WHITEFIELD ACA. (6-4) AT
LAST YEAR: Washington-Wilkes lost in the first round to Adairsville, 16-7; Whitefield lost in the first round to Commerce.
KEY PLAYERS: Whitefield Academy-Sophomore QB Joe Kight; Senior WR Phillips Murray; K Harrison Powell; Washington-Wilkes-Senior LB George Gates (6-2, 225); Senior OL/DL Orrie Wynn (6-2, 250); Senior OL Jamal Norman (5-6, 270).
KEY MATCHUP: Whitefield Academy's defensive front vs. Washington-Wilkes' running game: The Tigers installed a power running game against Aquinas two weeks ago and found success. Washington-Wilkes will be tough in the trenches and should be able to open some holes.
OUTLOOK: After a 1-3-1 start, the Tigers clawed their way back into the playoffs. With convincing wins over Aquinas and Warren County, Washington-Wilkes should have momentum entering the postseason. Whitefield Academy's losses have all come to playoff teams, but the Wolfpack will be tougher than expected.
PREDICTION: Washington-Wilkes 24, Whitefield Academy 17
AIKEN (9-1) AT
SOUTH AIKEN (5-5)
LAST YEAR: Aiken scratched out a 10-7 victory.
KEY PLAYERS: Aiken-Senior QB/DB Olajuwon Paige (5-8, 161); Senior LB/RB George Mathis (5-10, 187); Senior WR/DB Terrance Smith (6-1, 185); South Aiken-Senior FS Bernard West (6-5 205); Junior DT Ben Anderson (6-2, 260); Junior RB Wade Arnold (5-11, 210).
KEY MATCHUP: Aiken's 4-4 defensive set vs. Arnold: The Hornets have allowed 13 combined points the past three weeks in wins over Orangeburg-Wilkinson, Lexington and North Augusta. Arnold is the main focus of the Thoroughbred offense now that the team is down to its third quarterback of the year.
OUTLOOK: After getting smacked by Rock Hill, Aiken has rolled off four consecutive wins. The No. 6-ranked Hornets are oiling their machine as they prepare for the playoffs.
PREDICTION: Aiken 37, South Aiken 13
WESTOVER (4-6) AT
LAST YEAR: Thomson lost in the second round to Thomas County Central; Westover lost in the first round.
KEY PLAYERS: Westover-Senior G Recorey Green (6-3, 280); Senior WR Aairon Savage (6-0, 185); Senior FB Eric McCarey (6-0, 204); Thomson-Senior DE Rico Murray (6-1, 208); Senior FB Demarcus Wilson (6-0, 225); Junior DL Kelsey Neal (5-10, 190).
KEY MATCHUP: Westover's defense vs. Thomson's Wing-T Offense: The Bulldogs started to look invincible on offense, scoring 34 or more points in five consecutive games. Then, they committed two turnovers and needed a late score to defeat Butler, 6-3, last week. Focus seems to be Thomson's main offensive hurdle.
OUTLOOK: Westover played in a weak six-team region and got into the playoffs by blowing out the two worst teams. The Patriots will be looking to prove they deserve to be in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs should have enough firepower to advance to the second round.
PREDICTION: Thomson 24, Westover 7
JEFFERSON COUNTY (7-3) AT CAIRO (9-1)
7:30 p.m., Saturday
LAST YEAR: Jefferson County came up short in a 42-32 first-round loss at Screven County; Cairo lost in the first round.
KEY PLAYERS: Jefferson County-Senior OL Willie Thompson (6-7, 280); Senior OL Cameron Walker (6-3, 300); Senior RB Jeffrey Walker (6-1, 205); Cairo-Senior QB Brandon Robinson (6-0, 185); Senior T Decaris Leeks (6-2, 280); Senior LB Antonio Hardy (5-9, 175, Sr., LB).
KEY MATCHUP: Walker vs. Cairo's run defense: Behind a solid offensive line, Walker is the area's top rusher with 1,962 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Warriors will look to chew up yardage and clock in their upset bid against a Syrupmakers team allowing just 10.4 points a game.
OUTLOOK: Jefferson County is one of the toughest No. 4 seeds in the playoffs. But No. 9 Cairo is traditionally a monster at home. The Warriors will need to play a near-perfect game, but with their running attack they should not be counted out.
PREDICTION: Jefferson County 21, Cairo 20
OUR LADY OF MERCY (1-9) AT LINCOLN COUNTY (9-1)
LAST YEAR: Lincoln County lost in the state championship game to Hawkinsville; Our Lady of Mercy is making its first playoff appearance.
KEY PLAYERS: Our Lady of Mercy-Sophomore RB Jason Bryant; Lincoln County-OL Alex Wideman (6-4, 220); Jarvis Wynn (6-4, 225); Stephen Brown (5-4, 150); QB Cordaryll Coppin (5-10, 248); Gavin Williams (5-10, 250).
KEY MATCHUP: Our Lady of Mercy defensive line vs. Lincoln County offensive line: It will start and end up front for the Red Devils. Lincoln County's offensive line should dominate the Bobcats, providing a huge day on the ground for the Red Devils.
OUTLOOK: The Red Devils are hot at the right time. They have outscored opponents 162-8 over their past five games and three of those games were against playoff teams. Our Lady of Mercy won last week over Mt. Zion-Carroll in a battle of winless teams for the fourth playoff spot in a five-team region.
PREDICTION: Lincoln County 55, Our Lady of Mercy 0
EVANS (6-4) AT
LAST YEAR: Evans is in the playoffs for the first time since 2000; Creekside's last appearance was in 2001.
KEY PLAYERS: Evans-Senior QB Brad Freeman (6-0, 190); Senior WR Ryan Crislip (5-11, 165); Senior RB Cheng Ho (6-0, 180); Senior CB Jay Acree (5-9, 180); Creekside-Senior RB Stephone LaFrance (6-1, 206); Senior LB David Lewis (6-1, 220).
KEY MATCHUP: Creekside's secondary vs. Evans' passing attack: Evans will have to control the ball to be effective against the Seminoles but the passing game could be the difference. If Freeman can get hot and hit receivers early, then Evans could have a chance. The Knights can not win with a one-dimensional offense.
OUTLOOK: Evans stumbled into the playoffs, losing its last two by a combined score of 53-6. Coach Marty Jackson will have to have a complete and perfect effort from his team to upset the Seminoles, a team ranked in the top 10. A player to watch will be LaFrance, a top 100 player in the state.
PREDICTION: Creekside 27, Evans 10
AQUINAS (7-3) AT LANDMARK CHRIST. (6-4)
LAST YEAR: Aquinas last made the playoffs in 1972; Landmark Christian lost in the quarterfinals.
KEY PLAYERS: Aquinas-Senior QB Eric Stallings (5-10, 160); Senior DE/TE Bill Kain (6-5, 230); Senior OT/DT Brandon Rauscher (6-1, 245); Landmark Christian-Junior WR Miles King, QB Matt Moody, Senior LB Brian Huston.
KEY MATCHUP: Aquinas' defensive backs vs. Landmark's passing attack: Aquinas hasn't really had to face a team that passes the ball like the War Eagles do. Moody threw three touchdown passes last week in a win over Eagles Landing Christian, which gave Landmark its third straight region title.
OUTLOOK: Aquinas is coming off a bad loss to Hancock Central to end the regular season while Landmark is on a five-game winning streak. Stallings and the Aquinas offense will have to be on their game if a shootout happens.
PREDICTION: Landmark Christian 28, Aquinas 14
CRIM (4-6) AT
7:30 p.m at ARC Stadium
LAST YEAR: Laney lost to Spalding in the state quarterfinals. Crim has advanced to the playoffs for the first time in recent history.
KEY PLAYERS: Crim-Sophomore RB/CB Dexter Barnett; Senior S/WR Mandela Elmore; quarterback Dequaoiz Woodard; Laney-Senior WR/CB Robert Dunn (5-11, 180); Senior WR/LB Curtis Sapp (6-2, 215); Senior QB/DB Dominique Walker (5-9, 168).
KEY MATCHUP: Laney's air attack vs. Crim's secondary: As much as the Wildcats would like to let the run game control this contest, they need to get their passing game on track. The Eagles have shown the penchant to stuff a few of the top runners in their Atlanta-area region. They could have some success tying up the Wildcats' Wayne Canty.
OUTLOOK: One team had two traditions going for it: Playoff success and late-season hot streaks. The Wildcats always play their best when their backs are to the wall and the playoffs always offer no chance to take things easy. The Wildcats have won five of their past six this year.
PREDICTION: Laney 30, Crim 14
GLENN HILLS (8-2) AT
CRISP COUNTY (6-4)
LAST YEAR: Glenn Hills' last appearance was in 1986; Crisp County did not make it last year.
KEY PLAYERS: Glenn Hills-Senior CB/WR Aquantis Mobley (6-0, 175); Senior DE/TE Larry Knight (6-3, 210); Senior DB/WR Xavia Anderson (5-11, 170); Crisp County-RB Ira Coley, QB Johnny Smith, WR Jolston Street.
KEY MATCHUP: Glenn Hills' Ricky Young vs. Crisp's run defense: This is the playoffs. The best players have to be difference makers. Young is at least the second-best back in Region 3-AAA. He'll have to get off to a quick start to carry his team to success on the road.
OUTLOOK: There's just something about this matchup that says a successful road trip might be in order for the Spartans. If they can handle a tough South Georgia environment, they should fare well.
PREDICTION: Glenn Hills 17, Crisp County 10
TROUP COUNTY (8-2) AT WASHINGTON CO. (8-2)
LAST YEAR: Washington County lost in the state semifinals, 20-17, to LaGrange. Troup County lost in the quarterfinals to Tucker.
KEY PLAYERS: Troup County-Senior FB/LB Brandon Hart (6-1, 235); Senior TE/DE Ben Watts (6-2, 210); Senior CB Desmond King (5-11, 175); Washington County-Senior RB Tyree Burnett (6-0, 175); Junior WR/CB Eulas Taylor (5-10, 175); Senior C Josh Usry (5-11, 215).
KEY MATCHUP: Troup County's defensive line vs. Washington County's defensive line: The team that wins this game will win it with defense. The Tigers will have their hands full with Burnett, who was the second leading rusher in the area this year. Similarly, the Golden Hawks will have to stop the combo of Hart and Goode.
OUTLOOK: Both teams lost two games but all four losses were to powerhouse schools. This could be the best matchup in the state as the teams are 10th and 11th in The Associated Press poll. They are nearly unbeatable at home so the edge would have to be given to the Hawks.
PREDICTION: Washington County 21, Troup County 20