The Augusta area is in full playoff mode with Class AAAA joining the others this week. Only the good teams are left now. Keep in mind, coach of the year and player of the year awards are still up for grabs, and I'd say they're both wide open. It's difficult not to look at North Augusta, which has the area's leading rusher (Vinny Miller), passer (Tyrell Hillary) and receiver (Montez McGuire). Head coach Dan Pippin has to be commended for leading his team to another 10-win season (his third in a row) with just six starters returning. Strom Thurmond's Lee Sawyer, Fox Creek's Russ Schneider and Williston-Elko's Dwayne Garrick are also in the coach of the year mix. What happens over the next 3-4 weeks will determine everything. Here's what I expect to see this week:
Season picks: 49-22
Last week: 4-0
Class A Division II second round
No. 4 Fox Creek (9-2) at No. 1 Christ Church (10-1)
It's been a magical season for the Predators, but it'll take a huge effort to keep it alive. Christ Church is the upper state's top seed, and it hasn't lost since August. A win means a trip to the state semifinals and a likely rematch with region rival Williston-Elko. I think this is where the Cinderella season ends.
Prediction: Christ Church wins 31-20
Class A Division II second round
No. 6 McCormick (3-8) at No. 2 Williston-Elko (9-2)
What a wild ride it's been for the McCormick Chiefs. They lost eight consecutive games to start the season, including a 37-point loss to Georgia Class A power Lincoln County. But the Chiefs bounced back in recent weeks and have won three in a row, highlighted by a first-round upset over No. 3 seed Great Falls. They'll need an even more unlikely win this week against a Williston-Elko team that seems annually destined to reach the state finals. If the Blue Devils overlook McCormick, they could have trouble. But this team knows how to perform in the playoffs.
Prediction: Williston-Elko wins 37-20
Class AA Division II second round
No. 11 Aynor (3-8) at No. 3 Silver Bluff (7-3)
History is against the Bulldogs. Silver Bluff has lost in the second round of the state playoffs each of the last six years. That streak could finally end this season as the Bulldogs come in as heavy favorites and playing at home. No doubt, Silver Bluff has had its problems this year - a midseason, three-game losing streak proves that - but that may end up helping the Bulldogs. They've been tested and have emerged as a three-seed with a first-round bye and second-round home game. I think the postseason losing streak ends here.
Prediction: Silver Bluff wins 21-10
Class AA Division I second round
No. 7 Keenan (5-6) at No. 2 Strom Thurmond (10-0)
The last time the Rebels even came close to losing a game was in August, when Laney avoided a blowout with a valiant but fruitless second-half rally. No one has really challenged this high-powered Strom Thurmond squad this year, and a 5-6 team certainly won't, either. Keenan lost to the Rebels 55-6 in the regular season, meaning the Raiders know what's coming. They barely got past a 10th-seeded Broome in the first round. That's as far as they'll get.
Prediction: Strom Thurmond wins 48-12
Class AAAA Division II first round
No. 12 J.L. Mann (7-4) at No. 5 North Augusta (10-1)
This is an interesting match up for the Yellow Jackets. They've got one of the top scoring offenses in the state, keeping up with the high-powered pace set by last year's impressive team. The problem is last year's offensive coordinator, Brian Strickland, is in his first year as head coach at J.L. Mann. Strickland knows pretty much exactly what's coming. Can his team stop it? The Yellow Jackets are clearly the better team. Why? Because even if Strickland and his J.L. Mann defense does managed to stop tailback Vinny Miller, then North Augusta can just to go the passing game with QB Tyrell Hillary and a deep receiving unit led by Montez McGuire. That depth will be too much for the visiting Patriots.
Prediction: North Augusta wins 48-24