Maxwell’s projection: Woodland by 2
Notes: Though ranked, the Eagles come into their game against 4A’s unranked Wolfpack as the underdog. They seem to play the underdog role well, however, as seen by their 13-10 road win over 7A’s Camden County last week. They were a 34-point underdog in that game. The Eagles are coming off their best finish since 1997, winning a playoff game for the first time in a quarter-century. They’re looking to build off that despite losing defensive tackle Marquez Harris, who led the state with 22 sacks, to graduation. Stepping in for Harris is Kenyon Partridge, who had two sacks against Camden County. He’ll continue the defensive line tree started by Class of 2020 next-level standouts Nazir Stackhouse, now at Georgia, and Caleb Fisher (Western Carolina). Eagles third-year coach Greg Barnett characterizes the defense, led by Kadarius Bailey, as stout. The offense, led by third-year starting quarterback Elijah Morgan and running back Royce Tolbert, who is one of six rushers with 1,000-yards-per-season potential in Barnett’s eyes. They also have Jaden Baugh, a Class of ‘24 4-star athlete with 12 offers including Georgia. Against Camden County, Baugh rushed four times for 93 yards and a touchdown and had three catches for 34 yards, and he was second on the team with seven tackles on defense…The Wolfpack went 4-6 last year in Julian Hicks’ first season and opened last week with a 25-6 road win over 6A’s New Manchester.
Cedartown Bulldogs at Callaway Cavaliers
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Callaway Stadium, Hogansville
Records, rankings: Cedartown is 1-0 and No. 3 in 4A, Callaway is 0-1 and No. 5 in 2A.
Last meeting: Callaway won 43-17 in 2015.
Watch the game: NFHS Network
Maxwell’s projection: Cedartown by 9
Notes: The Cavaliers are looking to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2011. They finished 7-4 that year. Last week, they lost 29-28 at home to Opelika, ranked No. 8 in 7A in the Alabama Sportswriters Association poll. The Cavs blew separate 14-point leads in the game before Opelika went ahead for good on a 2-point conversion with 2:29 left. There were plenty of positive takeaways from the loss for Callaway, however, including Bryceton Sanders’ 75-yard touchdown reception. Sanders is the younger brother of Cavs Class of 2017 receiver Braylon Sanders, who had a standout career at Ole Miss before signing with the Dolphins this offseason as an undrafted free agent. The Cavs last played the Bulldogs in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, going 2-0 and beating them a combined 80-38. Cavs coach Pete Wiggins was in his 11th season at Callaway in 2015, and the Bulldogs are on their third coach in that timeframe…Bulldogs third-year coach Jamie Abrams took them to the 4A semifinals last year and the quarterfinals in 2020, his first with the team. Before Abrams arrived, they hadn’t advanced out of the second round since 1999. The Bulldogs are coming off a 27-14 win over 2A’s No. 6 Rockmart last week.
Pierce County Bears at Jeff Davis Yellow Jackets
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Pinelands at Yellow Jacket Stadium, Hazelhurst
Records, rankings: Pierce County is 0-0 and No. 4, Jeff Davis is 0-1 and unranked.
Last meeting: Pierce County won 40-0 in 2009.
Watch the game: NFHS Network
Maxwell’s projection: Pierce County by 28
Notes: The projected margin of victory for the Bears is eye-opening, but they’d be happy with a four-touchdown win in what would mark their return to 2A for the first time since 2011. Last year they reached the 3A semifinals as a follow-up to winning 3A the year before. In the last four seasons, the Bears are 48-5 with three semifinals trips and a title. DJ Bell returns for his senior season and is expected to be the key to the offense as a run-first quarterback. Last year as a junior, he had 263 carries for 1,887 yards and 23 touchdowns, and he completed 21 of his 50 passes for 446 yards and eight touchdowns to two interceptions. A lot more should be known about the Bears’ defense after this game. Coach Ryan Herring said coming into the season that he’ll be leaning on a lot of players new to their roles on that side of the ball, and they could quickly prove themselves to be playmakers…Jackets coach Lance Helton has had them trending upward since taking over in 2017, and last year they finished 10-2 for their first double-digit winning season since 1997. They also won a playoff game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1989-90. Helton’s Jackets do their offensive damage on the ground, and last year as a team they had 344 carries to just 40 pass attempts. In the Jackets’ season-opening 20-14 overtime loss to Class 1A Division II’s No. 5 Charlton County last week, their sophomore quarterback, Colby Beach, attempted just five passes. Their leading rusher, senior Terence Clemons, had 16 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. Clemons also led the team with 11 tackles at defensive back.