North Augusta at Northwestern
No. 3 Northwestern quarterback Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State commit) is having an incredible senior season leading the undefeated and No. 3-ranked Trojans. Rudolph has completed 73.1 percent of his passes and has thrown for 3570 yards and 50 touchdowns with only six interceptions. The athletic senior has also carried the ball 108 times for 514 yards and 15 touchdowns this year.
Northwestern is averaging 46.6 points per game this season and almost all of the production stems from Rudolph and his dynamic receiving duo. Senior Quadarius Fair has hauled in 23 touchdown passes while junior Dupree Hart has scored 19 this season. Fair and Hart have caught 42 of Northwestern’s 52 receiving touchdowns.
Last week, Rudolph connected with Fair for two first-quarter touchdowns and Hart added a rushing touchdown and receiving score as the Trojans capped off a 39-7 win over York (S.C.).
Junior quarterback Trib Reece orchestrates North Augusta’s spread offense and has the Yellow Jackets averaging 39.6 points per game. The Yellow Jackets will look to keep the football out of the Northwestern offense’s hands by controlling the ball. In their 23-10 win last week over Beaufort (S.C.), Reece capped off a marathon 18-play, 99-yard drive with a 9-yard strike to Jaleel Bryant.
Vestavia Hills at Hoover
No. 6 Hoover kept its 28-game winning streak alive last week with a 22-21 win over Florence (Ala.). Jack Hutchenson quarterbacked the Buccaneers’ game-winning drive that included two fourth-down conversions and a 9-yard touchdown pass to junior Alex Elam. The 21 points allowed by Hoover were its most all season and the Bucs have allowed just 7.8 points per game during their 13-0 start.
Vestavia Hills averages 29.3 points per game, but will need a better offensive effort than the last time these two teams met. The Bucs held Vestavia Hills to a single touchdown and won 17-7 in the Rebels’ Sept. 27 trip to Hoover.
Jordan Johnson rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown last week as Vestavia Hills topped Bob Jones (Ala.) 19-12 in the quarterfinals. Johnson will likely see heavy carries this week as the Rebels look for another physical defensive battle with Hoover.
Blackman at Maryville
Arguably the two top teams in the state of Tennessee this year will square off in the Class 6A semis with No. 23 Blackman and No. 11 Maryville. Blackman has been on a roll since the playoffs began and come off a 17-3 win over Oakland (Tenn.) that earned the Blaze their first-ever semifinals appearance. Blackman rushed for 317 total yards and were paced by Cole Notgrass, who accounted for 171 of the total rushing yards and added scoring runs of 73 and 66 yards. Quarterback Juaun Jennings is a true duel-threat and has been playing some of his best football of the season as of late.
Maryville sat its star running backs Shawn Prevo and Jaylen Nickerson last week, but found plenty of offense in its 56-14 rout Sevier County (Tenn.). The Rebels took a 49-14 lead into halftime and held Sevier County scoreless in the second half. Maryville has won 13 games in a row, and this will be its 14th straight appearance in the semifinals.
South Panola at Tupelo
Darrell Henderson paced No. 24 South Panola to its 20-6 win over Starkville (Miss.) in the quarterfinals with two rushing touchdowns and a 48-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Rip Kirk. The 13-1 Tigers’ only loss this season came to Tennessee’s Memphis University during a torrential downpour on Sept. 20.
South Panola has topped all of its Mississippi opponents by double-digits this season except for one. Tupelo took the Tigers to the brink and ultimately fell 14-8 at South Panola.
The Golden Wave play outstanding defense, but will need more production out of their sophomore quarterback Daniel Bristow and the offense. Bristow comes off a 10-of-15 passing performance for 113 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 27-15 win over Madison Central and his numbers have steadily improved this season. When Bristow faced South Panola last month (Oct. 18) he was held to just 66 passing yards and completed 8-of-15 passes while throwing a costly interception. Senior running back Quinn Tiggs has rushed for 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, including two in the quarterfinals and will give Bristow and the offense good balance as the Golden Wave fight for a spot in the state championship.