As we close one chapter of the 2019 season, 32 teams in all eight classifications across the state will start the five week journey to Atlanta and to Georgia State University and the opportunity to play for a State Championship in football on the weekend of December 13-14. Before we look at the opening round of the playoffs and the area participants, lets first look at the teams who finished their year this past weekend, and have moved on into other sports.
The Indians of Stephens County and the Lions of Franklin County saw the end of a frustrating season with losses to St. Pius for the Indians and the Monroe Area Purple Hurricanes for Franklin. Stephens finishes with a record of 1-9, while Franklin County closes up the year with a record of 2-8. Elsewhere, Habersham – Central saw a celebration of fifty years of football end with a loss to Apalachee in Class AAAA action, while East Jackson and Jackson County concluded their season with a head to head match in Jefferson.
For those teams eligible forpost-season play, in our area, there are eight teams that are part of this five week gauntlet to Atlanta. In Class AAAA, the Red Raiders of Madison County join Oconee County, North Oconee, and St. Pius X in pursuit of a championship, while Hart County, Jefferson, Morgan County, and Monroe Area look for success in the AAA post season. In AA, the Blue Devils of Elbert County join Union County, Putman County, and Rabun County in the field of 32.
In action last Friday, in Class AAA, the Bulldogs of Hart County traveled to Madison to take on the Bulldogs of Morgan County, a game with huge post-season implications for both teams. Hart County continued to use a strong running game to defeat the Morgan County Bulldogs by the score of 39-14 to claim the number 2 seed for Region 8-AAA in the first round of the state playoffs beginning on Friday. The Bulldogs, behind Malecki Thomas and Ja Len Lackey, ran for 451 yards on 56 plays against Morgan. Thomas who finished the regular season with over 1400 yards rushing the football, had 290 yards on 29 carries and scored 4 TD’s on the ground. Lackey, the sophomore, reached 1000 yards for the season, rushing for 154 yards in the game. Hart County will open the 2019 post season at home on Friday against Haralson County. Both of these teams finished the year with identical records of 8-2. This will be the first home playoff game for Hart County since a 14-0 loss to Westminster in the third round of the 2014 playoffs.
In other games involving 8-AAA teams on the final night of the regular season, Monroe Area closed out the regular season with a 35 – 0 win over Franklin County, East Jackson fell to Jackson County by the score of 17 – 0, and Jefferson had an open date before starting post season play on November 15. At Elberton, the Blue Devils closed the book on 2019’s regular season with a 48 – 13 win over Banks County, to finish the year with a record of 6 – 4 in Brad Waggoner’s first season at the helm. The Blue Devils will face Region 6-AA’s runner up Douglas of Atlanta, who finished 9-1 on the year, in a Saturday night matchup at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta.
At Blairsville, the battle of top offenses in Class AA goes to Rabun County, who defeated previously undefeated Union County by the score of 49 -7. Rabun’s Gunner Stockman had over 400 yards combined running and passing and scored 6 touchdowns. Rabuns defense forced 5 Union County turnovers in the game. In the opening round of the AA playoffs, Rabun County (10-0) plays host to B.E.S.T. Academy (4-6), Union County (9-1) entertains South Atlanta (7-3), Elbert County (6-4) travels to Douglas (9-1) while Putman County (5-5) visits Hapeville (8-1-1).
In Region 8-AAAA, Oconee County completed their season with a 42-14 win over Madison County. Max Johnson threw two touchdown passes for the Warriors, while Darius Norman added 3 rushing scores. Oconee County enters the AAAA playoffs as region champion and will host Northwest Whitfield (7-3) in a matchup in Watkinsville. In Bogart, region runner up North Oconee (9-1) will play host to Pickens County (6-4), while Madison County (4-6) journeys to Ridgeland (6-4) and St. Pius X (5-5) takes on Heritage (8-2).
Opening round playoff games involving teams from Region 8-AAA feature number 1 seed and region champion Jefferson (8-1) playing host to Sonarville (5-5) while region runner up Hart County (8-2) plays host to Haralson County (8-2). North Murray ( 9-1), the champion from Region 6-AAA, plays host to Monroe Area (7-3) and Calhoun (9-1) plays host to Morgan County (7-3).
Someone once asked, “What’s the difference between football in the regular season and football in the post season?” This is for sure, there are 32 teams in each class who are starting a journey that everyone hopes will end with the ultimate celebration in Atlanta in December. The next five weeks will feature upsets of unbelievable proportions, magical performances by teams and players. The playoffs are a different animal from the regular season, everything is more special and important.
I encourage you to get out and see a playoff game in your area. If you liked football in the regular season, you’ll love post- season football.