The first round of the Georgia high school football postseason gave us a few surprises, but many games went just as we thought they would. This week, the Pick 6 playoff predictions from yours truly gives you six of what I think should be tight, down-to-the-wire games, which is how it should be.
Can Walton do the unthinkable and knock off top-ranked Buford? Can the Camden County Wildcats continue their resurgence under Jeff Herron and make their way back to where they stood for so many years – at the top of the state’s largest class? In a game that will see one of the state’s best teams hang it up ’til next year, Mill Creek and North Cobb are the two teams that have come closest to defeating the mighty Buford Wolves this season.
And that’s just a quick glance at half of the games we have selected for you. Read on for the full set of our Pick 6 Georgia high school playoff predictions.
Walton at Buford
Can Walton be the team to finally knock off the mighty Wolves? The Raiders were able to get by the South Forsyth Eagles last week in the first round, while the Wolves defeated Peachtree Ridge in their opening-round matchup.
Walton, now 9-2 overall after their victory, finished 4-1 in region 5-7A, one game behind North Cobb. They are led by QB Jeremy Hecklinski, who has over 5,000 career passing yards and is just a junior, so no matter what happens to him and Raiders teammates in this year’s playoffs, he’ll be back in 2023. Of course the heralded signal caller would love to take his team straight to the state title now, but they’ll have to get past the top program in the state, and certainly one of the top teams in the country.
Buford’s Bryant Appling has led his team to three straight titles, and this year’s team may be better than any of those squads. Every year the playoffs produce a big upset – could this matchup be that game?
Phil’s Pick: Buford 40, Walton 21
Camden County at Grayson
Grayson entered the playoffs as Region 4-7A’s top team, and Adam Carter’s Rams have been considered by most followers of high school football in Georgia as one of the favorites to compete for the state title this season. Grayson finished 8-2 in the regular season, with losses to Lowndes and Parkview. They advanced with a first-round playoff win over Hillgrove last week and will now host one of the hottest teams in the state as Jeff Herron brings his Camden County Wildcats to Loganville.
Herron knows his way around these parts of metro Atlanta, having spent one season as the Rams’ head coach back in 2016. Now he’s back in Kingsland, where he coached from 2000 to 2012 and has known almost nothing but winning football. Last season was a bit of a rarity for the veteran coach, as the Wildcats suffered through a 4-win season, which ended with an first-round exit from the state playoffs.
This season has been more Herron and Camden-like, with the Wildcats entering this second round matchup with an 8-3 record, which includes victories in seven of their last eight games, including last week’s hard-fought win over East Coweta.
Grayson features one of the state’s top freshmen in edge rusher Tyler Atkinson, who is a difference maker on defense. But neither he nor his teammates have seen many offenses like Camden’s Wing-T, which features a lot of misdirection and mostly running the football. This is one of the more compelling Georgia high school matchups in our second round of Pick-6 playoff predictions.
Phil’s Pick: Camden County 37, Grayson 33
Mill Creek at North Cobb
Next up in our lineup of Georgia high school playoff predictions is possibly the most compelling Round 2 matchup of any classification, in which the Warriors of Shane Queen host the Josh Lovelady-led Mill Creek Hawks at Kennesaw. An interesting point: These teams were the only ones to really threaten to beat Buford this year. The Warriors lost by a TD, 21-14, after having the game tied. Mill Creek came up short in an exciting 39-27 contest.
The Warriors are the Region 5-7A champs, finishing with a perfect 5-0 region record and 8-2 mark overall. While certainly no one doubted that North Cobb was a playoff team, not many expected the Warriors to be the #1 seed after the team lost star quarterback Malachi Singleton to a lower leg injury back in the second week of the season. But sophomore Nick Grimstead took over and kept his team right on track, winning every game except for the aforementioned loss to Buford and an overtime loss to Northside Warner Robins.
If the Warriors get Singleton back, he’ll make them even better, perhaps lining up at receiver or running back. Whomever it is running the North Cobb offense will have to deal with S/ATH Caleb Downs, arguably the state’s best overall player. And whatever the outcome, this game will unfortunately eliminate one of the best 7A teams in the state.
Phil’s Pick: Mill Creek 27, North Cobb 23
Marist vs. Northside Warner Robins
Give Northside Warner Robins credit: Their schedule has been one of the toughest in the state this season. They have shown that they can not only play with but can defeat the best the state of Georgia has to offer, as they proved in wins over 3A powerhouse Peach County in Fort Valley, 6A powerhouse Lee County in Leesburg, and 7A titan North Cobb at the Warriors’ home stadium in Kennesaw. Those are three of the toughest places to play, and the teams are not too easy to defeat either.
The Eagles of Chad Alligood lost to Region 1-4A champion Thomas County Central, to defending 5A state champ Warner Robins, and to fellow 1-6A region foe Houston County. They enter their second-round matchup with Marist after defeating Glynn Academy 18-13 last week in the opening round of the 6A playoffs. The War Eagles won Region 4-6A this season with a perfect record, while finishing 8-2 overall. They won last week over Morrow in their first-round matchup. It’s Eagles vs. War Eagles. Is there a difference?
Phil’s Pick: Northside Warner Robins 33, Marist 17
Lee County at Woodward Academy
Lee County finds itself in a rare situation for the second week in a row: on the road in back-to-back playoff games. Before this season, coach Dean Fabrizio’s team had hosted 14 of 15 state playoff games (not counting the state championship game). But they’ve had to travel to new surroundings after finishing as the #4 seed in Region 1-6A, a region they have controlled for practically the last decade under Fabrizio.
The Trojans come limping into this second-round game after losing top receiver JD Fugerson to a hand injury. They will have Devin Collier back at at RB, WR, and his customary DB spot. The junior was forced to sit out last week due to an ejection in the Tift County game.
Woodward Academy enters the game after soundly defeating Riverwood last week at College Park. Lee County will continue to feed the ball to standout sophomore RB Ousmane Kromah, while Woodward four-star LB Myles Graham will try to stuff the talented back. Who comes out on top?
Phil’s Pick: Lee County 28, Woodward Academy 24
Cairo at Troup County
After a rough start to the season for Cairo, the Syrupmakers and first-year head coach David Coleman have rebounded nicely, winning seven of their last eight games, including last week’s first-round playoff matchup against Westside at home.
This week the Syrupmakers have to saddle up and travel to the west part of the state to do battle with Tanner Glisson’s Troup County Tigers, who were upset in their last regular-season game against LaGrange. That game had very little impact on Troup County, as they had already clinched their first region title in 20+ years. They then defeated New Hampstead in last week’s first-round game for their 10th win of the season, sending them on to host Coleman’s red-hot Cairo team.
Troup has one of the state’s best quarterbacks in Taeo Todd, a player Glisson says is the one of the best he has coached in 24 years. Cairo has a pretty good QB of its own in senior Braylon Robinson, a dual- threat weapon who has thrown for over 1,300 yards this season and over 2,500 for his career. This final entry in Round 2 of our Georgia high school playoff predictions could be a high-scoring affair. Who wins?
Phil’s Pick: Troup County 39, Cairo 33