AA blog: GAC, Benedictine meet again

Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?

Sorry. I hate to go Russell Crowe/Gladiator right off the top, but wow. GAC-Fitzgerald, am I right?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s what we’ve got after tonight’s games:

  • The Rematch
  • Class AA State Championship Game
  • Greater Atlanta Christian vs. Benedictine
  • 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13
  • At the Georgia Dome

I’ll be there with bells on and ringing. It should be a great one, but we’ll be diving deep into that one later. Let’s recap what happened tonight right now.

No. 1 GAC 44, No. 5 Fitzgerald 41

I don’t know what else you could ask for in a high school football game, and I don’t even know how to begin to encapsulate it into a couple hundred words.

The headline here is that the Spartans won it on a 21-yard field goal from Will Kenworthy as time expired. That alone in a state semifinal is enough to qualify a game as memorable.

But that only begins to tell the story. The Cliff’s Notes version is that Fitzgerald led by 14 at one point in the second half, and GAC likewise in the second half, but neither team could hold the other one down.

After GAC went up 41-27 with 4:55 remaining, Fitzgerald took about 90 seconds to score on a 32-yard pass from Gerald Morgan to Ryan Fletcher. GAC recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the Purple Hurricane defense held, setting up Morgan for another long TD pass – this one covering 58 yards to Trey Graham – on Fitzgerald’s next play from scrimmage.

Taking over possession with 1:41 on the clock, GAC moved swiftly down the field – aided, notably, by 45 yards in penalties – to help set up Kenworthy’s kick. You hate to see a game as good as this one was influenced by these kinds of untimely penalties, but when there’s a flag to be thrown, the ref’s gotta throw it.

All told, it was the kind of football game that won’t soon be forgotten. The talent was immense and evenly matched, and the biggest stars on both sides lived up to their billing.

Fitzgerald matched their staggering season average of 375 rushing yards, but the Spartans did them 26 yards better, going for 401 on 40 carries.

Purple Hurricanes quarterback Gerald Morgan ran for 145 yards and a score on 24 carries, while completing 6 of 9 passes for 140 yards, including those two touchdowns in the game’s final five minutes. As much as it’s a shame that somebody always has be on the losing end of this kind of game, it’s equally regretful that this is the last of Morgan we’ll get to see under the Friday night lights. He’ll finish the season, his only one as a quarterback, with right around 2,300 rushing yards, 1,400 passing yards, and 44 combined touchdowns.

Not to be outshone were the stars of GAC. Tennessee commit Micah Abernathy is now up to about 450 rushing yards and five TDs on 40 carries in the last two weeks after running for more than 250 on 20 carries against the Purple Hurricanes, and recent UGA commit Darius Slayton added 97 rushing yards on just four carries.

And now, 500 words in, I still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of all that could be discussed with this game.

Nevertheless, onward we go.

Benedictine 49, Brooks County 7

Watching from afar, I’ve been struck week after week by the feeling that Benedictine is playing like a team on a mission ever since falling to Region 2 rival Vidalia back in mid-October. The Cadets have been good all season, very good, in fact.  But it feels like they’ve elevated every aspect of their team since then.

I’m going to try not to get too bogged down in stats here, but this is worth noting: During their current seven-game winning streak, the Cadets are averaging more than 50 points per game while giving up less than 10. When you figure in that four of those games have come in the playoffs, those already impressive numbers take on even more meaning.

Then throw in this fact: In a game in which they scored seven touchdowns, the Cadets didn’t need a single catch from Brad Stewart, he of 1,200 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns and Division-I scholarship offers.

In fact, Benedictine, which features 3,000-yard passer Stevie Powers at quarterback, passed only nine times while the running game – as has been the trend for the Cadets in recent weeks – supplied most of the offense. Senior Chance Jackson ran 13 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore John Kennedy carried 11 times for 88 yards and two scores.

So we’re left with what many of us expected, even if we didn’t get there quite the way we might have imagined: GAC and Benedictine meeting again.  The Cadets are seeking vengeance for the 24-21 loss they sustained to the Spartans back in August, while the Spartans are trying to go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in AA and bring home the program’s first state championship.

Entertained? Yeah, you could say that.


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