Lowndes at Valdosta
The Winnersville Classic is this Friday night in Bazemore-Hyder Stadium fittingly with a lot on the line. A crowd of about 12,000 will be in attendance to watch the battle of Region 1-AAAAA powers. Lowndes has won the past six meetings and is currently ranked No. 4 in the state. Valdosta leads the all-time series 33-15 but has won just thrice in the past 13 meetings. Last year’s 57-15 defeat got the Wildcats’ head coach at the time, Rick Tomberlin, fired. That puts just a bit of pressure on current head coach Rance Gillespie. Valdosta, ranked No. 8, will feature Score 44 members TE Jay Rome and S Malcolm Mitchell, while Lowndes will counter with another Score 44 player in RB Troy Braswell. Both teams can score, as Lowndes has averaged 38.4 points per game while Valdosta averages 38.7.
Norcross at North Gwinnett
The No. 7 Blue Devils will travel across the county to face the No. 2 Bulldogs in a crucial Region 7-AAAAA duel. Along with Peachtree Ridge and Collins Hill, these are two of the better teams in the region and, therefore, the state. Norcross leads the series 10-5, but coach Bob Sphire’s troops have won the last two and three of the past five. The Bulldogs have three impressive wins already this season against Bob Jones (AL), Crenshaw (Calif) and Collins Hill, while the Blue Devils have beaten quality foes like Dacula, Parkview and Roswell. North Gwinnett’s LB Brandon McGowan and QB/WR CJ Uzomah are members of the Score 44.
Grayson at Dacula
In one of those massive Gwinnett neighborhood rivalries, Dacula and Grayson will battle with both playoff and possible state title implications on the line. The loser of this Region 8-AAAAA battle will find itself behind the proverbial 8-ball in the region, as Brookwood, South Gwinnett and Parkview all expect to be in the playoff hunt as well. The Rams own the series 2-0, with both games taking place in the past two seasons. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 with Grayson at No. 10 and Dacula at No. 9.
Newton at Stephenson
The Rams will travel to DeKalb for a game against the ultra-talented Jaguars. No. 6 Stephenson boasts three members of the Score 44 (S Kadetrix Marcus, C Tarik Cook and CB Jared Boyd) and a number of other big-time college prospects. The Rams were ranked prior to last week’s upset loss to East Coweta. Stephenson leads the series 6-0, but it took overtime to win last year’s battle.
McEachern at Hillgrove
A West Cobb battle will take place Friday night at Cobb Energy Hillgrove Stadium with major implications in Region 4-AAAAA. The Hawks are 1-1 in the region while the Indians are 1-0. Hillgrove’s lone loss was to South Cobb, a team that McEachern beat handily last week. Hillgrove, founded in 2005, drew the majority of their students from what was formerly the McEachern district. The two schools have never met on the playing field. No. 4 McEachern is led by Score 44 TE Rory Anderson, while Hillgrove has LB Jabari Hunt-Days.
Mt. Zion (Jonesboro) at Lovejoy
Neither squad is ranked, but both are undefeated overall and the winner will have the inside track to the Region 4-AAAA title. The Bulldogs own the all-time series 11-7 over the Wildcats and have won the past four and five of six.
Charlton Co. at Wilcox Co.
The Patriots are led on offense by QB Nick Marshall, one of the top senior recruits in the state and a Georgia commitment. Wilcox Co. has not lost at home in five seasons, racking up 25 straight wins. The Indians, however, are ranked No. 1 in Class A while the Pats are No. 5. The two Region 2-A programs have not met since 1997, a 43-6 Charlton Co. victory.
Tucker at Mays
Class AAAA No. 3 Tucker will face a potentially tough game at undefeated Mays. The Tigers feature three Score 44 members in LB James Vaughters, DB Chris Sanders and LB Justin Garrett. Tucker, who has already defeated region powers SW DeKalb and Marist and will essentially clinch the region title with a win.
Northside (WR) at Lee County
The No. 1 team in Class AAAA will travel to Leesburg for a Region 1-AAA clash with the undefeated Trojans. The game will feature an intriguing matchup between prolific Lee Co. QB Justin Walker and a stubborn Eagles defense that has allowed just two passing TDs all year.