AA blog: Four teams seeking a breakthrough

One way or another, somebody’s breaking a title drought this year in Class AA. Of the semifinalists, Brooks County is the most recent champ, with the only state title in program history coming 20 years ago. Fitzgerald’s only title came in 1948, which might be surprising considering how often the Purple Hurricanes play deep into the postseason.

Benedictine and GAC, the favorites Friday night, according to the Maxwell Ratings, have never won a state championship.

Let’s take a deeper look at this week’s games …

Benedictine at Brooks County

Winner plays

GAC/Fitzgerald

Record, seeds

Benedictine (11-2, No. 2 Region 2-AA)

Brooks County (10-3, No. 2 Region 1-AA)

Record vs. 2014 playoff teams

Benedictine(6-2)

Brooks County (5-3)

Playoff history

Benedictine

– Fourth straight year in postseason

– Second straight year in semifinals

– No state championships

Brooks County

– Seventh straight year in postseason

– Second straight year in semifinals

– One state championship: 1994, Class A

Series history

First meeting

Stats

Benedictine

– 44.2 ppg (36.0 in playoffs)

– 11.8 papg (3.2 in playoffs)

– 230 rushing ypg

– 217 passing ypg

Brooks County

– 30.8 ppg (26.7 in playoffs)

– 21.5 papg (21.7 in playoffs)

Notable

Benedictine

Since losing to Vidalia in mid-October, the Cadets have been on a tear. That didn’t change last week, as Benedictine breezed by No. 3 Lovett, 31-10. The Cadets’ offensive exploits are well-documented: with a passing game fronted by Stevie Powers and Division-I prospect Brad Stewart at receiver, and the combination of John Kennedy and Chance Jackson out of the backfield, Benedictine has one of the state’s most explosive and well-balanced attacks. The defense gets less attention, but has been no less impressive. The Cadets average five tackles for loss and 2.5 turnovers per game, led by Stewart’s five interceptions. The linebacker trio of Jack Muller, Tru’self Cooper and Zach Scott has combined for more than 30 tackles per game. Only Vidalia and GAC have broken 20 points against Benedictine this season.

Brooks County

The Trojans survived a four-quarter battle to emerge with a 35-34 win over Heard County last week. That’s nothing new for Brooks County, however. Each of the Trojans’ playoff wins have come by a touchdown or less. The connection of quarterback Demontay Jones and wide receiver Exavius Medlock gives Brooks County a formidable passing game; last week, Jones threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns, with Medlock accounting for 121 yards and two scores on six catches. The Trojans are trying to make it back to their first state title game since their championship-winning run in 1994 – that, by the way, was the first year of coach Maurice Freeman’s first tenure at Brooks County. After winning 37 games in four seasons with the Trojans, he left for stints at Southwest-Macon and Brunswick before returning to Brooks County in 2008. Since then, the Trojans are averaging 10 wins per season and have won at least one playoff game every year.

Greater Atlanta Christian at Fitzgerald

Winner plays

Benedictine/Brooks County

Record, seeds

GAC (13-0, No. 1 Region 6-AA)

Fitzgerald (12-1, No. 1 Region 1-AA)

Record vs. 2014 playoff teams

GAC (9-0)

Fitzgerald (9-1)

Playoff history

GAC

– Third straight year in postseason

– Last semifinals appearance: 2012

– Last state finals appearance: 2002

– No state championships

Fitzgerald

-15th straight year in postseason

– Last trip to semifinals: 2009

– Last state finals appearance: 2000, Class AAA

– One state championship: 1948, Class A

Series history

First meeting

Stats

GAC

– 36.8 ppg (41.0 in playoffs)

– 11.1 papg (18.3 in playoffs)

Fitzgerald

– 42.8 ppg (50.0 in playoffs)

– 20.5 papg (21.0 in playoffs)

– 374 rushing ypg

– 96 passing ypg

Notable

GAC

The Spartans’ 34-22 takedown of second-ranked Vidalia last week was both quick and methodical. GAC scored 14 of their 21 first-quarter points on Vidalia turnovers deep in their own territory. From there, the Spartans slowly put the game away, leading by as much as 34-6 early in the fourth quarter. Micah Abernathy was the breakout performer, rushing for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries, and flashing the kind of speed that makes it clear why he’s a high-caliber college prospect. The GAC defense, which features Division-I talent at linebacker (Paul Carothers and Tyler Cooksey) and in the defensive backfield (Abernathy and Darius Slayton), will get one of its toughest tests yet this week. The Spartans, who have been ranked No. 1 since the preseason, and already defeated two of the most prolific scoring offenses in the state in Benedictine (Week 1) and Vidalia, but lately, no team is running with as much success as Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald

The ascension of Gerald Morgan from a safety-taking-snaps to a full-fledged weapon as the Purple Hurricanes QB has been one of the biggest stories in Class AA this year. Despite having never played the position previously at the varsity level, Morgan has run for 2,125 yards this season while passing for 1,246. Combined, he’s accounted for 41 total touchdowns. Sophomore running back JD King prevents teams from focusing solely on Morgan and has run for 1,425 yards and 15 touchdowns. Senior receiver Trey Graham is the primary target when the Purple Hurricanes take to the air, with 815 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Senior linebacker Michael Jackson leads the team in tackles with 85; defensive back Daniel Rivera has a team-high three interceptions and has scored defensive touchdowns on an interception return and a fumble return, both covering 100 yards.


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