Georgia High School Football Weekly (12/13/17)

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Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy and Calhoun Win State Titles before snow hits Atlanta

The high school football season is not over yet as a freak winter storm hit the Atlanta area last weekend with snow which forced the cancellations of six state championship games which were scheduled to be played inside of the Mercedes Benz Stadium.  Although the games were indoor, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) postponed the games out of concern for players, coaches, students, parents and fans traveling to the game.  Only two games were played before the postponements were announced.  The postponed games reverted us back to the past when state championship games were played at the location of one of the participating schools.

Here’s a look at the games that were played:

Class 1A (Private):  Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy 41, Athens Academy 3

I don’t think anyone was surprised by this result as ELCA continued their domination of the 2017 season.  The Chargers jumped out to a 27-0 lead at halftime and held Athens Academy without a first down and just 22 yards.  ELCA’s average margin of victory in its four playoff games broke the previous record held by Warner Robins in 1976.  The Chargers won their 36th straight game and third straight state title.

Class 3A:  Calhoun 10, Peach County 6

In one of the most controversial games in recent memory, Calhoun’s only touchdown came when Brannon Spector intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first half.  The controversy occurred late in the fourth quarter when Peach County QB Antonio Gilbert connected with Noah Whittington on a 21-yard pass.  Whittington caught the pass and stretched for the goal line.  The ball popped loose when the ball came down on the goal line which was ruled incomplete.  This week Peach County had issued a statement that they would appeal.  Don’t expect anything to happen.  Appeals like this are rarely granted.  In spite of the controversy, the low scoring game was not expected.  Calhoun won its third state title in seven seasons.

Here are the games to be played this week:

Class 7A:  Colquitt County at North Gwinnett

  • Coaches:  Rush Propst (Colquitt County) 281-94, Bill Stewart (North Gwinnett) 54-27
  • Key Players:
    • Colquitt County:  QB Steven Krajewski has completed 184 of 282 passes for 2,211 yards and 22 touchdowns
    • North Gwinnett:  QB Jimmy Urzua is 12-0 as a starter since Cade Fortin went down with an injury early in the season.
  • Championship Game Records:
    • Colquitt County (3-2)
    • North Gwinnett (0-2)
  • OUTLOOK:  Colquitt County has no fear to play on the road.  They have won their last four on the road in the playoffs after losing their last two games of the regular season.  North Gwinnett has rolled along quietly after losing their opener against Walton.  They took down Grayson in the second round.  My prediction is:  Colquitt County 33, North Gwinnett 21

Class 6A:  Coffee at Lee County

  • Coaches:  Robby Pruitt (Coffee) 340-78-1, Dean Fabrizio (Lee County) 65-35
  • Key Players:
    • Coffee:  RB Jameon Gaskin has rushed for 1,242 yards and 17 TDs this season; QB Wade Sumner has passed for 2,106 yards and rushed for 413 yards on the ground.
    • Lee County:  The defense has held 11 opponents to 17 points or less this season; QB Jase Orndorff has passed for 3,099 yards this season
  • Championship game records:  First game for both teams
  • OUTLOOK:  Many are picking this game to be a low-scoring, defensive battle but I do not.  These two teams have some powerful offensive weapons.  It will come down to who has the ball last to win it.  My prediction is:  Coffee 30, Lee County 24

Class 5A:  Rome at Warner Robins

  • Coaches: John Reid (Rome) 152-50, Mike Chastain (17-8)
  • Key Players:
    • Rome:  DE Adam Anderson, DT Quon Griffin and DE Jamarcus Chatman are all college talent;  QB Knox Kadum has passed for 1,956 yards and 22 touchdowns.
    • Warner Robins:  QB Dylan Fromm is 277 of 443 passing for 3,437 yards and 35 touchdowns; WR Julius Cobbs has 1,123 yards in receiving and 12 touchdowns;  RB Jarius Burnett has 1,248 yards rushing
  • Championship game records:
    • Rome (1-0)
    • Warner Robins (4-1)
    • Last state championship game at home:  Warner Robins 33, Brookwood 7 (1988)
  • OUTLOOK:  Rome has not played a close game all season since winning their opener against Harrison (33-21).  The Wolves have rolled over their playoff opponents.  Warner Robins has a very potent passing attack and explosive running back in Jarius Burnett.  Rome has three Division I college prospects on the defensive line.  My prediction:  Rome 38, Warner Robins 14.  (Not the way I WANT it to go and I’m still glad they play the game.  Anything can happen.)

Class 4A:  Blessed Trinity at Marist

  • Coaches: Tim McFarlin (Blesssed Trinity) 155-53-2, Alan Chadwick (Marist) 364-67
  • Key Players:
    • Marist:  QB Chase Abner has passed for 1.577 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He has also rushed for 959 yards and 16 touchdowns.
    • Blessed Trinity:  QB Jake Smith has passed for 2,020 yards; RB Steele Chambers has 1,250 yards rushing; RB Elijah Green has 1,231 yards;  WR Ryan Davis has 1,213 yards.
  • Championship game records:
    • Marist (2-8)
    • Last state championship game at home:  Marist 21, Statesboro 6 (2003)
    • Blessed Trinity (0-1)
  • OUTLOOK:  Blessed Trinity has rolled through the playoffs.  The Titans shocked Cartersville in the second round.  They have a powerful offense that can score.  Marist has rolled through the season undefeated.  Marist always seems to be around at the end of the season but often has trouble winning the big game.  My prediction:  Blessed Trinity 21, Marist 17

Class 2A:  Hapeville Charter at Rabun County

  • Coaches: Winston Gordon (Hapeville Charter) 37-34-1, Lee Shaw (Rabun County) 152-91
  • Key Players:
    • Rabun County:  QB Bailey Fisher has passed for 3,145 yards and rushed for 1,175  with 67 touchdowns.
    • Hapeville Charter:  DE Kingsley Enagbare, CB Chris Smith, DL Caleb Kelley and LB Zyon Bagley lead a strong defense.
  • Championship game records:  First game for both teams
  • OUTLOOK:  Hapeville Charter is only in their seventh season back.  The Hornets’ defense has been difficult for their opponents.  They have only given up 21 point or more three times this season.  Rabun County has been piling up the points scoring 35 or more 12 times this season.  My prediction:  Rabun County 33, Hapeville Charter 14

Class 1A (Public):  Clinch County at Irwin County

  • Coaches: Jim Dickerson (Clinch County) 138-43-1, Buddy Nobles (Irwin County) 41-11-2
  • Key Players:
    • Irwin County:  RB D.J. Lundy has rushed for 1,170 yards and 22 touchdowns
    • Clinch County:  Charles McClelland and Trezmen Marshall lead the Panthers’ offense.
  • Championship game records:
    • Clinch County (6-2)
    • Irwin County (1-5)
  • OUTLOOK:  Irwin County is looking to finally winning it all after making the state final in three of the last four years.   Clinch County has a capable offense but will have to eliminate penalties and turnovers that have plagued them in their losses this season.  This should be a tough, defensive battle.  My prediction:  Irwin County 21, Clinch County 14

NOTES FROM THIS WEEK:

  • This is the first time since 2007 that championship games will not be held at neutral sites.
    • Lowndes 34, North Gwinnett 6 (at Lowndes)
    • Northside Warner Robins 20, Ware County 14 (at Waycross)
    • Carver-Columbus 16, Cairo 13 (at Cairo)
    • Buford 50, Lovett 0 (at Buford)
    • Emanuel County Institute 41, Wilcox County 21 (at Cordele)
  • North Gwinnett, Lee County, Irwin County and Rabun County have never hosted a state title game.
  • Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy is the first team to have a “three-peat” since Buford did it 2007-2010.  They join the exclusive club along with Valdosta, West Rome, Thomas County Central, Parkview and Charlton County.
  • Three of the state title games are between teams from the same region.  (Coffee-Lee County, Blessed Trinity-Marist, Clinch County-Irwin County.)
  • Warner Robins and Rabun County won coin flips to host the title games.
  • Wright Bazemore (Valdosta) won 14 state titles as head coach.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK:

Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy 41, Athens Academy 3.  The Chargers are no stranger to this category in 2017.  They have blown out 13 of their 14 opponents this season.  The closest game they played was a 21-14 win over Eagle’s Landing in the first game of the season.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy WR Sean Queen had three catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns – both in the third quarter – in the Chargers’ win over Athens Academy.

TEAM SPOTLIGHT:

Irwin

The Irwin County Indians play in Ocilla, Georgia.  The school has fielded a football teams since 1952.  The team is 423-285-17 over 66 seasons.  They have qualified for the playoffs 32 times.  The Indians played their first game on September 19, 1952 when they lost to Mitchell County 27-0.  They won their first game on October 24, 1952 when they shutout Bacon County 31-0.    Their biggest rivalry is Fitzgerald.  They trail the all-time series 17-44-3.  Joe Compton is their winningest coach with 44 wins from 1983-1988.   Irwin County’s best season was in 1975 when they went 13-0 and won their only state championship over Jefferson.   Their most notable players were DB Jack Smith who played for the Philadelphia Eagles (1971) and DB Walt Sumner who played for the Cleveland Browns (1969-1974).

Georgia High School Football Review: State Champions Crowned

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The last Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state championship games were played in the Georgia Dome over the weekend.  Two teams repeated as state champions (Cartersville and Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy) and two teams (Rome and Cedar Grove) won their first title in school history.

Here is a recap of what happened:

Class 7A – Grayson 23, Roswell 20 (ot)

Roswell led until 1:04 left  when Grayson quarterback Chase Brice connected with Jaquavius Lane for a 35-yard touchdown pass.  They made a two-point conversion to take a 20-13 lead.  Roswell drove down the field and with five seconds left, Malik Willis hit Kentrell Barber on a 20-yard pass and the extra point sent the game into overtime.  On Grayson’s first possession of the overtime, they scored on a 25-yard field goal by Will VanPamelen.  Roswell was unable to answer the Grayson score as they missed on a field goal attempt giving Grayson the first Class 7A title and their second overall.

Class 6A -Valdosta 17, Tucker 7

It was back-to-the-future as the Valdosta Wildcats finally won their first state title since 1998 as the Wildcats built a 17-0 lead at halftime and held on to beat Tucker.  The Wildcats’ defense frustrated Tucker’s comeback attempt.  After Tucker scored with 2:30 left in the third quarter, the Tigers could not get in the end zone the rest of the way.  The win for Valdosta is their 25th title in school history.

Class 5A – Rome 16, Buford 7

In the “battle of wolves” as we heard all game long from the announcers, Rome overcame an early 7-0 deficit just minutes into the game when Buford’s Anthony Grant returned the opening kickoff 95 yards which set up a 1-yard touchdown run by T.D. Roof.  After that score, the Rome defense took over to hold Buford scoreless the rest of the game.  Knox Kadum scored on a 28-yard run in the third quarter to give Rome their first lead in the game.  The win give Rome their first state title in school history.

Class 4A -Cartersville 58, Thomson 7

Carterville’s Trey Creamer scored to first quarter touchdowns along with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence to open the second quarter as the Purple Hurricanes cruised to a convincing win.   Cartersville repeated as state champions and back-to-back 15-0 seasons.

Class 3A – Cedar Grove 30, Greater Atlanta Christian 19

The tone for this game was set early when Greater Atlanta Christian quarterback Davis Mills was taken out from a forearm of a Cedar Grove defender on the first drive of the game.  Surprisingly there was no penalty or ejection for the hit.  Mills never returned.  Cedar Grove took a 23-3 lead before the end of the half but GAC stormed back in the fourth to close the lead to 23-19 on a 32-yard field goal by Sean Henderson.  Cedar Grove delivered the final blow scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jelani Woods to Dennis Bell with 2:16 left for their first state title.

Class 2A – Benedictine 49, Fitzgerald 26

Fitzgerald scored first on a 36-yard touchdown run by J.D. King to take the early lead but Benedictine scored the next 35 points to take a 35-6 lead in the second quarter.  The Purple Hurricanes mounted a comeback in the third quarter as they closed the gap to 35-26, but the Cadets answered with a 7-yard run by Tyleek Collins then the defense closed it out with a 43-yard interception return for a score with 1:36 left.

Class 1A (Public) – Macon County 35, McIntosh County Academy 0

Macon County outgained McIntosh County Academy 346-159 in total yardage and forced four fumbles in the game.  A 21-point fourth quarter put the game away as Macon County quarterback K’Hari Lane had four touchdown passes in the game which broke Huston Mason’s record of 54 touchdown passes in a season.

Class 1A (Private) – Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy 34, Fellowship Christian 24 (ot)

Josh Mays scored on a 1-yard run to give ELCA the lead in overtime.  On fourth down, Fellowship Christian’s Jack Hardin was forced out of the pocket and unable to complete the pass which gave the Chargers their second consecutive state title.  Fellowship Christian had taken the lead when Merrick Haigler scored with 2:08 left but the Chargers drove down the field and set up Alex Usry with a 34-yard field goal with six second left to send the game into overtime.