 72 stops and Jack Marsau adds 71. The Golden Lions defense also has 28 tackles for loss this season. “It’s probably going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes,” Standard said. ... Standard and Christmas were both hired by their schools in 2001. Standard has since gone 74-29, and he took St. Pius to the Class AAAA semifinals in 2006; Christmas has gone 77-28, and he took North Hall to the Class AAA semifinals in 2007.
KEY MATCH-UP: The trenches -- both sides. This game will be one to make any former lineman proud, as two impressive squads battle it out for supremacy. The battle probably won’t be dominated by either side and could hinge on one big block.
WINNER PLAYS: Peach County versus Washington County winner


-- FLOWERY BRANCH at GRADY

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Lakewood Stadium, Atlanta
RADIO: WDUN AM-550
FLOWERY BRANCH: (8-3; No. 4 seed Region 7-AAA) Defeated Ridgeland 17-14 in the first round.
GRADY: (10-1; No. 3 seed Region 5-AAA) Defeated Hart County 26-21 in the first round.
LAST MEETING: Grady won 32-29 in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs in 2006, completing a double pass with roughly 30 seconds left to seal the win.
NOTABLE: This promises to be an exciting match-up of two athletic teams that have a recent history in the playoffs. Grady knocked Flowery Branch out of the postseason in this stage in 2006, and while few players on either program's current varsity roster were even on the sidelines at that point, both sets of coaches expect a similar style of game when they hook up again tonight. Both teams feature speed and athleticism. And don't be surprised if it goes back down to the wire, as it did four years ago. Grady features a ground-based, I-set running attack, led by junior running back Marcus Caffey. Meanwhile, the Grey Knights defense is a 4-3 base led by senior defensive end Chris Walton and senior linebackers Charles Morgan and Brandon Proctor. Grady’s defense knows it will have its hands full against the second-highest scoring offense in Class AAA in Flowery Branch (41.9 points per game). “We know they’re going to score points,” Grey Knights coach Ronnie Millen said of the Falcons offense. “We’re going to have to see if we can outscore them.” The Flowery Branch offense is led by quarterback Connor Shaw, who has passed for 2,442 yards so far this season and rushed for 617 yards. The senior South Carolina commit has 39 total touchdowns. Yet the Falcons’ spread attack also showed an ability to play hard-nosed grinding football last week, as running back Imani Cross (1,135 total yards, 15 TDs) dug out the tough yards against Ridgeland. “I think they’re going to try to pressure us,” Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw said. “They have a lot of talent, and I think they’re going to be ready to go.” The key could be the Falcons’ defense, which stepped up last week to produce perhaps its best night of the season. And while the unit is allowing 24.5 points per contest – the most of any remaining playoff squad – the Falcons allowed just 14 points last week. “They played with a lot of passion and emotion,” Shaw said. “If we can do that again this week, we’ll have a good chance.” After shifting around its line-up last week, Flowery Branch will look to capture that same magic again this week. Linebacker Cory Sanderson leads the Falcons with 80 total tackles. If this game does come down to special teams again, Flowery Branch will certainly have an edge with punter Will Monday and kicker Billy Thompson. Monday pinned Ridgeland deep on several kicks last week, while the Falcons punt coverage team blocked and recovered a Ridgeland punt for a score. ... Grady survived its first-round game 26-21 when Hart County fumbled out of the end zone from the 1-yard line on the final play of the game.
KEY MATCH-UP: Flowery Branch’s defensive front against Grady’s running backs. The Falcons defense played probably their best game of the season last week. They’ll have to repeat that intensity this week.
WINNER PLAYS: Carver, Columbus versus Woodward Academy winner


-- BUFORD at JEFFERSON

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
RADIO: WCON 99.3 FM
BUFORD: (10-1; No. 2 seed Region 6-AA) Defeated Pepperell 24-0 in the first round.
JEFFERSON: (11-0: No. 1 seed Region 8-AA) Defeated Heard County 21-13 in the first round.
LAST MEETING: Buford won 41-0 on Oct. 26, 2001. The Wolves lead the series 14-2-1.
NOTABLE: Once upon a time, the Wolves and Dragons faced each other on a normal basis. In fact, Buford and Jefferson were once region rivals, as they battled for supremacy in 8-A -- of course, that all changed as soon as Buford moved up to Class AA in 2001. Yet Jefferson wasn’t far behind and joined Class AA last season. But while the two teams remained in separate regions, their recent performance on the football field meant that the two were destined to meet again one day, and it has finally happened. The Dragons will play host to the contest, as Buford looks for its 10th straight trip to at least the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Jefferson, meanwhile, is gunning for its first quarterfinals appearance since 1977. To get it, the Dragons will have to find their way past a Wolves team that outguns them on both lines of scrimmage. “I was talking to coach [Jess] Simpson about their kids on the line, and they are just huge,” Jefferson coach T McFerrin said. “They could play in Class AAAAA and be fine.” Buford’s lines of scrimmage feature players like 6-foot-5, 280-pound Kolton Houston (a University of Georgia commit) and 6-6, 320 pound Du’Von Millsap (a South Carolina commit). Mitchell DeWalt and Nolan Alexander also play key roles on both lines of scrimmage for a Wolves team that had plenty of experience in the trenches. “We’re going to be going up against those guys with linemen who way about 220 pounds at the most,” McFerrin said. Yet as worried as McFerrin is about Buford’s line, Simpson is just as nervous about Jefferson’s skill players. “They’ve certainly got the edge in the skill department. They’re skill players are seniors and experienced,” Simpson said. “And we haven’t faced a quarterback like they’ve got all season. We’ve got our hands full.” Dragons quarterback Darius Minor is one of the most versatile and dangerous players in north Georgia, wracking up 845 yards passing so far and 649 yards rushing to go with 15 total touchdowns. Jefferson will also be bolstered by the return of second leading rusher Lucas Redd (647 yards, 12 TDs), who missed last week’s game due to illness. Outside linebacker Charlie McClure also returns, though tight end Hoytez Damons is still a question. “They run an outstanding offense, and coach McFerrin has added his little touches to it,” Simpson said. “We’re going to have to play much better than last week.” The Wolves did manage to notch the shutout over Pepperell in the first round, but Simpson says there was plenty to improve on. “It didn’t look as good as shutout looks on paper,” Simpson said. Yet Buford’s defense has been a strength all season, blanking seven opposing offenses so far – though Simpson worries that relative youth could catch up to them in the postseason. “We’ll be playing upwards of 20 sophomores on Friday night,” Simpson said. One of the Wolves’ key players on Friday will be senior Jessel Curry (an Auburn commit). The senior leads Buford in rushing from the fullback position, tackles from his linebacker position and has been a crucial member of the Wolves special teams. “He gets a high, left-footed spiral on punts, and they’re very hard to return,” Simpson said. “He’s done so much for us this season.”
KEY MATCH-UP: Jefferson’s offensive line versus Buford’s defensive line. If the Dragons can play to a draw on the line, it will give Jefferson a much better chance against an imposing Wolves front seven.
WINNER PLAYS: Appling County versus Cook winner


-- EAST JACKSON at LOVETT

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Conley-Oakley Field, Atlanta
EAST JACKSON: (10-1; No. 2 seed Region 8-AA) Defeated Manchester 27-14 in the first round.
LOVETT: (10-1; No. 1 seed Region 6-AA) Defeated Chattooga 45-7 in the first round.
LAST MEETING: This is the two teams’ first meeting.
NOTABLE: After getting their first-ever playoff win last week, the East Jackson Eagles head into this week’s showdown in Atlanta looking for more. “It’s awesome,” East Jackson coach Frank Caputo. “The kids are kind of innocent; they don’t know how big this is, and that means that they really don’t feel any pressure.” The Eagles will certainly be looked at as underdogs against one of the name programs in metro Atlanta. “We’re not just playing Lovett, we’re taking on an institution,” Caputo said. “Those guys have been good forever, and they are a real quality program.” The Lions have elevated since coach Mike Muschamp (brother of University of Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp) took over in 2005, reaching at least the second round of the playoffs each season and the ’07 Class AA championship game. Lovett’s spread offense features senior quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff, a talented signal caller who has the ability to riddle opposing defenses with quick passes. Senior receiver Max Williams is a threat for the Lions, as is running back Zach Wolfe. “They’re well-disciplined, and they’re bigger than us – but just about everybody is,” Caputo said. “They’ve got a screen game; they do a lot with screens.” The Eagles 3-5 defense will have to be on its toes against a unit averaging 36.5 points per game. Lovett’s defense also bases out of a 3-5, though Caputo says it is more multiple in what it does. “They move some kids around really well, and they come off the edges and up the middle... They do a great job,” Caputo said. “It’s going to be a big challenge.” East Jackson will stick with its wing-T attack, led by fullback Deon Sewell. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior has paced the Eagles ground game all season with over 1,000 yards and has the speed to break long runs any time he touches the ball. Yet Sewell is not alone and is joined in the backfield by a number of capable halfbacks, including sophomore C.J. Allen, who is second on the team with over 700 yards. For the season, East Jackson has rushed for over 3,000 yards. Sewell had an 8-yard TD run for the Eagles and quarterback Evan Williamson connected with Tyler Collins on a 20-yard TD pass. Michael Stephens also added a 1-yard run for the Eagles. “It’s a great opportunity, another chance to match-up with someone and play one more week,” Caputo said. “It’s going to be fun.”
KEY MATCH-UP: East Jackson’s offensive line versus Lovett’s defensive front. If the Eagles can claw open holes for Sewell and company, East Jackson stands a good chance in Atlanta.
WINNER PLAYS: Charlton County versus Brooks County winner


-- COMMERCE at DARLINGTON

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Chris Hunter Stadium, Rome
COMMERCE: (7-4: No. 2 seed Region 8-A) Defeated Landmark Christian 29-19 in the first round.
DARLINGTON: (7-4: No. 1 seed Region 6-A) Defeated Warren County 16-14 in the first round.
LAST MEETING: Commerce won 37-6 on Nov. 27, 1981, in the Class A quarterfinals in Rome. The Tigers lead the series 1-0.
NOTABLE: This is a battle between two traditional powers in Class A football, as Commerce looks to notch its first second round win since 2006. Yet Darlington will be a tough test for the Tigers, featuring a powerful wing-T offense and eight-man front on defense that will do its best to slow the Commerce run game. “They play in a tough league and really played some good teams this season,” Tigers coach Steve Savage said of Darlington. “They started slow, but they really turned it on at the end there.” Darlington started 0-3 against three straight non-region foes but are 7-1 since with the only blemish coming in a 21-14 loss to region foe Trion on Nov. 6. A big reason for Darlington’s early growing pains was the fact it was starting a freshman at quarterback. Brad Butler took some lumps early but has developed throughout and played a key role in winning Region 6-A. Turnovers have also kept Darlington from reaching its potential on offense in recent weeks, as it has fumbled the ball away in key moments both in the loss to Trion and the first-round nailbiter over Warren County. Butler did have a rough night in the first round, completing just 3-for-4 passes for 23 yards, but Darlington can also lean on several strong running backs, including Tylon Garrett and Cedric Spivey. “They’ve run the wing-T forever,” Savage said. Garrett led the way in round one, rushing for 142 yards on 24 carries and will present a challenge for the Commerce defense, led by linebackers Josh Streetman and Josh Swistak. “We’ve got to do a better job of stopping our opponents and getting them off the field this week,” Savage said. Meanwhile, the Tigers offense continued its dominant play last week, especially on the ground, where standout running back Deon Brock rolled up 238 yards rushing on just eight carries and scored four times. Brock now has 1,653 yards on the season and 22 touchdowns. Quarterback Cody Streetman also played well last week, continuing his progression as a sophomore. The Tigers offense will face a Darlington defense bent on slowing the run. Darlington is led by senior linebacker Chase Butler along with Alex Sentell and Arthur Pollard. ... Commerce is looking for its deepest run in the playoffs since 2006, when the Tigers reached the Class A semifinals, falling to Lincoln County 21-3 in the Georgia Dome. A victory tonight would put coach Steve Savage into the third round of the postseason for the ninth time in his 21 seasons at Commerce. He led the Tigers to a Class A crown in 2000. ... Darlington last won the Class A title in 1998 -- that was also the last time Darlington reached the quarterfinals. Darlington has now reached the second round of the postseason four times in coach Tommy Atha’s eight seasons.
KEY MATCH-UP: Darlington’s defensive front seven versus Commerce’s running backs. If Commerce can find running room for Deon Brock, the senior has shown repeatedly that he will be a game-changer.
WINNER PLAYS: Twiggs County versus Chattahoochee County winner


-- WOODSTOCK at NORTH GWINNETT

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium, Suwanee
WOODSTOCK: (10-1; No. 2 seed Region 6-AAAAA) Defeated Dacula 24-7 in the first round.
NORTH GWINNETT: (11-0; No. 1 seed Region 7-AAAAA) Defeated Centennial 52-21 in the first round.
LAST MEETING: This is the two teams’ first meeting.
NOTABLE: While North Gwinnett is known more for its wide-open spread attack, this game could feature a bit of a defensive standoff. Both teams feature outstanding defenses, as Woodstock allows just 9.4 points per contest and the Bulldogs just 10.4. “They remind me a lot of us,” North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire said of the Wolverines. “They fly to the football on defense and play extremely hard. They don’t give up hardly any points and are hard to run on.” Woodstock allowed just 35 yards on the ground against Dacula last week. The Wolverines are led by seniors Jonathan Burmudez (12 solo tackles, two sacks against Dacula) and Drew Yeargin (15 solo tackles, interception) and will try to harass North Gwinnett quarterback C.J. Uzomah throughout. The 6-foot-5 junior is still playing his way back into complete health after suffering a late-season injury and was still limited last week. “For us to win it all, he’s got to get healthier,” Sphire said of his quarterback. “He was at about 80 percent the other night, and we’re still having to minimize some of the things he can do for us when he’s fully healthy. But he’s been tremendous for us this year.” Meanwhile, the Bulldogs defense will look to keep up its strong play this season, as they take on a Woodstock team that is averaging 27.5 points per game. Middle linebacker David Park will continue to play a key role, as will veteran defensive ends Jon Gibson-Green and Ayo Ojolola. Free safety Will Compton has also been a force in the secondary. Woodstock counters with an option attack that features junior backs Tanner Skogen and Kevin Bolak and senior Carlos Davis. The trio rolled up 300 yards on the ground in last week’s win, each scoring on runs of 20 yards or more. This contest could also be decided by special teams, as both programs take pride in their kicking and return games. “They’ve had two-three kickoff returns for touchdowns, and last weekend we had two special teams TDs, and they had one,” Sphire said. “To win a championship, you’ve got to have great special teams play. They’re going to be a load on Friday night.” ... Woodstock had never won a playoff game before last season, but a victory against North Gwinnett would give the Wolverines back-to-back appearances in the quarterfinals. ... The Bulldogs are looking for a fourth straight trip to the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
KEY MATCH-UP: North Gwinnett’s offensive line versus Woodstock’s defensive front. If the Wolverines are to have any success, they must find a way to penetrate a front line that features mammoth tackles Jawuan James (committed to Tennessee) and Austin Shepherd (committed to Alabama). If Uzomah has time to operate or room to run, the Bulldogs will be looking at a big showdown in the quarterfinals.
WINNER PLAYS: Camden County vs. Lowndes winner


-- MARIST at APALACHEE

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: R. Harold Harrison Stadium, Bethlehem
MARIST: (9-2; No. 2 seed Region 6-AAAA) Defeated Sprayberry 28-14 in the first round.
APALACHEE: (11-0; No. 1 seed Region 8-AAAA) Defeated Starr’s Mill 27-24 in double overtime in the first round.
LAST MEETING: This is the two teams’ first meeting.
NOTABLE: Apalachee continued to show its ability to win close, key contests last week, knocking off Starr’s Mill in double overtime. The Wildcats feel like they should have put the game away before it came to extra time, fumbling away a sure scoring opportunity and being hit with key penalties to keep Starr’s Mill in the game early. Yet Apalachee won’t even be thinking about the past when traditional power Marist rolls into Bethlehem tonight. The War Eagles feature their tried-and-true option offense that makes life very difficult on opposing defenses. “They are so disciplined and just wait on you to make a mistake -- and they capitalize on that every time,” Wildcats coach Shane Davis said. “If they get you on the ropes, guessing and thinking, you’re in trouble. You’ve got to have all 11 guys on defense sticking to their assignment and doing their job.” Apalachee’s defense has risen to the occasion in several big contests this season, and will relish the challenge. Led by linebacker Jeff Haney (team-high 113 tackles), the Wildcats must have complete concentration and stick to their assigned tasks against Marist quarterback Andy Perez, fullback Matt Connors and running back Penn Davenport. Connors is nearing 1,000 yards rushing for the season and had 104 yards and a touchdown in last week’s first-round win. Perez, meanwhile, is also a threat through the air, as he showed last week, completing 5-of-9 passes for 77 yards and a TD -- one to Davenport. The other key for Apalachee is keeping the War Eagles in third and long situations. Marist converted on five of six third-down opportunities in the second half last week. “I’m not sure if we’re ready for it,” Davis said of the War Eagles option attack. “If you don’t play the option or face the option a lot I don’t think anyone can say they’re ready to face this kind of offense.” Meanwhile, Apalachee’s best defense could be a grinding ground attack. Running backs Jon Lee (team-high 1,077 yards, 13 TDs), Reggie Battle, Christian Hoard and John Ansely (633 yards, 6 TDs) will look to eat up clock and keep Marist’s offense on the sidelines. “The kids are confident; there’s no reason for them not to be,” Davis said. “They’ve had a great season, and they’re still undefeated. They just came back to work this week and are focused on another opponent.” ... A win tonight would put the Wildcats into the quarterfinal round of the postseason for the first time. Apalachee also reached the second round in 2007, falling to Carver, Atlanta in the Class AAA playoffs, 21-7. ... Marist has won 27 consecutive home playoff games but lost six of eight road playoff games this decade.
KEY MATCH-UP: This is a no-brainer: Apalachee’s defensive front against Marist’s option attack. If the Wildcats can play assignment football and contain the War Eagles methodical attack, they will be successful. But if Marist can force some mistakes, Apalachee could be in for a long night on defense.
WINNER PLAYS: Griffin vs. Ware County winner
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