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Three football teams a win away from semifinals
Four local teams played state playoff games last Friday night and three of them have moved on the quarterfinals in their respective divisions. Here is a preview of this week’s games.
Whitewater Wildcats (11-1) vs. Allatoona Buccaneers (11-1)
Whitewater’s football team hadn’t had very many close games this season. In fact, in the three games prior to last week’s AAAAA state playoff game against the Glynn County Terrors, the Wildcats had outscored their opponents 133-21. Of their 11 wins, only one prior to last week was by a single digit margin.
They knew it was unlikely they would continue to cruise through the playoffs and last week Whitewater had its first battle since Oct. 19’s victory over Creekside. They passed the test, beating Glynn County 34-27 with a come from behind victory in the final seconds of the game.
Once again, the big player for the Wildcats was Kendall Conley. Conley had all five touchdowns in the win and 290 yards rushing on the night. He now has 1,906 rushing yards this season and 34 touchdowns. The defense also played huge for Whitewater, forcing two fumbles, including one in the final seconds of the game.
This week’s opponent, in Whitewater’s first ever appearance in the quarterfinals of the state football playoffs, is the Allatoona Buccaneers, a team that had their own battle last week and emerged victorious. Allatoona played at M.L. King and won 20-19. It was their third win this season by a margin of three points or less and it was their second win in a row since a 25-7 loss to East Paulding. The Buccaneers have eight victories this season by a double digit margin and match up well with Whitewater on paper.
The Wildcats have scored more points (426-389) and allowed less (174-187) but the differences in the numbers is minimal. The real question appears to be can anyone stop Conley and if they can, can Whitewater’s offense or defense produce points elsewhere?
The winner of this game meets the winner of Harris County and Gainesville in the semifinals next week.
Sandy Creek Patriots (12-0) vs. Burke County Bears (11-1)
Last week’s second round playoff game didn’t start the way that the Patriots, still ranked first in Class AAAA, would have liked. The team looked a little out of sorts in the first quarter and Dalton scored first. However, things began to turn around in the second quarter and especially in the second half. Sandy Creek found its footing, won 35-13 and advanced to a quarterfinal match-up with the third ranked Burke County Bears.
Eric Swinney and Delvin Weems combined to rush for 295 yards. Swinney and Antonio Williams both had two touchdowns in the win, while Weems added one. Quarterback Cole Garvin threw for 151 yards and had two interceptions. The defense held Dalton to 127 total yards of offense.
The Bears have won 11 games in a row since losing to Thomson, a region champion and still alive in the Class AAA playoffs, 21-14. Not only have they won all of their games since then, only one team got within 12 points of them (Coffee, the team that waxed Whitewater at the start of the season). In the playoffs, Burke County defeated Perry 35-7 in the first round and Monroe 28-6 in the second round. One major player that Sandy Creek will have to contend with is Burke County’s quarterback Donquell “Gator” Green. Last week Green rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown and threw for 109 yards and a touchdown. He also plays defense for Burke County and had an interception last week. The Bears also have another player to keep an eye on. Antonio Harold rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Burke County won the Class AAA state title last year and Sandy Creek won it the year before that. A dynasty can be made by either school if they win this game and go on to win the state title.
The Patriots have the edge in points scored (549-496) and points allowed (109-165) but the only numbers that will matter are the ones on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
The winner of this game will meet the winner of South Effingham and Monroe Area.
Landmark Christian War Eagles (8-3) vs. First Presbyterian Day Vikings (7-4)
Landmark Christian and all of the schools in the Class A Private bracket had a week off before starting their state playoffs last Friday. It was a week for players to heal any nagging bumps and bruises and a week to prepare for that first opponent. Landmark took on Calvary Day and won 10-7. The victory avenged a season opening loss and moved Landmark into the state quarterfinals for the second straight year. Jeremiah Kirkland rushed for 191 yards and a touchdown and Stockton McGuire, the freshman quarterback and kicker, was 8 of 10 passing for 75 yards and kicked the field goal that made the difference in the game. The defense had a shutout until the final four seconds of the game. Ethan Sewell had an interception and two forced fumbles and William Higbie and Greg Pulliam led the team in tackles.
Prior to last week, Landmark only had one win with a margin of victory not in double digits (30-27 overtime win against Our Lady of Mercy).
Their opponent this week, the Vikings, defeated them 31-21 during last year’s regular season. The year before that Landmark won 23-21. There will be some familiar faces on both sides when they face off again this Friday. The Vikings beat Brookstone 49-33 last week, bouncing back from a loss in the regular season finale against Aquinas (42-14). First Presbyterian has shown a strong offense this season, scoring 21 points or more in all but one of their games. They do give up a lot of points though and could possibly do so again this week if they can’t stop Kirkland.
First Presbyterian has the edge in points scored (378-315) but Landmark holds a big edge in points allowed (180-277). A strong night from the War Eagle defense could mean a return trip to the state semifinals. The winner of this game meets the winner of Athens Academy and Prince Avenue for a trip to the state championship game the following week.
Our Lady of Mercy lost to Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy 42-14 last Friday. Rashard Fant had both touchdowns for the Bobcats. Our Lady of Mercy finished the season with a 6-5 record.