Four of the eight Cobb County teams in action Friday night survived their first-round games and advanced to the round of 16.
Region 4AAAAAA rivals North Cobb, Hillgrove and McEachern all posted double-digit wins over their opponents from Region 2AAAAAA.
North Cobb beat Luella 60-18, while Hillgrove bested Alcovy 41-13. McEachern beat Newton 36-21 on the road.
Marietta nearly completed a first-round sweep for the region in its game at Lovejoy. Ian Shannon kicked a 40-yard field goal for a 23-21 edge with 53 seconds remaining, but the Lions’ Preston Williams got behind the defense and caught his fourth touchdown of the contest as time expired, eliminating the Blue Devils with a 27-23 setback.
Friday marked the fourth consecutive season that the region of primarily west and south Cobb schools has sent two or more teams into the second round of the state playoffs.
“The coaching in the region has gotten better year in and year out, and the kids are really paying attention to what we’re teaching and they’re executing,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said.
“We’re improving our strength of schedule in out-of-region games, and there’s a bigger emphasis during the offseason for training and conditioning to prepare for next season. All of these things are putting us in a better position to compete at the state level and get our names out there that this is a challenging region to play in.”
North Cobb, Hillgrove and McEachern will face even bigger tests in the second round.
The Warriors will host Colquitt County, while the Hawks will travel to Camden County. Langston Hughes, which beat Valdosta in the first round, will host the Indians.
North Cobb and Hillgrove will have to face teams from Region 1AAAAAA, which Queen called “the so-called SEC of high school football.”
“They’ve won something like 26 championships down there, and they have Division I-type kids littering the field every week,” Queen said. “Our region will have its work cut out for us.”
Kell was the lone survivor from Region 7AAAAA following its 31-17 victory over Allatoona. The Longhorns and Buccaneers were tied 10-all at halftime, but Kell took advantage of four turnovers and scored 17 unanswered points to start the second half.
The other three teams from Kell’s region — Creekview, Sequoyah and Riverwood — lost to teams from Allatoona’s region, which is largely based in Paulding County.
“They have a strong region over there with Allatoona,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “I know, in years past, whatever region Kell was in, our region would get a clean sweep, so it changes.
“From a region perspective, I’d like to see us do well, but I have coaching friends on all of those (Region 5AAAAA) teams like Ed Koester at South Paulding, Scott Jones at North Paulding and Chuck Goddard at East Paulding. Gary Varner at Allatoona and I go back as well. So, from a coaching fraternity perspective, I’m torn.”
Kell, which is into the second round of the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, will host Region 6AAAAA runner-up Mays on Friday.
Whether it was simply matchup problems, or that they were just overmatched, Region 5AAAAAA went 0-4 against Region 7AAAAAA.
Fourth-seeded Peachtree Ridge easily handled region champion Lassiter 59-20, while Collins Hill beat 41-7. North Gwinnett beat Milton 34-10, and region champion Norcross blanked Etowah 28-0.