Warner Robins with Championship trophy

The Warner Robins football team accepts the GHSA AAAAA State Football Championship trophy at Center Parc Stadium on December 30, 2020.

The GHSA football playoffs get underway this weekend and GPB Sports' Jon Nelson and Hannah Goodin called upon a group of experts from around the state to give you a preview of the key matchups, teams to look out for, and the players to watch in this playoff edition of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. 

They are joined by ESPN Coastal's Christian Goeckel, Rex and Jack at WRBL in Columbus, Paige Dauer at Albany's WALB, WMAZ in Macon's Marvin James, and GPB's own Football Fridays in Georgia and Recruiting 2021 host Matt Stewart. 



Jon Nelson: Welcome to another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast here at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Thanks for accessing us however you are doing so, large device or small GPB, gpb.org, the GPB Sports App available on iOS and Android. Your favorite podcatcher if you're just listening to the audio version, Jon here, Hannah there, and basically, it's time for the playoff.

Hannah Goodin: We're matching today too. 

Jon Nelson: That is true. 

Hannah Goodin: For the playoffs. 

Jon Nelson: Yeah. All of the blue that's here, it's almost, like you know, if this was like green screens and stuff, we'd just be blending in, but all you would see is like the head with the headphones and everything, 

Hannah Goodin: Or like the blue man group today?

Jon Nelson: Except that if we did the thing with the drums and you're smashing the paint up in the air, the folks here King James would not be a fan of that. He would not enjoy all of the paint. 

Hannah Goodin: Not on the cameras. 

Jon Nelson: The Outlaw Jesse, and Jake the Snake, And king James would not be happy with all the paint going into all the electronic equipment that we have here. 

Hannah Goodin: I think it's hilarious for matching its playoff season. Yeah. There's nothing better. 

Hannah Goodin: It's like get in here and let's talk about the 256. Let's get this moving. 

Jon Nelson: And it's going to be a fun one. We're going to do this particular format for a couple of these here for the playoffs where we're bringing in some of the Football Fridays In Georgia all-stars. This one's going to be fun. Yes, it is. 

Hannah Goodin: We have 5, 6, 7 guests on today. Rapid fire. We are going to talk about who's in and who's out. Underdogs upsets matchups are most looking forward to, top players, dark horses. I mean, I've got a list of questions here. And what we decided to do was instead of us picking our top games from the last week of the regular season, we decided to have our friends from all over the state, decide for us and talk about basically what's happening, where they are north, east, west, south central, recap last week and talk about what's to come with playoff season and I'm excited. I'm really excited to talk to you. 

Jon Nelson: Here is the list of folks that is going to be a part of rapid fire. The notion is to have five good minutes with each and every single one of these individuals, Todd Holcomb, of the Georgia High School Football daily, Christian Goeckel from ESPN Coastal, Rex and Jack from WRBL TV down in Columbus from the Prep Zone. They're really good guys. And I would recommend watching all of their highlights as they pop up on Friday nights from the western frontier, Paige Dauer. You are bringing in your girl from the bullpen, from WALB down in Albany, Marvin James from WMAZ in Macon and Matt Stewart, the voice of Football Fridays in Georgia. So this one's going to be one where we are flying to get all the answers from all these folks. 

Hannah Goodin: Yep. Well, Todd Holcomb will be our first guest, but before we get to him, while we wait for him to call in, I thought we'd recap our Football Friday in Georgia game of the week. I was not a part of the show.

Jon Nelson: You were in New Orleans or driving to New Orleans, right?

Hannah Goodin: I was in New Orleans, came back feeling worse than I left, but we're here. 

Jon Nelson: Allergies are lovely. Aren't they. 

Hannah Goodin: We're here. We made it in today. 

Jon Nelson: Dominant performance by Buford 35-0 at the half. They won 42-7 over Dacula for one of the 15 region championships that were going to be decided last Friday and Saturday. And it was just one of those games where you sit there and if you haven't had a chance to see Buford, you got to see how dominant they can be across the board. When you have two dozen student athletes who were being looked at for heading to the next level, very, very soon. Dominant effort from head coach Appling and everybody did their Buford. So Buford had the win and we had the post-game show after that we talked to a lot of coaches around the state. And it was fun to catch up with them as well, but dominant effort from Buford to win the region title. 

Hannah Goodin: Yeah. Senior quarterback Ashton Daniels. He had touchdowns passing, rushing, receiving, and threw for 117 yards. How did I miss that one? That's awesome. 

Jon Nelson: See? This is what happens when you, yeah, well, and it was interesting where they literally pulled that trick out or it ends up being an end-around and a halfback pass and it ends up the, the touchdown pass to Ashton Daniels. And you're seeing right now, Ashton Daniels and Matt has compared him to Tom Brady, just Mr. Cool out there. And we've seen him ever since he's been a freshman at Buford. So, right now Buford put the marker down in 6A and it's going to be really interesting as we fill out our brackets in the, in the quadrant, in the low right, if I'm not mistaken. 

Hannah Goodin: We can do that right now. Brackets are out GPB.org/sports, go check out all of the brackets. I've got it up right now. Buford is obviously the one seed they will play Kell four seed in the bottom right. That'll be Friday 

Jon Nelson:  Right now. And also if I'm not mistaken in the quarterfinals, if chock works its way through Lee County and Buford in the quarter finals in low right as you're following it through. 

Hannah Goodin: Yes, yes, yes. 

Jon Nelson: So you could have some very, very interesting quarterfinal matchups, but let's get into round one first and foremost, before we go any further, we don't want to talk about the finals yet. We're not there yet. 

Hannah Goodin: We're not there yet, Jon. It's just the first week you get too excited, calm down!

Jon Nelson: There is no such thing as being too excited for the playoffs in the field of 256 spots that were set aside, there were a couple of byes from teams that were not going to be in the post season or regions that weren't as big as four teams that had teams qualify. So 256 spots available and Trinity Christian, by the way, it's going to get a bye Alcove is getting a bye as well. So I think Trinity, Christian and Alcove they're going to win the bi week 

Hannah Goodin: Trying to see if Lassiter made the playoffs. I don't think so. 

Jon Nelson: Let's see. So you region would be in? 

Hannah Goodin: Seven. It's the same bracket I'm in right now? No. 

Jon Nelson: Okay. Yeah, Pope's in, they were the 3 seed out of region 6. So let's see what else.  Allatoona was the 2, Kennesaw Mountain was the 1. 4 is Kell. So no, you did not make the post. 

Hannah Goodin: Nope. Another season bites the dust for the Trojans. 

Jon Nelson: Yes. You want to talk to Todd now? 

Hannah Goodin: Yes, let's talk to Todd. GHSF daily editor and founder, Todd Holcomb, our friend who covers the entire state. We will not pin him to a certain part of the state for this one. No, but here he is. 

Jon Nelson: So Todd, I guess my first question, as we start five minutes’ worth of rapid fire for you, is there one big surprise that just leaps out at you? Or was this pretty much how you had expected the post-season to go? 

Todd Holcomb: I think it was fairly easy to forecast unless you're talking about from preseason or something like that. We could see a lot of these really remarkable, you know, draws that you have is, it seems like more, more than usual. You've got situations where you've got two really good teams and the number one number, two team in the, you know, the quarterfinals or really good teams in the second round. But we would kind of see that coming if you were paying attention. So nothing, nothing too surprising though. Otherwise about the draws.

Hannah Goodin: On the other side of that, is there an underdog that squeaked through that you, that you see that could make a run for the championship? 

Todd Holcomb: Yeah. As far as you know. Yeah. I was thinking about that question. It's always a good one. When the tournament is about to start, I would say the one thing I really liked that I think is good is Perry in 4A, that nobody really talks about. They're kind of in the top 10, but nobody thinks of them as a title contender. I could see them getting to the final and making a really good run. Other teams that I really like Marietta, Brookwood. I think both of them are underrated. Not saying they can win it, but I think they can beat anybody on a good day. I also like Carver of Atlanta, I think they have a chance to make the semifinals or better. 

Jon Nelson: When you look at Perry. I mean, it was a team that played one of the weirdest scoring games that we saw last season when they were playing Marist deep in the playoffs. You know, with Brookwood, I think that the Brookwood bracket low left in 7A as we're looking at that, you could end up with if chalk follows through, you could end up with something in that low left bracket where Colquitt County ends up coming to Brookwood community to play Brookwood there. So Brookwood has a good shot at being a semi-finalist with all these home games. 

Todd Holcomb: Yeah. They've got a good draw. I mean, I think they can beat anybody in that quarter. They can make the finals Colquitt County and Walton obviously did in that quarter, but they had to play each other the first round. And then really, I think they can, I mean, I think Brookwood could beat anybody over there. That's the thing about class 7A, historically are the highest class. So you know, it always, you always have two or three teams that you think are the favorites, but it's not uncommon at all to see a team outside of that to make a run, make people forget that Collins Hill, they were not supposed to make the final last year. You know, they were not ranked most of the year and they made a run.  I mean, teams like Milton, North Gwinnett, who won it when people thought other teams were heavily favored. So that's always a fun one to watch right now. It seems like, well, it's gotta be Collins Hill or North Cobb, you know, maybe Milton, but you know, it could be lots of teams. You never know in that class 

Hannah Goodin: Without jumping ahead. Let's talk about this week round one of the playoffs, what matchup or match ups are you most looking forward to? 

Todd Holcomb: Well, the two best games by far are Walton and Colquitt County. They're both been in the top 10 all year. Both of them have been ranked third or fourth as high as that. So they really get the other one is Coffee at Creekside. They're both in the top 10 all year. All four of those teams are teams that could have made the semifinals and nobody would have been shocked. So, those two stand out. Then other ones, you know, in class 6A you've got two. I can't think of the names of the regions, but it's the region with Rome and Carrollton and those guys along with the ones with Johns Creek and Cambridge, with those two regions match up you’ve got..

Jon Nelson: Region five and region seven. 

Todd Holcomb: Yeah. Yeah. There you go. South Paulding at Cambridge. Johns Creek is playing at Carrollton and John's Creek at Rome, South Paulding at Cambridge, Johns Creek at Carrolton. Did I get that right? No, I think I've got that wrong. Anyway. It's those teams matching up the, I think it's John's Creek 

Jon Nelson: Johns Creek and Rome, right. That's the 1 and 4.

Todd Holcomb: Yes. And South Paulding at Cambridge. Yeah, and Riverwood was the other good team in that region. 

Jon Nelson: Yep. The Riverwood is going to be hosting Douglas County, a very stout defensive team, which one of the classes do you think will be the hardest to navigate where the most folks will have the chance to win a championship? 

Todd Holcomb:
I'd say class 5A would be the first one. I think of you got kind of three power centers in the state in 5A, you know, you've got the Warner Robins, Ware County grouping and you've got Woodward Academy and Creekside. They were in the same region. And then you got also Blessed Trinity was in the region with Cartersville and Calhoun. So you got those three centers and I have no idea which of those are the best. It'll probably, yeah, at the end of it, you'll probably think, oh, well that makes sense. That region was a lot stronger than we thought. And they clearly want it. But as of right now, I have no idea who's going to win 5A. That should be a lot of fun. 

Hannah Goodin: Hey, we've got a Cinderella story this year we do in Georgia Military. They won their first region titles since 1960. I'm so excited for them. Todd, what, what have they been able to do this season? 

Todd Holcomb: Well, they're undefeated. They're 10-0 and like you said, first region title since 1960. Also the first time they've been 10-0 and won 10 games since 1934. 

Hannah Goodin: Wow. 

Todd Holcomb: And their coach then was Wally Butts. 

Jon Nelson: I've heard of him. 

Todd Holcomb: Yeah. Some people probably still have. I mean, you know, they've been playing football there for over a hundred years. And so it's really a cool story. I'd like to see them do well, but they, you know, the draw didn't do them any favors. You're gonna have to play Manchester. Good, probably the best number four seed in class A public in the first round. So that'll be a tough out. 

Jon Nelson: Todd, thanks as always for your time and my friend, we will do this again as we get closer to the championships and after the championships as well. Thanks for your input. And thanks for being a part of rapid fire, as we are heading into the playoffs. 

Todd Holcomb: Sure. Thanks for having me. Take care. 

Jon Nelson: Next up is Christian Goeckel from our friends at ESPN Coastal. It is Christian. It is Jon and it is Hannah. So let's start with this one, Christian and five good minutes of rapid fire. Any surprises heading into the season from the coast or was it pretty much what you expected? 

Christian Goeckel: I think it was pretty chalk the whole way through. I want to get Tony Welch of Jenkins  credit and the fact that they were able to beat New Hampstead the final week of their regular season or in that two seed and a home playoff game after the disaster was the 2020 season. I want to give Jenkins a lot of credit 

Hannah Goodin: For those that don't keep up with coast football. Like we all do. How would you sum up the football season there? 

Christian Goeckel: It's been really explosive offenses. I would say. You obviously start with Benedictine and Holden Geriner Auburn commit quarterback. It may be one of the best seasons we've seen, out of a BC player and Justin Thomas has got 27 total touchdowns on the year, with over 800 total yards. He's a baseball commit to Georgia. So explosive offenses. I know Jake Merklinger over at Calvary day. They just wrapped up a 10-win undefeated season. He just visited Notre Dame. So just skilled talent everywhere. And we've seen it defensively a lot in this area, but right now offensive. 

Jon Nelson: Gimme an underdog coming out of the coastal region that folks, you know, if they haven't been keeping an eye on things, as well as you guys have down there, give me an underdog that folks can, can gravitate toward here in round one?

Christian Goeckel: I think there's a couple, I would say the first one to me is McIntosh and those guys battled in single A public. Nobody really pays a whole lot of attention to them, but they tied Glynn Academy who is a 6A playoff team and had won multiple region championships in a row. They tied them to start the year and played pretty tough game with undefeated 6A Brunswick as well. So, I would watch out for McIntosh. They've done a really good job over there. And I don't know Jon, if I would call these guys and underdog, I just don't know if enough people statewide are talking about them. Ware county is about to go on a run. Obviously, everyone looks at Thomas Castellanos, as they should. I think he might be top five high school quarterback. I mean, you probably argue about different prospects. But high school quarterbacks, Thomas Castellanos is certainly one of the top five in the state of Georgia, but also Cartevious Norton who is a big running back. Ware County is going to make a lot of noise.

Hannah Goodin: Which match up? Are you most looking forward to in round one of the playoffs? 

Christian Goeckel: Oh, that's tough. There's a lot of good ones. I think Coffee at Creekside is going to be a fun one that we're watching out for. And then I know Camden, correct me if I'm wrong. I think they were four seed last year and went up to Walton and gave them everything they wanted to. They are a 4 seed again at North Cobb.  I think Camden with Jamie Felix playing running back, that's going to be a really fun game there. And then, I think Effingham County they are really a surprising team as well, out of 6A. They are up at Westlake. And if you don't know about the rebels, you should. Okay. 

Jon Nelson: When you look at Sean Pender and what has gone on at Brunswick this year, running the table, the way that they have having to go to Effingham to get a region title, what's it been like to, to keep an eye on the pirates this year? 

Christian Goeckel: It's really cool to see this team finally play up to what a lot of us have expected out of them. I know Sean Pender is one of the best coaches in the state, in my opinion. I mean just one of those whiteboard guys where he can make you feel really small really quick. When he starts talking football on a whiteboard, it's just a way that they've gone about it. He's running the football. They have three running backs that are all really good. The addition of Jayden Drayton this year and they just looked and they were like, listen, it's, its simple football, right? We have big guys up front and we have really good offense alignment. Let's just run the football and then go play action off of that. Then on the flip side, Thomas Tedder, the defensive coordinator has done an unbelievable job. I mean, their defense is a big reason why they are 10-0.

Hannah Goodin: Which teams do you still see competing in the second weekend in December? 

Christian Goeckel: That's a lot, there's a lot of teams from our area that I think are gonna make some noise. If I had to give you my guarantees, I think Ware County is absolutely going to be there. And Benedictine, I think is going to be there. I can't wait to see what it's going to go down and will tell you what I predict is going to be a Marist and Benedictine game coming up in the third round. I just hope we get the coin flip. So we get to, we don't have to drive too far to cover that one, but I think you're going to see a lot. I think Calvary Day, they are a little light on defense and running the football to start the season. And then Jake Merklinger as a quarterback really stepped up as a lead. So, I think you're going to see a lot of teams from South Georgia advance pretty deep into these playoffs.

Jon Nelson:  Christian, as always my friend. Thanks for hanging out with us here on the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. Thanks for breaking down things on the coast. We'll be keeping an eye on catching up soon. 

Christian Goeckel: Yeah, you guys keep that cold weather up there. 

Hannah Goodin: Good stuff. Thank you. I was going to say, I don't know if I'm going to make it to the second weekend in December, but we will see. 

Jon Nelson: Next up it's a battle for the tag team championships here. When it comes to high school football in the state of Georgia. Coming up, it is the guys from the Prep Zone, WRBL TV in Columbus. Rex Castilloand his undefeated, Texas San Antonio road runners. I know there's going to be a drop in there somewhere and a hometown product, Jack Patterson. Rex and Jack hanging out with Hannah and Jon guys. Thanks for hanging out with us. All right. So I have a number between one and 10 and whoever is closest. We're going to play prices, right? Rules, whoever guesses closest gets to answer first, this way we have order this way we have ordered Rex. Give me a number 1.1, Jack. I always go with number seven. 

Jon Nelson: Right on. So Jack wins the showcase showdown. Jack go first. So Jack as the local guy, let me ask you this. How many surprises have come out of the Western frontier this year or has it pretty much been chalk? 

Jack Patterson: Uh, there's been a couple of teams who have kind of snuck up on us and they have kind of been ahead of schedule. One team that comes off the top of the mind is Schley County. That's a very young team and they have impressed. They gave Macon County all they wanted in their matchup earlier this year. They beat Chattahoochee County, another great quality team we have gotten in1A public, but Schley County seems like a team that could make some noise this year and down the line as well. 

Jon Nelson: All right. So now Hannah gets to ask Rex the question. 

Hannah Goodin: Does Rex not get to answer the same question?

Jon Nelson: He can if he wants, unless you have a follow up. Okay. So Rex, go ahead. 

Rex Castillo: Well, Hannah, thank you for standing up for me. I really appreciate that. 

Hannah Goodin: You’re welcome. 

Rex Castillo: One of the teams I would have down in class 1A day is again, while Schley County has been great Chattahoochee County also gave Macon County everything they wanted. It was a heavyweight fight down there because see it, but then going up to class 4A, we have to just give a lot of props to what Matt Napier is doing up in LaGrange. That was a program that has been kind of meddling, floundering a little bit last year. Last year he took it over to this year. They're making even more noise. So I think the Grangers have a real good shot at a pretty good playoff run this season. 

Hannah Goodin: How would you guys sum up West Georgia for those who don't keep up with West Georgia football, what was this season like? What are your expectations heading into playoff? 

Jon Nelson: And we'll go snake draft rules. And so, Rexel answer first. 

Hannah Goodin: Oh, now we're just getting so tricky. All right, Rex, you first.

Rex Castillo: So to go with West Georgia football has ever since I've been here has been incredibly competitive. Get ready for, to get, you know, to start out in shorts and t-shirts when you're covering these teams and getting ready to layer it up In November and December. These teams have been just raising the bar every single year. It's been incredible to see from the 1A all the way up to 5A that these guys, you know, it's pretty much a gauntlet every single week for a lot of these teams that they want to get better. They want to get ready to make runs at Atlanta. I've been so impressed with how some coaches like a Corey Joyner at Carver have completely taken the tradition of winning back to campus. But then you have guys like Matt Napier who helped revitalize programs. And then guys who move around to Chattahoochee County with Pierre Coffey. And then you have teams like Schley County that have a Renaissance season after being down as well. So it's a really busy, a lot of fun. And a lot of these fans are used for a really long season.

Jon Nelson: Jack, what comes to mind? 

Jack Patterson: I kind of go along the same lines as Rex. You have so much talent that calls the Chattahoochee valley home in west Georgia. You know, and so much, you know, you, obviously we have the defending 2A state champion, Callaway Cavaliers. You know, you have teams like Carver who, you know, like Rick said, Corey Joyner has revitalized that program since he's been there. And then you have teams, you know, like a Schley County under, Darren Alford for who's been, you know, who's coming back to power after being down for a little bit, Pierre Coffey in his second year at Chattahoochee County bringing that program back to power, you know, the talent is there. And then, you know what Dwight Jones ​has done at Pacelli, Harrison back at Brookstone, you know, the state of west Georgia football right now is pretty doggone good. 

Jon Nelson: All right. So Jax, let me ask you this, and then Rex can follow up. Give me some of the athletes that we should be focusing on here in the playoffs, at least in round one, Jack, who are some of the guys that have been there in west Georgia, that folks need to be paying attention to come the playoffs? 

Jack Patterson: I'll start with Carver and they're dynamic duo in the back field of DJ Riles and Jaiden Credle. DJ has been fantastic. I honestly think he's one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the state of Georgia. He is taking his team to new levels ever since he took over the starting role. And then when you have a running back like, Jaiden Credle, we call him blip down here, you know he's been one of the leading rushers in the state of Georgia. So he's been fantastic for that program. I think this is one of the Carver's best teams since the Dell McGee era. So I think that this Carver team can go far and they got a tough draw with Jefferson, particularly in the second round. But I think if they get past Jefferson, they can make a run to Atlanta. 

Jon Nelson: Rex, what do you think?

Rex Castillo: To say along the same lines with the Carver Tigers, if you like offensive linemen and Elijah Pritchett is protecting DJ Riles. Elijah Pritchett is taking his talents to Tuscaloosa. So a 5-star guy, who's an outstanding guard for him. And it also helps when you have somebody who's going to play in Nick Saban's program protecting you. So that's always really nice. To go down to the class 1A ranks. We'll go, back to Schley County. Jay Kanazawa was a young quarterback that whole entire Schley County team has maybe four or five seniors on it. So, Darren Alford, has a lot of talent. You're going to hear a lot from the Wildcats in the next couple of years. Jay Kanazawa is a guy, they brought in a brand-new offensive coordinator this year. And to see what this team has done, putting 40 points is very, very common for them, but I don't think they'll do that in a lot of what's going to happen in 1A public, but the fact that they had that kind of firepower, they have Zayden Walker little brother is over at Auburn right now. And I believe that some power five guys are looking at him. This is a team that's a lot of fun, highlights are not hard to come by when you go over at Schley County. So it's really, it's really fun to cover them. And to just go back to the talent thing really quick, there was a game Auburn versus Georgia state. Usually homecoming has nothing to do with it. There were 20 plus kids from the Chattahoochee valley area on that field at one time on the rosters, we sent Jack to cover that game. So there were like 23 people from the Chattahoochee valley at that game. So just talking about the talent in that area, but as the playoffs come along. Schley County could be a team where I think if things fall, they're away and they play, they play up to their potential. You could see them in the second, third round easily. 

Hannah Goodin: Yeah, for sure. I like Schley County too. Okay. Those are players to watch teams to watch obviously Schley County on the board. What are y'all's biggest matchups most watched matchups for this first round of the playoffs? 

Rex Castillo: Ooh, that's a tough one. I think whoever Troup County draws as well. I gosh, that that name is who their match up is, is really escaping. 

Jack Patterson: Troup County has Spalding in the first round. 

Rex Castillo: Thank you, Jack. He has the bracket in front of him. Another sophomore kid, Taeo Todd, who, for some reason, it just racks up 

Hannah Goodin: Taeo Todd. He was on the Countdown to Kickoff show last week. 

Rex Castillo: What a great kid to a sophomore, for some reason. So Jack and I look at everyone else was like, all right, y'all have fun with two more years of this. Cause this is just ridiculous. The kids throws the 50-yard bomb. And like, all right, now I'm going to go run for 60 yards. God bless every defensive coordinator in Troup County. I think whatever they can do, I want to see if Taeo can take this team to the next level. Yes, he's in 4A. Yes. Troup County has always had this potential. He had to step in the shoes of a Kobe Hudson at quarterback and he's done phenomenal. I think he's ready to drive his own legacy. 

Jon Nelson: Jack what do you think?

Jack Patterson: I'm going to step away. I'm going to go down to 1A private Brookstone. They are the 3 seed out of that region. They're taking on a Whitefield Academy on the road. But the thing is what's on Brookstone has already defeated Whitefield Academy on the road this season. They had a great comeback victory over them earlier in the year. And this Brookstone team has gotten nothing but better ever since the beginning of the season. You know, they did have a tough letting in the bow for the brucella jumping against the Pacelli, but this Brookstone team is good. And I think they can surprise few people in the playoffs as well. You know, I think they can be Whitefield Academy again. And as far as the higher-class vacations go, I'm looking at LaGrange and Baldwin. That LaGrange team is very talented. You have AJ Tucker, a fantastic running back for now, Malachi Render-Fannin as well. So I think that LaGrange team is built to go on the road and knock off a team like Baldwin. 

Jon Nelson: Well guys, thanks for all the work that you do. Every single Football Friday, whether it's on this side of the border in this time zone or in the central time zone, you guys do tremendous work there at WRBL TV and the prep zone. Thanks for hanging out with us for us determining the tag team chance, we will call it a time limit draw. 

Rex Castillo: Come on. 

Jon Nelson: See, this is what happens when you get to cut the promo and you're in charge of the clock guys. Thanks a lot. We'll catch up with you down closer to the championships. 

Hannah Goodin: Our next GPB sports all-star, is my girl Paige Dauer. The Sports director at WALB covering all the top games from central Georgia to Southwest Georgia. Paige, just sum up what you have seen this season, as we head into the playoffs. 

Paige Dauer: This year has probably been one of the more exciting years I've covered in my few years here in Southwest Georgia, we've got a lot of surprise teams and a lot of teams really rising to the top. I'd say, you know, Lee County and Dougherty are kind of my favorite going the post season.

Jon Nelson: So Paige, when it comes to those surprises, you mentioned Lee County. And I know a lot of folks were looking at Lee to be at the top of the polls in 6A. Dougherty, they go from a team that was on the cover of sports illustrated last season to having a great run this year. Who are some of those teams that have flown below the radar for you that are surprises heading into game 11? 

Paige Dauer: Well, I mean, I would still say Dougherty is kind of a team that's been under the radar. I think in the beginning they were feeding up on some bad teams, I guess you could say. And you know, and this region matchup, you know, region part of the year, they've really proven themselves to be a true continued contender and to not underestimate them. One team though, that might, it's a big question mark for me though, is Pelham. They started out strong, but now they've been in close games that they shouldn't have been in. I think they lost the teams that they shouldn't have lost to. So they're my biggest question, mark, going into the post-season as far as what to expect from them.

Hannah Goodin: What is your top matchup from your region that you cover, that you were watching there, that you have your eye on this Friday? I know Lee County; it looks like they play. 

Jon Nelson: Yeah. Lee County has got Grovetown there in Leesburg is a 1-4, but what's your marquee matchup? That's in the spot shadow for page this week?

Paige Dauer: Our marquee matchup this week, well we have just a few teams on, we've got single A playing you know, on Saturday and stuff too. So you always want to look out for, you know, those Irwin and Brooks County teams. But you know, Seminole County, they've made it to the playoffs for the first time in a long time. But you know, you always want to look out for, or Irwin and Dougherty, but I'm excited for Lee County. They've been off a week, obviously some of the, for them to get back in there and kind of blow some teams out of the water again.

Jon Nelson: Who are some of the standout athletes that for folks who haven't seen the locker room and haven't been tracking highlights all season long, who are some of the standouts for you that you're going to be keeping an eye on here coming out of Southwest Georgia for the playoffs?

Paige Dauer:Let's go back to Lee County. If you have not been introduced to is Ousmane Kromah. I feel bad for you. He is a guaranteed first down type of guy, he's their best running back. He really powers the offense. He is the engine of this office. On 151 touches, he has 17 touchdowns. Whenever the team is struggling on offense to get the passing game going, you just hand it to your guy. And he goes, and why not be a run happy team? I mean their linebackers and their fullback; they are phenomenal blockers. You've got Debo Roberts and Jeremiah Jenkins who really do a great job of creating those gaps for guys like Ousmane to just explode out of the trenches and you know, more times than not reach to the end zone. But people, you know, Chase Belcher and Jacurri Brown out of Valdosta. So they are still very exciting players to watch. You know, you'll always have a show every time you see them. We go back to Jordan Cameron Davis, you know, he's an FSU commit and he scrambled just like Patrick Mahomes. I mean, he is a great all-around athlete. I think those are some guys that everyone's going to want to keep an eye on through post-season. 

Hannah Goodin: Paige you are in the field, you're in the studio. You do it all. Is there a specific storyline that you're following this week heading into the playoffs, maybe something that nobody knows about. Is there like a cool story that you can share that you've got your eye on? 

Jon Nelson: Is there a Paige Dauer feature that you kind of have up your sleeve about the post-season or any of these teams? 

Paige Dauer: You know, not quite yet. And that's probably something I'll look to.

Hannah Goodin: It is only Monday. 

Paige Dauer: Yes. Right. But no, it's a great question. And you always want to keep your eye out for those and you know, you all mentioned Dougherty last year being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, being that 0-5 team. No one believing in them, you know, this is coach Johnny Gilbert's third season. This is the best season they've had since 2005 when they did make it to the finals. I believe that year. They're a team that is a great story and they've been so much fun to cover. And, you know, I think if they can really maybe start stronger in the first half of these games, they have a real potential to make it pretty far on these playoffs. So I just think as a whole and the character of that team, they're their team that you just want to root for. You want them to be successful. So, you know, coming into that first round was definitely one. We want to keep an eye on and it's that feel good story you want from every region, right? So it definitely was, but Bainbridge, I think there are a great team that maybe has been flying under the radar a little bit. You know, they've won back-to-back region titles for the first time in program history. Their last state championship was that 2018 season when they battled through everything that had to do with hurricane Michael. And a lot of the guys from that 18 team are now seniors on this team, like the Bouie brothers who did get some playing time in 2018. So there's just a lot in this week where they're just hoping to make that state championship run in the season and Atlanta. So they're definitely a storyline we are looking out at as well. They've won 10 consecutive region games. They have not lost a region game in a couple of seasons. So they're going into this first round with all the momentum. 

Hannah Goodin: Well, I think you just came up with some good stories. I'm ready to watch your reports, Paige. Hey, great job. Thank you so much for joining us on this rapid-fire version of our podcast and we can't wait to see your coverage and thank you so much for being on. 

Paige Dauer: Yeah, Hannah. Thank you all for having me on the show. It was fun. And we'll be sure to look out for you guys in Atlanta, too. 

Jon Nelson: Next up. And you know, I feel like there's only one way that you really can introduce Marvin James from WMAZ TV in Macon. 

Hannah Goodin: How is that? Here we go. Here we go. 

Marvin James: It's improved. It’s improved.

Jon Nelson: Hannah is looking at me like I've lost my mind. 

Marvin James: Cringes. She cringes every time. 

Hannah Goodin:I just can't, I can't, I just can't do it. 

Jon Nelson: And I had, and I had to back away from the microphone, so I didn't have to blow out the entire studio and everybody who is behind the glass. 

Marvin James: Yeah. And you kind of have to mess with that part. My audio crew is always getting on me about that. 

Jon Nelson: All right. So let's get the central Georgia perspective on things, Marvin. And first and foremost, as we head into the first round of the playoffs from a 30,000-foot perspective, was it pretty much what you expected when it came to teams making it into the playoffs, hoot, top seeds, region standings, all that kind of stuff. Was it chalk or were there some surprises thrown in there too? 

Marvin James: I think it was pretty much par for the course. I think the only, the biggest shock for me was coming out of a region 1 5A Warner Robins, you know, taking that second seed after a loss to Ware County on the road, which Ware County is definitely a top ranked team and you know is taking nothing from them. But I think that was kind of a surprise that Warner Robins had the edge, but I guess, because it was an away game and they had a couple of things going on that week, you know, I think they were like on fall break and then they had a bye. So two weeks of idle time with teenagers is never good. But other than that, I think everything has kind of put coming on pretty strong. GMC on prep, out of Milledgeville. They're undefeated for the first time and maybe forever. I mean, it's just been a great season for them. They've done a great, you know, had a great year and they're continuing to build on the program. So yeah, that'd probably be the two biggest surprises for me. 

Hannah Goodin: There in central Georgia. What are your biggest matchups for the first round of the playoffs that you're keeping your eye on? 

Marvin James: Well, I'm excited about you have to forgive me. I'm not all the way up on the updates of exactly who the showdowns are, so you can tell me, but Bleckley County, they're tending to who were they playing? 

Jon Nelson: Bleckley County is Early County, the number one out of region four. So Early County comes to Cochran, to take on coach Von Lassiter in the first round. 

Marvin James: Yeah, they're undefeated as well. And Von has done a great job at his program after returning to his Alma mater after coming from Houston County, during those Jake Fromm years. I'm just excited to see him back in the hunt, Jones County, back-to-back region champs. They struggled a little bit early in the beginning of the season, so it'll be exciting to see how they're going to, you know, play as well. This year is a little different, I think last year we did a little bit this as well but having those games on Saturday are just a little different than what we're used to. So I'm kind of interested to see how the Northside and Houston County will play on Saturday as opposed to on Friday or Saturday, I suppose the Friday. It's not something that happens very often and it doesn't seem like a really big thing, but you know, like I said earlier, routines are a big part of high school sports. 

Jon Nelson: You know, you mentioned what's going on there in central Georgia, for those who haven't been able to look at you and Ben and Frank and everybody on a football Friday night, who are some of the stud athletes that you've had the chance to look at this season, that folks will be getting to see for the first time, perhaps here in the first week of the playoffs? 

Marvin James: Okay. I failed to mention Perry. So, I'm going to talk about Perry and their star player. Daequan Wright, he was the big time as a wide receiver going to Virginia Tech. He has been up and down all over the field. This team has also won back-to-back region championships. The first time they want to read the championship was 60 years ago, and now they want them back-to-back in two years. And when you're talking about Warner Robins, obviously they're a team that's pretty loaded. Daveon Walker is a new Vanderbilt commit. He is playing exciting football and he's still getting offers from Marshall and a couple of other schools as well. Antwon Jackson is a quarterback who is a Liberty commit for Warner Robins. They're just loaded with a lot of talent coming back. So those three schools, right there are probably the three players, three or four players are probably the most exciting players to come out of this region, but this is when the light shines the brightest. So, you know, we may be talking about some more people next week. You know? 

Hannah Goodin: John asked you about your surprises. What about an underdog that could make a deep run in the playoffs? 

Marvin James: Under dog that can make a deep run in the playoffs? I think Northeast, I don't think they're an underdog, but they fly bellow the radar. They definitely fly below the radar. They got a chance to upset a 5A team in Jones County, which won their region. So that shows how talented they can't be. You know, coach Jeremy Wiggins has returned back to that program. About two, three years ago, he took a hiatus and took a year off and coached under coach Mike Chastain at Warner Robbins for a while. And he got a bigger glimpse of what high school football could really be and you have those guys playing in the right direction. Travion Solomon is a big-time quarterback. He was being heavily recruited to play basketball at Mercer. Also played some football as well. So, you know, they have some players and pieces and Zion Odoms that plays on that team and the big-time wide receiver. So they have some pieces as well. I think Northeast could be that spoiler. If they keep things going in the direction they're heading now. 

Jon Nelson: So are you anticipating pretty much a lot of the big names in the top seeds making their way through, at least to the quarterfinals, except for the possibility of a Warner Robbins Cartersville second round game in Cartersville, because, and that shows you what losing that region championship means is that your second-round game you're having to go. And it's a rematch of last year's championship game. 

Marvin James: Yeah. I remember a couple of weeks ago Blessed Trinity and Calhoun were playing. A lot of folks are saying, you know, nobody really wanted to win that game because they could end up playing Warner Robins in the second round. But yeah, I definitely think it's a game that you need to circle on your calendar. I think Cartersville, obviously once a little bit of redemption, anytime you lose a state championship where you score 60 points on it and you know, you're never gonna feel like you had your best day out there, but Warner Robins is still pretty hungry. You know, Marquis Westbrook is in his third year. I think he's 34-4, you know, so far right now. And is a well-oiled machine. That program is returning back to some of the prominence and that's just not a Homer talking. It's just, you know, it really is impressive to see the way that they are continuing to do things really well. So yeah, definitely. I think that Bleckley County has a chance to put some things on and I love to see them and they came up really short and it gets the Rabun County team last year with Gunner Stockton on the road. But they were road warriors last year and they were winning a whole bunch of games. So, you know, hopefully they can take another step. The next step further. 

Jon Nelson: Said as the man who wore the red R on the helmet. 

Marvin James: I did it a couple of times.

Jon Nelson: A couple of times, 

Hannah Goodin: Homer, I know, I know, I know.

Jon Nelson: No, he said. But as always, my friend, it's great to hear your perspective on what's going on down there in central Georgia. A big footprint, going on with a lot of great football teams. Thanks for hanging out with us on the all-star version of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. We'll catch up with you in a couple of weeks. 

Marvin James: Appreciate you calling Jon and Hannah, I hope you feel better.

Hannah Goodin: Thank you. I needed that. Last on our list of all stars, lucky number seven. 

Jon Nelson: Last but not least. 

Hannah Goodin: It's GPB's Matt Stewart. We're going to have him talking about the Atlanta area and Matt, I'm going to start with the most important question. What matchups are you preferring this weekend? 

Matt Stewart: Well, number one, the one that we chose.

Jon Nelson: Get the promo off the top.

Matt Stewart: Well, we picked the best game. So that's the best, that's the best game. I mean, I don't think there's any question in my mind. Coffee and Creekside is the best matchup in the first round. It's the only match up in our rankings where we have two top 10 teams going against each other in the first round. I think as a super matchup, you've got, you know, two, 8-2 teams, Creekside is, 10 points away from being undefeated on the season. We had them are opening Football Friday in Georgia, where they lost on a touchdown in the last two minutes of the game at number one and undefeated Cartersville, they lost by a field goal there. And then they lost this past Friday night by a touchdown to forthright Woodward Academy. So Creekside is a strong team that opened the year by beating 7A defending champion Grayson. The team is loaded with talent. So, I'm excited to see Creekside again and Coffee, of course been there, done that. I mean, going on the road and winning in the playoffs, that's what they do. That's kind of the definition of their football program. They've been in the quarter finals semi-finals or finals now, five straight years. And typically they go on the road and win big games in the month of November. And so they're coming north to Fairburn, just outside of Atlanta, south of Atlanta to play Creekside, expect a great ball game. That's the number one game that I'm looking forward to. And, you know, it coincides with the fact that's the game we chose, but it's kind of six, one way, half dozen, the other, we chose that game cause it's the best. That is the best one. And that's, and that's why it's the one I'm looking forward to the most, I think involving an Atlanta school and going south, the Walton at Colquitt County game is very intriguing Walton, you know, stubbed their toe, the final week of the regular season, losing to Marietta. And that's another team. I think we; you know, we want to have on our radar going forward and Marietta has been so up and down all season long. Are they up going into the playoffs if they are a very dangerous team, a team to keep an eye on as they move throughout, past the first round and into the second round. But back to Walton. Don't know what happened to Walton in that regular season finale when they got smoked by, you know, Marietta, but here's a Walton team that opened the season by beating Lowndes in overtime at Mercedes-Benz stadium, in the Corky Kell Classic. That's the Lowndes team that beat Colquitt County for the region one championship. So now Walton going to Colquitt County to take on the Packers. We know how good they are. The question is, how good is Walton? Are we going to have an upset? Possibility in the first round with a three seed going down to play the two seed down in Moultrie or was the loss for Walton in the final game of the regular season against Marietta, more of a warning sign that, you know, Walton maybe has played their best for the season, but I think that's a great matchup to the Walton at Colquitt County matchup certainly is a great match up and another match up in the Atlanta area that I'd keep an eye on. It's another game that we televised the second game of the season. It's a rematch of that West Forsyth Mill Creek game. That was a 38-10 final sounds like a blowout and things got away from West Forsyth in the second half, but you'll remember, you know, West Forsyth was right there with them. It's going to be a game going into halftime until Millcreek got a blocked field goal, attempt, scoop, and score, and totally changed the entire complexion of that ball game in the second half of that late score in the final minute of the first half. And we all know how difficult it is to beat a team twice in one season. I'm not going out on the limb and saying that West Forsyth is gonna win at Millcreek and pull off the upset, but I'm definitely spot circling that one in saying, hey, keep an eye on that one, because all of those factors, I just mentioned, the 38-10 score in the regular season was not indicative of how close that game was from a talent standpoint. And number two, it's tough to beat a team twice in one season. So I think, just those three right there off the top of my head here in the Atlanta area are games that I would be looking at closely on Friday night. 

Jon Nelson: Ok, rapid fire for the remainder of the segment. And thanks for hanging out with us here on the podcast for your semi season visits that we always do. Is there a dark horse out there that is really spot shadowed for you as we head into the postseason? Are there any real dark horses? Is there someone flying below the radar that folks aren't paying attention to? 

Matt Stewart: Like I said, I think Marietta is interesting because they've been up and down all season long. From week to week, you can't predict what Marietta team you're going to get. They'll have a big win followed by a big loss. They've finished the season with a big win at Walton. I think the Marietta team certainly has talent. And, you know, it's been a couple of years since they dominated 7A and won the 2019 state championship last year was rebuilding. This year's kind of been a little bit of rebuilding reloading and do they put it together? Are they putting it together now at the right time? I think the Marietta team is certainly one, you know, to keep an eye on. If you're looking for a team that may be is a dark horse, if you want to call it, if, you know, if you want to go as far as to call it, to seeded dark horse, right. I think so in 7A because it is powerful at the top. So if Marietta wins in that first round against Tift County, they go to Milton. So I think that's a team in my mind that's a little bit of a dark horse, even though, you know, I think we're, I know I had them back in the top 10 in my 7A allot this week. 

Hannah Goodin: Can't have you on the podcast without talking about recruiting? I think Georgia is stealing players from all over the country. Are there any big surprises when it comes to recruiting that you've seen? 

Matt Stewart: No, I, well, yeah. I don't know if I call them surprises just how much Georgia is dominating the landscape right now. I mean, they are, I mean, you know, this is the second year we've done the Recruiting 2021 show. And this year, just so much of our content is Georgia related. That's not because we're leaning towards Georgia. That's not because we're looking to just have a bunch of Georgia content it's because the content is all Georgia. We're just following the content. We're following the stories. And Georgia just continues to clean up. They're getting flips across the Southeast, not just players, but also flips around the Southeast Florida Gator, you know, flips and maybe an LSU flip and that remains to be seen. But yeah, just how powerfully Georgia is dominating. The recruiting landscape is the big surprise to me. I mean, they're just getting everybody, I mean, as much as you can get everybody, they're getting everybody, you can't get everybody because you got scholarship limits. But I mean basically what I'm saying, whoever they want, they're getting them. 

Hannah Goodin: So who are some of these top recruits, top commits that we'll see playing in the second weekend in December? 

Matt Stewart: Oh, well, you know, hopefully we're going to see, hopefully we're going to see Travis Hunter play now and I throw him out there because he's still committed to Florida state and maintained that is his dream school and he's not going to flip, you know, and every article that you read, you know, when they write articles about the 10 most likely prospects to flip, his names at the top of it, cause he's the number one prospect in the country. I don't know. I tend to take him at his word. I've seen interviews with Travis about this. And he seems convincing to me, but everybody keeps pushing this narrative that he will flip. He has been to Georgia a lot, even though he's committed to Florida state, he's taken a number of game day visits to Georgia. I'm no recruiting expert. I've been around a lot of recruiting experts. So I think I've gleaned a lot of knowledge and absorbed a lot of knowledge from hanging out with those guys. And, you know, kind of my mentor in the recruiting business is Barton Simmons, who was with 24/7 sports. He's now the general manager of the football program for the Vanderbilt Commodores. Yeah. And he said that, I mean, look, if you want to look at one thing, just look at visits, where's the kid keep going, you know, and you know, what, where did he take his final visit? That's not a surefire thing. It's not a 100% thing, but if you just follow the, where they keep going, where do they keep going to on Saturdays? Where do they keep going to during the college football weekend? More often than not, that's going to be a great tool for you to make a predictor on where that kid's going to end up. 

Jon Nelson: So then last question for you and thanks for hanging out when it comes to each of these eight championships, as we head toward Georgia state, which championship, which classification do you think will be the most competitive, where we could have the most, or the largest number of folks, who could be a champ by the end of the playoffs? 

Matt Stewart: Hmm. Okay. Let me think through that real quick. You know, right now, just based on our last, I think 3A, I don't know what's going to happen in 3A. You know, we've had a lot of movement there. We had Cedar Grove lose the final week of the regular season to Sandy Creek didn't hurt them any, they, they're still a number one seed coming out of their region. So they didn't lose any playoff positioning by losing that game. But, you know, it does, you know, it just causes me to pause a little bit. And so who is the best team in 3A and Pierce County had a huge, the defending champions, you know, with replacing a ton of players this year, they had a huge win the last week of the season beating Appling County. So I'm thinking that, just off the top of my head, 3A is a little bit of a mystery to me, you know, and the other ones and 7A you got the three schools there that I think are, you know, will produce the champion in 6A maybe just a couple of schools there that'll produce the champion. 5A could be a little bit of a mystery. Cartersville has been our number one and they're undefeated. Warner Robins is lurking, possibly a second-round matchup rematch in the state final in the second round there. And Ware County, of course did beat Warner Robins when we were all thinking that Warner Robins was unbeatable. So obviously they're not unbeatable because they were beaten once during the season. So I think there's probably three teams there in 5A, you know, in 4A, you got Marist back at top. Jefferson took a loss to North Oconee late in the season. So they go into the playoffs as a two seed. I've been liking Carver Columbus maybe more than some others in 4A all season long. I say, keep an eye on those guys. They fly a little bit under the radar. I think just simply because they play the, you know, the vast majority of their games in the Columbus area. And it just doesn't seem like it gets as much publicity as some other places. So, and, you know, in 2A, I guess I'm just running through all the classes you didn't ask me to, but I guess running through all the classes. I'm just kind of riffing here. I'm just a top-of-mind conversation with myself, but you know, in 2A, does Gunner Stockton do what Brock Vandagriff did last year, you know, and his senior year get to get that state championship? You know, I think that's the compelling storyline for me in 2A, not that you asked me what the compelling storyline was, but that's what it is in 2A.

Hannah Goodin: Hey, I appreciate it.  

Matt Stewart: Oh, good. I'm glad. In single A, you know it's the Irwin and Brooks invitational until proven otherwise, right? And, and you know, and Trinity Christian, if they don't win the state championship by 50 points it will be a shock. 

Jon Nelson: Well, Matt, as always, it's great to have you on the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast, breaking down everything as we get ready for our game. Recruiting 2021 starts at seven o'clock on Friday night. We head to the swamp for Coffee and Creekside for our game of the week for Football Fridays. Matt and Wayne Gandy on the call. Hannah will be in studio across the hall. I will be outside freezing, which is my normal position this time of year. That is another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. For Matt, for all of our guests, Marvin James WMAZ, Paige Dauer WALB, Rex and Jack from WRBL in Columbus, Christian Goeckel ESPN coastal, Todd Holcomb with Georgia High School Football Daily. For Matt, for Hannah, I'm Jon. Play it safe everybody. Enjoy your playoffs. We'll catch up with you next week.