Northwest, North Murray in first-round playoff action tonight; Christian Heritage opens on Saturday

Daniel Mayes/Daily Citizen-News

Northwest Whitfield High School's Brayden Morrison runs after making a catch in a September game against North Murray.

Northwest hosts Fayette County for first round in air vs. ground matchup

Northwest Whitfield is playing its best football as it heads to the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

The Bruins started the season 1-2, including two close losses to Class 3A opponents in Coahulla Creek and North Murray. Northwest (7-3) has reeled off six wins in seven games prior to hosting Fayette County (6-4) tonight at 7:30 in the state playoffs.

The only loss for the Bruins in that stretch was a 57-23 setback to 8-1 Region 7-4A champion Cedartown. Finishing undefeated in the region otherwise, the Bruins earned the second seed in the region for the playoffs and a home playoff game.

That game is against a Fayette County squad that finished third in Region 5-4A, having suffered region losses to champion Riverdale and runner-up Luella.

The playoff matchup should be a matchup of contrasting styles.

Northwest has a potent passing attack, led by junior quarterback Owen Brooker, who has passed for 2,460 yards this season with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions.

The Bruins can run the ball too, with Brooker and running backs Cameron Collins and Adrian Reyes combining for over 1,000 yards, but Fayette County has placed much more of the offensive load on the ground game.

Fayette County passers have combined for 48 completions all season for 884 yards, while the Tigers have piled up more than 2,500 yards on the ground. Sophomore running back Javon Graham leads the way with 927 yards.

It's the second straight season Northwest has hosted a playoff game and the seventh straight playoff appearance overall for the Bruins. Northwest defeated Stephenson 28-24 in the first round last season.

Should Northwest win, it would mark the first time in program history that Northwest would advance past the first round of the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Northwest has never reached the third round.

North Murray travels to undefeated Monroe Area for first round

North Murray gutted out a 30-21 win over LaFayette in the final week of the regular season to secure the fourth spot in the playoffs Class 3A in a tough Region 6-3A.

The reward for the Mountaineers (7-3)? A trip to Monroe to take on the undefeated Monroe Area Hurricanes (10-0) tonight at 7:30 in the first round.

North Murray navigated a region that had three teams finish 8-2 or better to reach the playoffs battle tested, and the Mountaineers will need it against one of the three teams in Class 3A that finished the regular season undefeated.

Monroe Area was a champion of a Region 8-3A that was strong. The Hurricanes faced their closest call of the season in a 17-14 win against region-mate Oconee County, which finished 9-1 after reaching the state championship game last season.

Other than that slugfest, Monroe Area scored at least 27 points in every game. Quarterback Selatian Slaughter Jr. leads the offensive charge with 1,000-plus yards both on the ground and through the air and 29 total touchdowns. Running back Alan Jones also has more than 1,300 yards and 13 rushing scores.

North Murray also comes in with a powerhouse offense led by a star quarterback. Griffin has tossed for more than 2,600 yards and 31 touchdown passes. Wide receiver Jadyn Rice has just over 1,000 receiving yards, developing into the top target for Griffin after Michael McDade went down with a torn ACL.

These teams played in the playoffs just two seasons ago, although with the region positioning reversed. Region champion North Murray, led by then quarterback and current Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey, knocked off fourth-seeded Monroe Area 28-14 in the first round on the way to a quarterfinal appearance.

North Murray is making its sixth straight playoff appearance.

After roller-coaster season with tough schedule, Christian Heritage travels to face Wesleyan Saturday in playoffs

The 2021 season for Christian Heritage has seen ups and downs, but the Lions find themselves in the third position of Region 7-A Private the state playoffs.

The Lions (4-6) travel to Peachtree Corners to face Region 5-A Private's second seed in Wesleyan (7-3) Saturday in the first round of the Class A Private playoffs. Games from the Class A Private playoffs were moved to Saturday due to a shortage of football officiating crews, according to the Georgia High School Association.

Christian Heritage was at one point 1-4, but won three of its final five games. It was an odd season for a Christian Heritage team coming off of two straight nine-plus win seasons. Three of the Lions' losses were one-possession games and could have led to a very different season had a few key plays gone the other way.

The Lions fell on a last-minute, go-ahead touchdown to region champion Darlington, and the only other region loss for Christian Heritage was a 20-17 overtime defeat to Mount Paran Christian. Each of Christian Heritage's six losses came against a team that reached the playoffs in its classification.

Running back/linebacker Solomon Locke has been a two-way standout for the Lions, rushing for 1,242 yards and nine touchdowns while catching six touchdowns from quarterback Christian Thomas. Locke also leads the Lions with 90 tackles and two interceptions.

The teams played in the 2019 playoffs as Wesleyan came to Dalton and defeated a 9-1 Christian Heritage squad 34-13 in the first round.

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