Here we go.
The playoffs begin Friday, and there are at least three area teams with a legitimate shot to win it all -- and a few other sleepers who might just surprise the field and end up with a state title.
Let's start with the public schools.
Lee County (7-3) drew a tough draw in the opening round and must travel to play state-ranked Griffin (9-1) in the opening round of the Class AAAA playoffs. The Trojans have lost two of their last three and need to find a way to rebound from being upset in the season finale against Warner Robins.
Americus-Sumter (6-4) will be at home in the playoffs for only the second time since the schools consolidated in Sumter County, and the Panthers will have their hands full against a third-seeded Washington County (7-2-1) team that went to the second round last year and lost only one game to a Class AAA team this season. The Panthers are pretty beat up after losing to Cairo, 42-7, and hope to have QB Malik Thomas (headaches) and Thomas Haugabook (ankle), who plays safety and quarterback, ready for the playoffs.
Worth (6-4) nailed down the No. 3 seed in Region 1-AAA and travels to face second-seeded Thomson (8-2). The Rams won the third seed by beating Crisp County in the season finale and enter the playoffs with some momentum.
Mitchell County has had its eyes on a state title since the minute the Eagles dropped down from Class AA to Class A this season and went 9-1, losing only to AA state power Thomasville this season. They will be at home, but the Region 1-A champs snared a tough draw in the opening round and face Savannah Christian (9-1), which has been ranked in the state's Top 10 poll all year. Savannah Christian lost only to Calvary Day, 6-0, but landed in the fourth seed in the two-zoned Region 3-A standings. Johnson County was the top seed, Calvary Day was No. 2 and Emanuel County Institute was third, so Mitchell has to open against one of the top teams in Georgia.
Emanuel County Institute (8-2) will travel to Seminole County (7-3) to face the second-seeded Indians, who may be as good as anyone in their half of the state bracket. Seminole has bounced back from a forfeit to Mitchell and a season filled with adversity, and saw Chris Brown, who gained more than 1,400 yards last year, finally play in a game last week. Brown, who missed the first nine games with a dislocated hip, gained 188 yards, rushed for a TD and caught a 66-yard TD pass in a 47-19 win against Randolph-Clay. The Indians are looking to make a run.
Miller County (7-3) is the No. 3 seed from Region 1-A and hits the road against No. 2 seed Calvary Day (8-2) in a game that could go down to the wire. Terrell County (5-5) is the No. 4 seed from Region 1-A and travels to face unbeaten Johnson County (10-0), which emerged as the top team from Region 3-A.
Deerfield Windsor and Westwood both enter the playoffs with perfect 10-0 records, and Terrell Academy enters as the two-time defending state champ, so the GISA playoffs should not only be full of drama, but could end with some state titles for local teams
Is there a better GISA team than Deerfield, which is looking for its third straight trip to the state final? If the Knights (10-0) get there, they'll be at home. The road to the state AAA title runs right through Albany. DWS may be more balanced than any of its teams in the past, and coach Allen Lowe not only plays a lot of kids -- but it seems just about everyone has stepped up this season.
The Knights, who have been ranked No. 1 in the state all year, will be at home to face fourth-seeded Griffin Christian (6-4) in the opening round. Deerfield has won a couple of state titles (2002, 2008), but no Deerfield team has ever had an undefeated state championship season. Stay tuned ...
Sherwood Christian (6-4) landed the No. 4 seed in Region 2-AAA, behind DWS and Westfield, which were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state for most of the year. The Eagles hope to be at full strength because they have to travel to Macon to face Tattnall Square (8-1).
Southwest Georgia Academy is at home after going unbeaten in the Region 3-AA race. The Warriors (8-1) have won nine in a row since losing in the final seconds to unbeaten Westwood in the season opener. SGA meets fourth-seeded Robert Tooms Christian Academy (6-4).
Speaking of Westwood. The Wildcats had a bye week to rest after a season of perfection and enter the playoffs with momentum after beating Terrell Academy two weeks ago to win the Region 2-A title. The Westwood Wonders have done it all this year, from dramatic heart-stopping victories against bigger schools to dominating performances down the stretch. They've been ranked No. 1 in the state, and now they want to make it official with one last run. It starts at home against fourth-seeded David Emanuel (4-6).
Terrell Academy (5-4-1) has won the last two Class A state titles, and meets Thomas Jefferson (6-4-1) -- the team the Eagles beat in the state final last year -- in the opening round of the playoffs. TAE will be at home, thanks to the victory against Randolph Southern last week.
Randolph Southern (5-5) is the third seed from Region 2-A and travels to face Briarwood Academy (6-3), the No. 3 seed from Region 1-A.
GREENWAVE BACK IN THE POSTSEASON:
It wasn't going to take Terrell County head coach William Huff long to start dissecting Johnson County, which hosts the Greenwave in the first round of the state playoffs. How soon would they start talking game plans for the GHSA Class A No. 5 Trojans?
"On the way home," Huff said after packing up following Friday's 17-15 loss to Mitchell County. "We'll have a plan for the kids on Monday."
It's been discussed before, but it's been a long time since Terrell County, a No. 4 seed, has won a playoff game. Actually, the school hasn't won a playoff game under the GHSA's current format and the last time it played more than 11 games in a season was 1982 when there was a region playoff system, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.
Terrell will have its hands full Friday at Johnson County dealing with the Trojans' 5-foot-8 sparkplug quarterback D.J. Rozier and wideout Zach Walker. Johnson County is 10-0 this season.
EAGLES WILL BE TESTED EARLY:
Mitchell County has seen power rushing teams all year, so they'll be prepared in the first round of the GHSA Class A state playoffs Friday when Savannah Christian's wishbone style offense comes to Camilla. The Raiders may be the best No. 4 seed in the state with a 9-1 record after falling in the state championship a year ago.
"We've seen quite a bit (of power rushing teams)," Eagles head coach Dondrial Pinkins said. "I hear they run the ball real well."
None of these 12 Mitchell County seniors -- nicknamed the "Dirty Dozen" -- have ever sniffed the playoffs with the last Eagles' postseason appearance coming in 2003. Quarterback Cedric Spooner, for one, is ready.
"We're going to come in (today) and get going," Spooner said of preparing for the first-round game. "It's either win or go home."
Spooner was clobbered by Terrell County defensive lineman Tim Dennard in Friday's 17-15 Eagles win, but somehow got a pass off right before the hit and connected with Jesse Atkins on a 43-yard catch and run. Spooner left the game momentarily with a minor ankle injury but returned later and said he will be fine for Friday's playoff opener.
Eagles senior nose guard Anthony Brown also had a big night disrupting Terrell County's run game and will need to play big again next week against another strong rushing opponent.
DEERFIELD WANTING MOORE: I
t killed do-it-all Deerfield star Davis Moore to sit out his team's 40-7 victory against Southland on Friday because of a hip pointer injury.
Not just because the game capped a perfect regular season for the Knights, but because Moore actually attended Southland before he started attending DWS.
"I definitely wanted to get a few touchdowns on them and it's a big rivalry too," said Moore, who attended Southland through eighth grade. "It was kind of difficult (not to play), but I was ordered to play it safe. I wanted to play."
It was a tough decision for head coach Allen Lowe, but the right one as running back Quentin Heard picked up the slack by rushing for 169 yards on 18 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
"Davis, without him, it's hard. Everybody has to step up," Heard said. "But a team is a team and we gotta do what we can with what we got and play hard."
Quarterback Banks Kinslow -- who passed for 103 yards and a score -- agreed, saying it was important for Moore to get some rest before the Knights play host to No. 4-seed Griffin Christian in their playoff opener.
"Davis is a big player for us - he runs the ball hard and is big in our secondary -- but we had guys step up to the plate and do a good job," Kinslow said. "It'll be good to have him back next week."
That's the plan, as Moore is confident about both playing and his team's chances in the playoffs.
"I should be up to 100 percent by next week," Moore said. "So I think we have a good chance to win it all."
Herald staff writers Mike Phillips, Matt Stewart and Daniel Kay contributed to this report