Despite all the upsets in the first three rounds of the Class AAAAA playoffs, when one ranked team after another was eliminated, the four semifinalists are not all that shocking, even though most of them have never gone this far in the postseason.
Three of the remaining teams – Allatoona, Northside-Warner Robins and Stockbridge – are region champions that have a combined record of 36-3. The other, Mays, is 11-2 and finished tied for first place in its subregion of rugged 6-AAAAA but was relegated to a No. 3 seed because of the region’s tiebreakers. However, only Northside has ever reached the semifinals.
Mays had the most dramatic victory in the quarterfinals. Raiders quarterback Asahnia Aderhold threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Julius Whitehead as time expired to beat Jones County 44-41 at Lakewood Stadium. Mays kept its winning drive alive by converting a fourth-and-22 at its own 33 with a minute play. Mays tied the school record for victories in a season.
Here are some of the other story lines from the Class AAAAA quarterfinals:
– Fourth-ranked Allatoona advanced past 2012 state champion Gainesville by doing what it does best – running the football. Despite trailing 17-7 in the second quarter, the Buccaneers kept grinding away and rallied for a 24-17 victory. Russell Halimon, the leading rusher in Class AAAAA coming into the game with 2,116 yards, ran 27 times for 101 yards and a touchdown. Josh Bettistea, who ran for 1,936 yards last season, finished with 20 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 15-yard run with 3:14 to play. Allatoona broke the school record for victories in a season.
– Stockbridge trailed 20-0 in the first quarter but scored the game’s next 35 points and cruised to a 42-22 victory over Houston County. The key play was a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jajuan Jackson with 41 seconds left in the first half that cut the lead to 20-14. “It was a change in the game,” Houston County coach Von Lassiter told the Macon Telegraph. “We went in stunned and kind of out of sorts.” Malachi Brown passed for 136 yards and three touchdowns, and Artemus Mitchell ran for 154 yards. Stockbridge had never won a state playoff game until 2011.
– No. 8 Northside had the easiest time in the quarterfinals, beating Glynn Academy 31-7. It could have been worse, as Northside turned the ball over three times inside the Glynn Academy 10-yard line and had two touchdowns called back because of penalties, according to the Macon Telegraph. T.J. Anderson ran for two touchdowns, and Willie Jordan and Tobias Oliver had one each. Glynn Academy’s only points came on a 92-yard kickoff return in the first half. Northside won state titles in 2006 and 2007 and reached the semifinals in 2011 and 2012 before losing in the second round last season.
– Semifinal matchups:
Mays (11-2) at Stockbridge (11-2)
Allatoona (13-0) vs. Northside (12-1), site TBD