A fantastic final four is set in Class AAAA, featuring three perennial powers and an upstart coming off a dramatic fourth-quarter upset.
Buford, the state’s most dominant program, is looking to win its fourth straight state championship. Coach Jess Simpson is 140-9 in his 10 seasons at Buford, with seven state championships. The Wolves had a 42-game winning streak snapped by Class AAAAAA power McEachern in Week 4, but haven’t been tested since. They outscored their three playoff opponents 126-7.
The Wolves will host talented Woodward Academy on Friday. The War Eagles are in the state semifinals for the second straight year, since moving up to Class AAAA in 2014. They appear to be peaking at the right time.
Star running back Elijah Holyfield is coming off his best performance of the season. The Georgia commit rushed for 249 yards and four touchdowns in Woodward Academy’s 42-14 win over Marist on Friday. Holyfield has fueled a War Eagles’ attack that has put 40-plus the past four games.
Buford hammered Woodward Academy 40-7 in the 2013 Class AAA playoffs. Friday’s game is expected to be much closer.
No. 1 Cartersville hosts underdog Bainbridge in the other Class AAAA semifinal. The undefeated Purple Hurricanes boast the top sophomore quarterback prospect in the nation in Trevor Lawrence, who completed 24 of 36 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns in a convincing win over Jonesboro on Friday. Lawrence, ranked the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the nation by multiple services, has completed 65.9 percent of his pass attempts for 2,986 yards with 35 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
The Purple Hurricanes are back in the state semifinals for the third time in four seasons. While Cartersville is used to playing in December, Bainbridge is not. The Bearcats are back in the semifinals for the first time since 1993. They advanced to the semifinals in dramatic fashion. Bearcats running back Dameon Pierce scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in a comeback win over St. Pius, including a 39-yard burst that turned out to be the difference.
The winners of the two semifinals will meet at 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12 in the Georgia Dome.