The Rome Wolves and Darlington Tigers will both make the trip to Henry County on Friday, as No. 1 Rome meets No. 4 Dutchtown in a battle of the undefeated in Class 5A and No. 10 Darlington visits top-ranked and three-time defending Class A Private state champion Eagles Landing Christian.
No. 2 Rockmart, meanwhile, will make the slightly longer drive to Louisville — about 40 miles southeast of Augusta — to take on Jefferson County in the Jackets’ first quarterfinal state playoff game in 30 years. All three area teams will be playing away from home for the first time this postseason.
Darlington (9-2) is trying to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2009 and is hoping to continue its fighting spirit that has seen the Tigers get four of its last five wins by 10 points or less.
ELCA (10-1) has allowed only 6.9 points per game this season while averaging 52.8. The Chargers defeated Trinity Christian 48-14 on Friday and suffered their only loss in the last three years on Aug. 24 in a 17-16 final to Class 3A Pace Academy.
“We know we’ve got a formidable challenge going and playing the defending state champions, but you know what? My kids compete. And we’re going to do that,” Darlington head coach Tommy Atha said after defeating Aquinas 28-12 in the Sweet 16 last Friday.
“We’re going to come to practice and make a game plan to go down there and win a quarterfinal game and hopefully get to the semifinals.”
The competition also cranks up a notch for Rome this week against a defensive power in the Dutchtown Bulldogs.
Both teams come in with a 12-0 record after easily getting through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Dutchtown has held teams to less than six points a game on average, including shutting out its opponent five times this season.
On the flipside, the Bulldogs have averaged just 30 points a game while Rome’s prolific offense has been able to score 628 points so far this season, an average of 52.3 points per game. With a third consecutive state championship still in the cards, the Wolves will be going for their 40th win in a row on Friday.
The path to a possible Class AA state championship got a little less crowded for the Rockmart Yellow Jackets last week, especially with the 31-13 defeat of top-ranked and defending state champion Hapeville Charter at the hands of Callaway.
Before a possible postseason rematch with the Cavaliers however, Rockmart (12-0) will have to take care of the Warriors. Jefferson County (10-2) is riding a 10-game win streak and a 27-13 win over No. 9 Dodge County in the second round.
Last week’s 35-23 victory over Bremen was the Jackets’ closest game since their season-opening win over Polk County rival Cedartown, but Rockmart’s powerful offense continues to take control of games early, led by senior quarterback Dylan Bailey and the triple threat of running backs Marcus Smith, Zabrion Whatley and Javin Whatley.