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Football Friday Night: Player of the year candidates, big match ups and more in final week of regular season

We debate some of the biggest topics in Central Georgia high school football. Lehgo!!!

MACON, Ga. — The high school football regular season is nearing its end. The team at 13WMAZ gathered around the table to discuss the hot topics as the regular season winds to a close and look ahead to this week. Lehgo!!!

As the regular season winds down, what has been the biggest surprise this season?

Frank Malloy: ACE certainly tops the list rolling through their first 9 games with only one loss and that one came against a strong Northeast team. Hats off to the Gryphons.  CFCA and Windsor continue to roll along with a realistic chance to hoist the big trophy again.

Connor Hines: Northeast. We all knew the Raiders were going to have a good squad coming back, but to lose play makers like Travion Solomon and Zion Odoms and get maybe even better the following year -- it’s been really impressive to watch. Sophomore running back Nick Woodford has become Bibb County’s first 2,000-yard rusher in nearly 20 years, and it’s all thanks to a beefy O-line led by West Virginia commit Johnny Williams IV. The Raiders can hurt you in so many ways, and I give them a great shot to make a deep run in the 2A state playoffs this November.

Justin Baxley: ACE. I think we all thought this team would be improved with Keith Hatcher at the helm but did we expect them to improve this much? They may wind up finishing 9-1 with the lone loss being to a really good Northeast team. It could be the start of something special for ACE. Do not be surprised to see them in the playoffs year in and year out. Hatcher and his staff, including Mark Farriba, has brought instant credibility to a program that was struggling just a year ago. 

Which region finale are you most looking forward to this week? 

Frank: Peach Country traveling to rival Jackson to battle for the Region Championship. Always a tough place to play.

Connor: Northside vs. #8 Thomas County Central. Win and you’re in -- it’s that simple. The Eagles know that they’re just a handful of plays away from being undefeated in 2022. After losing two of their first three including a sixth straight loss to rival Warner Robins, Chad Alligood’s team is heating up when it matters most, and there’s no better time than week 12 to show it. With a win Friday, Northside locks in its first region title since 2014 -- easier said than done with the #8 ranked Yellow Jackets coming to the MAC.

Justin: Had to be redundant but I have been on the Northside train since head coach Chad Alligood was hired. I would really like to see him grab a region title and continue to prove anyone who doubted that hire wrong. He has really turned this program around over the last couple of years and a region title would be some additional validation. It would also be a solid boost heading into the playoffs.

Which team needs a win most this week? 

Frank: A Northside win over unbeaten Thomas County Central would provide a huge boost for the Eagles heading into the playoffs and John Milledge can tie the State Record for consecutive wins if they can beat Tattnall Friday night. JMA is currently riding a 46 game win streak,

Connor: Hard to pick just one, but the Dublin Fighting Irish can lock up their own region title with a win over Swainsboro on Friday night at the Shamrock Bowl. Since upsetting Bleckley County in the region opener on October 7, the Irish have been unstoppable, outscoring their last two opponents by a combined score of 121-0. The Tigers have yet to lose in 2022, but they run into a red-hot Dublin team in week 12.

Justin: The stat junkie in me really wants to see John Milledge tie the state record for consecutive wins. So lets roll with them.

How is the player of the year race shaping up?

Frank: Nick Wofford at Northeast has put up video-game numbers and his powerful running style should work well in the playoffs. Johnson County running back Germivy Tucker is on the verge of breaking Herschel Walker’s school rushing record and Perry quarterback Armar Gordon Jr. has guided the powerful Perry offense with his passing and running ability.

Connor: We’ve got a lot of great candidates out there, and the next few weeks should be telling, but Nick Woodford immediately stands out. If the Northeast Raiders make a run in the 2A state playoffs, he’ll be the reason why, as the first running back in Bibb County to surpass 2,000 rushing yards since 2003.

Justin: Nick Woodford might be my clear cut pick for the player of the year but there is a ton of great talent to go around. Woodford has just been so dominant for Northeast this season. Coach Jeremy Wiggins has built something special over at Northeast but he also has the single-biggest weapon perhaps in all of 2A with Woodford. 

Looking back at our preseason roundtable, which prediction did you get right on the money or maybe were way off the mark on? 

Our preseason FFN Roundtable: A look at the season ahead with bold predictions and our player of the year picks

Frank: I picked Perry to get to the state finals and I still like the Panther’s chances. They are very balanced offensively with enough star power to help them win close games in the playoffs. And I’m all but certain my prediction of JMA putting another championship trophy in the case will come to fruition.

Connor: Looks like the Perry pick is holding up! Heading into week 12 I still give the Panthers the best shot at bringing home some hardware -- take out a season-opening loss that shouldn’t have been against Houston County, it’s a pretty spotless resume for Perry. Bring on the big boys.

Justin: Houston County was absolutely my best pick of the preseason but I missed the mark a tad on just how good Warner Robins would be this year. They’ve bounced back in recent weeks but may be more of a dark horse than a favorite this go round. Houston County on the other hand has already exceeded expectations with signature wins over Warner Robins, Perry and Northside. If you had told me at the start of the season they got wins over all three I wouldn’t have expected it and I predicted they would defy expectations. 


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