Gaffney (S.C.) at Byrnes (S.C.)
Byrnes quarterback Shuler Bentley completed 18 of 22 passes for 293 yards and five touchdowns in Byrnes’ 57-0 win over Riverside (S.C.) on Friday. Backup quarterback Michael Young added a pair of touchdown throws and wideout Shaedon Meadors led the way with three touchdowns and 164 receiving yards. Gaffney’s challenge will be stopping the Byrnes offense, which averages 400 passing yards per game. The Rebels’ quarterbacks have thrown a combined 40 touchdowns and only five interceptions this season.
As talented as Byrnes is this season, Gaffney bested the Rebels 22-18 in last year’s matchup and claimed the 2012 4A state championship. The Indians will look to use their running game to control the clock and keep the football out of the hands of the Byrnes offense. Senior Hyleck Foster is Gaffney’s workhorse and has carried the football 132 times for 860 yards and has scored 17 of Gaffney’s 22 rushing touchdowns this season.
Wheeler (Ga.) at Walton (Ga.)
Less than four miles separates these two eastern Cobb County rivals, and Wheeler’s talented playmakers could challenge the Raiders this season.Walton has not lost this matchup since a "22-13" defeat in 2006, but in last year’s matchup Wheeler led 23-10 heading into the fourth quarter. Louisiana Tech-commit Price Wilson found 4-star cornerback and offensive specialist D.J. Smith for a game-winning 33-yard touchdown to steal a 24-23 road victory for the Raiders. Both Wilson and Smith are back for their senior seasons.
Allen Artis led Wheeler’s defense and the UNC commitment posted the most tackles in the county last season as the Wildcats’ starting safety. Walton’s offensive plan of attack will feature the arm of Wilson and the running ability of sophomore Karekin Brooks. Brooks leads the region in carries and has rushed for nine touchdowns this season. Wheeler’s offense will be paced by big-play running backs Jacobi Green and Devontae Jackson.
Flanagan (Fla.) at Miramar (Fla.)
In this battle of Class 8A unbeatens, Flanagan will face its biggest test of the regular season. When Miramar topped St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) this season 22-20, for the third straight year, the Patriots proved that they could be the best team in the state. Miramar’s offense averages approximately 200 yards per game both passing and rushing and is a well-coached and well-balanced offensive team.
Senior Nick Jeanty has completed 85 of 119 passes (72 percent) this season, while tossing 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Junior running back Alex Anderson is seeing his role increase each week and the physical 4-star is averaging 8.57 yards per carry and has scored five touchdowns this season.
Junior quarterback Ryan Stanley and junior receiver Emonee Spence lead Flanagan’s attack. In last week’s 28-7 win over Cooper City (Fla.), Stanley passed for 345 yards and two touchdowns as Spence paced the receiving corps with 137 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Quest Hopler added a touchdown throw in the Falcons’ win and the Flanagan defense is allowing just 12.7 points per game this season.
William Blount (Tenn.) at Maryville (Tenn.)
Maryville head coach George Quarles notched his 200th career victory last Friday in the Rebels’ 28-10 victory over Lenoir City (Tenn.). The milestone came in less than 215 games at the school, showing just how dominant the Rebels have been over that timespan. Undefeated Maryville (7-0) has been on a mission this season after falling to Whitehaven 36-35 in the state championship last December.
Quarterback John Garrett found Tyler Vaught and Kelby Brock for touchdowns last week and will face a William Blount team that they rolled past 42-7 last year. William Blount has played through a tough gauntlet this season and comes off a 42-10 loss to West-Knoxville (Tenn.).
Oxford (Miss.) at New Hope (Miss.)
Undefeated Oxford (7-0) jumped to a 37-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 40-9 home win over Lewisburg (Miss.) last Friday. Quarterback Jack Abraham threw three touchdowns and running back Kenzie Phillips ran in a pair of scores.
Last season, New Hope kept it competitive with the Chargers on the road before falling 29-17. New Hope’s junior quarterback Brady Davis will have to have a great game in order to lift the Trojans to victory. Davis has completed 95 of 177 passes this season for 1,540 yards and has added 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. This is the biggest game of Davis’ blossoming career.
Hoover (Ala.) at Minor (Ala.)
Hoover has been led by a defense that is allowing just 6.3 points per game. Last Friday, Hoover trailed Hillcrest (Ala.) 3-0 most of the first half until senior Hagan Scott completed a reverse pass to a wide open Alex Elam for a touchdown to give the Bucs a 7-3 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Hillcrest fumbled and Bradrick Shaw capitalized with his first of two rushing scores and Hoover went on to win 28-6.
The Buccaneers have not lost a game since 2011, and topped Minor 14-0 last season. Minor’s challenge will be finding offense against the impenetrable Hoover defense. Junior Maurice Smitherman could be a guy the Tigers use to spark a big play. The junior has only carried the ball seven times this season, but found the endzone on a 75-yard touchdown. Through the air, Minor’s Cartderius Woods has hauled in 16 receptions for 318 yards and five touchdowns this season.