VALDOSTA — The GHSA high school football playoffs begin on Friday night.
Marietta Blue Devils (7-3) at Lowndes Vikings (9-1)
The Vikings are 42-18 all-time in postseason games and, more impressively, 17-1 all-time under head coach Randy McPherson in playoff games at Martin Stadium. The Vikings will look to improve those records Friday night, when they host the Marietta Blue Devils, the No. 3 seed from Region 4-6A, in the first round of the state playoffs Friday night.
The Vikings will have had two weeks pass since their loss to Camden County in the region championship game. Marietta beat Harrison last Friday, 52-14, to secure the region’s third seed. Lowndes has the fifth-best scoring defense in the state, averaging 11.9 points per game, while Marietta has the eighth-best scoring offense at 37.6 points per game.
Valdosta Wildcats (7-3) at North Cobb Warriors (8-2)
Winners of four straight games, the Valdosta Wildcats will visit the North Cobb Warriors, the No. 2 seed from Region 4, in the first round of the playoffs Friday night. A win Friday could place the Wildcats in a position to make a deep run in the Class 6A playoffs.
Some would say the Wildcats played their best game of the season last week, hammering the Coffee Trojans 44-8 in a game that decided playoff seeding. Friday’s game will mark the third time Valdosta has visited a Cobb County school in the playoffs since 2004. The Wildcats lost to Walton 17-14 in 2004 and beat McEachern 31-28 in 2010. The Wildcats also defeated McEachern 21-7 in the Class AAAA state championship game in 1998. No school from Cobb County has won a state championship since 1967.
Valdosta might be the toughest competition North Cobb has faced this season, along with Region 4 champion McEachern. The Warriors’ strength of schedule ranked 51st this season.
Trinity Christian Crusaders (8-3) at Valwood Valiants (11-0)
The Valwood Valiants can advance to the GISA Class AA state semifinals for a third straight season with a win over Trinity Christian Friday night at Goddard Field. Last week, Valwood cruised past Central Fellowship 41-0, while Trinity Christian beat Dominion Christian 30-8. The Crusaders and the Valiants share just one opponent this season — Edmund Burke Academy. The Valiants beat the Spartans 28-7 earlier this season, while the Crusaders lost to the Spartans 21-9.
Valwood and Trinity Christian have played each other in the playoffs before. Trinity Christian blew out Valwood 56-7 in the 2006 state championship game. Valwood is 0-4 all-time against Trinity Christian.
Cook Hornets (7-3) at Lamar County Trojans (9-0-1)
After finishing last year with a 12-1 record, the Lamar County Trojans underwent a coaching change this past offseason, after coach Jason Strickland left to take the same position at Fitzgerald. With an open coaching vacancy, the Trojans went out and found a prime candidate, Tucker’s Franklin Stephens. In five seasons at Tucker, Stephens had a 64-6 record and won two state championships, including last year, when he guided the Tigers to a perfect 15-0 record and the Class AAAA title.
Now, Stephens has guided the Trojans to nine straight wins since starting the season with a 3-3 tie against Spalding. Since the tie, the Trojans have averaged 41.3 points per game and have allowed just 7.8 points per game in a weak Region 4-AA. Cook finished fourth in Region 1-AA, following a loss to Early County last week. In recent seasons, the Hornets have been able to find success as a fourth seed. In fact, the Hornets are 4-0 as a fourth seed in the first round of the state playoffs since 2007, when they beat Swainsboro 42-27. In 2008, the Hornets beat Appling County 25-10. In 2009, they advanced to the state quarterfinals, where they fell to eventual state champion Buford. Then last year, the Hornets beat No. 1-seeded Pierce County by 21 points (43-22) in the first round.
Macon County Bulldogs (4-6) at Brooks County Trojans (10-0)
The Brooks County Trojans capped off their first perfect regular season in school history last Friday with a 43-14 win over the Berrien Rebels. This week, the Trojans should have no problem getting by the 4-6 Macon County Bulldogs, who needed a win over Taylor County last week to secure the region’s fourth seed. Once the Trojans get through the first round, they will face the winner of the McIntosh County Academy-East Laurens first round matchup.
Pending no major upsets, the Trojans will face reigning Class AA state champion Calhoun in the state quarterfinals. Brooks County was eliminated in the second round of the state playoffs last year, after losing to Calhoun 43-30. Calhoun is the state’s top-ranked team in Class AA, with a perfect 10-0 record, winning by an average of 32.7 points per game.