The Best Remain
By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The second round of the 7A GHSA playoffs had a major upset. No. 1 Buford lost their first game of the season to No. 6 Walton, 42 – 35. They ended the Wolves 22-game win streak, quest for a fourth consecutive state championship and a possible national championship. This is the first time this century that Buford has not advanced to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
“We’re not used to feeling like this around here and that’s a good thing,” Buford head coach Bryant Appling said. “It also handicaps you to an extent because you’ve got to understand what it feels like (to lose) and work a little bit harder. There’s an inch in there we can get and we just didn’t get to it this year.”
The upset means any of the remaining eight teams in the quarterfinals has a legitimate shot to win it all. We are going to take a look at those matchups.
#2 Colquitt County vs North Gwinnett: The Packers (12-0) have to be the favorite to win the state championship now. They beat Harrison in the second round 49 – 28. Colquitt County has an explosive offense. The least amounts of points they scored in a game was 24 against Valdosta.
The Bulldogs (10-2) come into the game unranked but they have had a good season. Their best player is four-star defensive tackle Kayden McDonald. He’s ranked as the 22nd recruit in the state for the class of 2023 and he committed to Ohio State. They also have four-star linebacker Grant Godfrey.
I expect this to be a very close game but Colquitt will win.
#5 Mill Creek vs #7 Westlake: The Hawks (11-1) have the best player in the state, five-star safety/receiver Caleb Downs. They also have Clemson commit and three-star linebacker Jamal Anderson. I think this is the most talented team left in the playoffs.
The Lions (9-3) also have a Clemson commit, corner back Avieon Terrell. This should be a close game but I give the edge to Mill Creek.
#3 Carrolton vs #6 Walton: The Trojans (12-0) are unbeaten and still somehow underrated. They only have two wins this season that were decided by less than 10 points. They beat Marietta in the second round, 47 – 14.
Walton quarterback Jeremy Hecklinski and running back Makari Bodiford played key roles in the upset of Buford. Neither team has a senior ranked as a top 100 recruit in the state but they have talent. I’m picking the Raiders to win since they were able to beat the top ranked team.
#8 Milton vs #10 Grayson: The Eagles (9-3) beat Norcross 30 – 23 to advance to the quarterfinals. Senior safety Bryce Thornton is a three-star recruit and he’s committed to Florida. They have another three-star safety, Robert Billings and he’s committed to Clemson. The strength of the defense is the secondary.
The Rams (10-2) beat Camden County 28 – 10 in the second round. The best player on the team is four-star safety and LSU commit Michael Daugherty. At linebacker they have Tennessee commit Jalen Smith.
I think this will be a very good defensive game and the offenses will have to protect the football. I think Grayson will win.