North Murray (3-6, 2-4) at Gordon Central (0-9, 0-6)
If Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe beats Sonoraville and North Murray handles Gordon Central, get ready for the mini-tiebreaker games in Region 5-3A.
First thing is first — North Murray needs to win against the winless Gordon Central Warriors.
“We have a lot of respect for Gordon Central and their coaching staff,” Mountaineers coach David Gann said, “and they have some players who could start of play for just about anybody.
“When you’re 3-6, you can’t afford to overlook anybody.”
After beginning the season 1-6, North Murray has climbed back into playoff contention with two straight wins against LFO and Coahulla Creek. After finishing last season 5-5 with a senior-heavy roster, a younger Mountaineers team, at worst, can use a three-game winning streak as a building block for next year.
Junior quarterback Hinton McConkey has developed in his junior season at North Murray. Against Coahulla Creek last week, he threw for 181 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his season totals to 1,363 and 18 in each category. He also has 639 yards rushing alongside sophomore running back Drake McCowan’s 790 yards in the Mountaineers’ option-heavy offense.
North Murray averages 32.1 points per game.
“They’re one that will hit you quick with the big play, whether it’s running or throwing deep,” Gordon Central coach David Humphreys said. “I think what we have to do is make those guys have more and more plays on their drives.”
Northwest (8-1) at Pickens (6-3)
Both teams remember the sinking feeling of losing at this spot.
Northwest lost 40-37 in triple overtime to Gilmer in one of last season’s two Region 7-4A play-in games to determine the league’s third and fourth playoff berths for the Class 4A state playoffs. Pickens lost 42-0 against Dalton in the other.
One will avenge that feeling. The other will live it all over once again.
“I’m probably not going to mention that,” Northwest coach Josh Robinson said of the heartbreaking loss to end last year. “Some coaches say, ‘We don’t want to remember that.’ Others say, ‘We want to use it as motivation.’”
On the other side, Pickens coach Chris Parker has mentioned the poor showing against Dalton a lot this season.
“For us, where we are at Pickens, it’s exciting for us to be in conversations with some of the teams up there from where we were a few years ago,” he said. “Eventually, we have to learn to win those games. We can’t just be happy to be in them.”
Both teams line up from the spread offense, and Robinson noted Pickens running back Shannon Brooks and quarterback Tanner Brumby as two players who can “bring the ball to the house every single time.” Northwest sports running back Jacob Webb and wide receiver Tevin McDaniel. Webb has 957 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns, and McDaniel has 760 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.
The Bruins have 1,641 yards passing, all from quarterback Caleb Shiflett, and 1,613 rushing this year.
“With play calling, we have about 55 percent runs and 45 percent passes,” Robinson said. “That comes with gaining a lead.”
Northwest won 25-13 when the teams played earlier this year at Bruin Stadium in Tunnel Hill, although Pickens gave Northwest’s offense some trouble with blitzes.
“Any time a team is as good as they are on offense, it’s important you give them a bunch of different looks,” Parker said. “I think, for whatever reason, some of the key plays came from us putting pressure on them.”
If Northwest wins, it clinches the No. 3 seed even if Cedartown (8-1) wins because the Bruins have a better winning percentage versus Class 4A schools. If Pickens wins, it is the No. 3 seed if Ridgeland beats Cedartown but the No. 4 seed if Cedartown wins.