High School Sports

Updating the crystal ball

There are times where things don’t go as planned at playoff time.

Upsets happen. Lower-ranked teams beat their higher-ranked opponents. Some teams receive an extended lease on the season, while others put the pads away earlier than they would have liked.

There were 19 games in which a lower-seeded team beat a higher-seeded program during last week’s GHSA first-round playoff games. Class AAAAAA and Class AAA tied for the most with five, while Class AAAA had the least at two.

The biggest upsets, where a No. 4 seed knocked off a region champion: Central Gwinnett over North Gwinnett (Class AAAAAA), Sequoyah over Lanier (Class AAAAA), Oconee County over West Hall (Class AAAA), Appling County over Peach County (Class AAA), Washington-Wilkes over Darlington (Class AA) and Pace Academy over Bowdon (Class AA).

Some of the 4-defeating-1 upsets were a matter of teams from stronger regions defeating the champion from a weaker region. Others came out of the blue.

Peach County’s loss to Appling County was a shocker. Peach County was unbeaten and had been ranked in the Georgia Sports Writers Association poll all season. Darlington was 9-1 heading into the playoffs and cracked the state poll in early October, its only loss during the regular season coming to an out-of-state team.

Last week, I made some predictions regarding the teams that would show up at the Georgia Dome for the state finals. All of my projected state champions are still standing, but projected runners-up took a big hit. The Peach County and Darlington losses weren’t on my radar screen. Neither was Valdosta’s early exit at the hands of Newton.

Here are three teams that stand to benefit from first-round misfortune:

Westlake (Class AAAAAA, Colquitt County predicted to win title): With second-ranked Valdosta out of the playoffs, the seventh-ranked Lions now stand as the top-ranked team on its half of the bracket. Westlake, the Region 3-AAAAAA champion, has its first winning record in five years, and the Lions are on an eight-game winning streak. Should Westlake beat Etowah on Friday, only one other ranked team will remain on Westlake’s side of the bracket, the Lee County-Archer winner.

Calhoun (Class AAA, Washington County predicted to win title): Six teams finished the regular season unbeaten in Class AAA, with three teams on each side of the bracket. Calhoun would have played unbeaten Peach County in the quarterfinals had the Trojans not lost to Appling County. Now Calhoun faces a potential semifinal matchup against unbeaten Central-Carrollton, the lowest ranked of the six unbeaten teams in the final regular-season poll.

Macon County (Class AA, Greater Atlanta Christian predicted to win title): The Darlington pick was a bit of a shot in the dark on that side of the bracket, and I missed the target. Seventh-ranked Macon County has to play last year’s champion, fifth-ranked Lovett, on Friday, and a matchup against No. 3 Benedictine is possible next week. Because Benedictine finished second to Vidalia in its region, however, Region 4-AA champion Macon County would host that game should it happen. Whichever team emerges from that strong quadrant will face No. 8 Brooks County, No. 9 Screven County or unranked Heard County or Washington-Wilkes in the semifinals.

The other predictions: Ware County over Northside (Class AAAAA), Buford over Woodward Academy (Class AAAA), Marion County over Irwin County (Class A public), Aquinas over Calvary Day (Class A private).

Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or rseibel@macon.com