Hammond (10-1) vs. Heathwood Hall (3-7)
Site: Edens Stadium.
Game notes: Hammond begins its quest for a seventh straight SCISA Class 3A championship this week against neighboring rival Heathwood Hall. Quarterback Jake Nidiffer returned to action after sitting out almost two full games with a concussion and was a bit rusty in his return last week against the Highlanders – connecting on six of 17 passes for 137 yards. Two of the throws, however, went for touchdowns. The Skyhawk ground game more than took up the attack slack with Quayshon Myers darting for 206 yards and two TDs on 28 carries. The Hammond defense limited the Highlanders to 81 yards rushing, 220 overall. Logan Smith and William Love led the hit parade with 10 tackles apiece. Smith also had two sacks. Wells Mealing and Patrick McLean contributed interceptions to the cause. To date, Nidiffer is 110-for-185 passing for 1,950 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Myers has been sensational in his first full season as an offensive player, ringing up a school single-season record 1,824 yards on 212 totes to go along with 19 receptions for 407 yards and 26 total touchdowns. Braden Shockley (34-810-10), Doak Fisher (26-475-5) and Cannon Smith (29-393-3) are viable receiving options. Love leads the defense with 106 tackles, five tackles for loss, nine passes broken-up and one interception. Ron Brown (78 tackles, 3 interceptions), Beau Acuff (63 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 sacks), Shockley (56 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Smith (54 tackles, 2 interceptions) are among the other stalwarts Heathwood Hall will need a better performance on both sides of the ball to pull off a major upset. QB Will Detwiller is 91-for-189 passing for 1,316 yards and 13 TDs. He has also run for 275 yards and seven scores. The running game falls to Joe Thompson (111-570-1), Shelton Blue (60-363-0) and Brandon Hill (58-287-5). Blue (23-328-5) and Nelson Weston (22-294-3) are Detwiller’s favorite receivers.
Series history: Hammond’s 37-22 win last week was the fourth in a row and the eighth in the last nine meetings with the Highlanders, increasing the Skyhawk lead in the series to 20-14. Friday is the fourth time the rivals have met in the SCISA playoffs. The last postseason encounter saw Hammond prevail 50-20 in the 2009 championship game.
Augusta Christian (10-0) vs. Cardinal Newman (4-7)
Site: AC Stadium.
Game notes: Cardinal Newman has a tough opener against the unbeaten, top-seeded Lions in its first SCISA playoff game since 2005. AC won the regular season meeting 55-15 back in the third week of the season. CN enters postseason play mired in a three-game losing streak, including a 39-28 setback against Ben Lippen in the regular season finale. Not matter how the campaign end, CN made big strides in 2012 under first-year coach Brannon Tidwell, especially on offense. Kody Watson, for instance was 150-for-272 passing for 2,119 yards and 12 touchdowns. Zakki Parker has been the go-to guy in the running game with 1,034 yards and 12 scores on 159 carriers. Jacob August (51-663-5), Austin Ajukwa (37-754-6) and Evan Dubose (38-455-1) have been productive receivers. Garrett McNerney (111 tackles) and Cole Bacon (110 tackles) are the defensive leaders Augusta Christian poses a difficult challenge for any defense. The Lions are productive by land and through the air. QB Tyler Roberson is 90-for-148 passing for 1,601 yards and 15 TDs with just two interceptions. He also has piled up 728 yards rushing and scored 15 touchdowns himself. Fleet Thomas Banks (115-947-10) and powerful Sean Sweeting (51-289-5) are equally effective. Nick Fortenberry (39-830-8) is Roberson’s favorite receiver.
Series history: Augusta Christian is 9-0 against the Cardinals. This is the first postseason meeting of the teams.