Here are more anonymous opinions from coaches, giving their thoughts on who will win the private and public state championships, as well as previews of the four semifinal games, courtesy of Georgia High School Football Daily.
Private School Champion: Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy
“I think it will be ELCA. They have the best players overall. They just have more talent. They have good size and speed, and they’re well coached. They don’t have any weaknesses. Against them, you’ve gotta stop the run and force them to throw, because your greatest shot at exposing any weakness they may have is forcing them to throw the ball when they don’t want to. And you have to run the ball to beat them, but they do a great job stopping the run.”
Private School Champion: ELCA
“ELCA. Number one, they’re well coached. Number two, you go over their roster and they have great numbers and then they have better talent than everybody else. When you put those two things together, that’s tough to beat. It’s like [in NASCAR] when you have the best driver and the best car. Against them, you have to decide do you want to do what you do or try to come up with a different approach to try to exploit a weakness you see they have. I think you just have to do what you do because you don’t want to beat yourself by changing things up in a week. They are just a tough matchup across the board. They are better than you or even at every position.”
Public School Champion: Emanuel County Institute
“Their quarterback [senior Rhett Gay] is just phenomenal. He’s very sound and knows the game, and they have built a very good plan around him. Against them, you have to prepare for the run and the pass. He makes them very well balanced. Defensively, they have a bend but don’t make mentality. You can move the ball on them a little bit but once you get inside the 20 it gets really tough. To beat them you have to make them drive the whole field. This season, Class A public is as good as it has ever been.”
Public School Champion: Clinch County
“It’s hard for me to believe that anybody is better than Clinch. Their kids look incredible. They have great size and athleticism. Macon County is good but it’s hard for me to believe that they are better than Clinch. Defensively they really get after people. They’re big up front and their linebackers are big and fast. Your best bet is to lineup with a tight end, go unbalanced and try to run right at them, because God forbid you try to throw on them. They have a defensive end [junior John Mincey], who’s 6-4, 270. He looks like an NFL player already. Good luck trying to block him.”
Class A (Public)
Emanuel County Institute at Macon County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Adams-Maffett Field, Montezuma
Records, rankings: Emanuel County Institute is 11-0, the No. 4 seed and No. 3; Macon County is 10-2, the No. 1 seed and No. 2.
Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.
Things to know: Macon County is in its first semifinal since its Class A championship season of 1996, but the run is not unexpected. The Bulldogs made the quarterfinals in AA last season and dropped down to A. ECI is in the semifinals for the second straight time. Macon County QB K’hari Lane is 177-of-283 passing for 3,429 yards and 50 touchdowns, four short of Hutson Mason’s TD record. But ECI QB Rhett Gay quietly has crafted an amazing season of his own. He’s 113-of-156 for 2,338 yards (15.0 yards per pass) and 32 touchdowns. Both quarterbacks have thrown just one interception. Macon County’s Jared Daniels has rushed for 1,245 yards, while three ECI backs have more than 600 yards rushing. Macon County’s Trey Brown has 21 TD catches. ECI’s David Durden has 14. Macon County averages 46.3 points. ECI averages 50.2.
McIntosh County Academy at Clinch County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Donald Tison Field at Panther Stadium, Homerville
Records, rankings: McIntosh County Academy is 9-2, the No. 6 seed and No. 6; Clinch County is 11-1, the No. 2 seed and No. 1.
Last meeting: Clinch County won 32-7 on Aug. 26.
Things to know: Clinch County is the defending champion. McIntosh County Academy was a perennial playoff team with early exits the past 10 seasons in AA, then dropped to A this season and made its first semifinals since 2000 (also in Class A). Clinch’s team speed and run game are hard to match. Charles McClelland has rushed for 1,447 yards on a team that averages 280.4 rushing yards. Nineteen of 35 completed passes have gone for touchdowns. Commerce was held to 150 yards of total offense last week in Clinch’s 44-0 win. Clinch won the Aug. 26 meeting between these two, but McIntosh County QB Major Robinson played only briefly in that game, and MCA was 4-of-17 passing with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Robinson has thrown for 1,589 yards and is the trigger man to an offense that averages 182.8 yards passing and 133.3 rushing.
Class A (private)
Tattnall Square at Eagle’s Landing Christian
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Commitment Field, McDonough
Records, rankings: Tattnall Square is 12-0, the No. 5 seed and No. 5; Eagle’s Landing Christian is 12-0, the No. 1 seed and No. 1.
Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.
Things to know: Tattnall Square, an 11-time state champion in the Georgia Independent School Association, is in its first semifinal since joining the GHSA in 2014. The run-first Trojans had 378 yards rushing in a 28-14 victory over Calvary Day last week. Ahmad Barron had 167 yards and two touchdowns, a 25-yarder in the third quarter that tied the game 14-14 and an 80-yarder with less than three minutes to play to put the game away. Eagle’s Landing Christian, the defending state champion, won its 20th consecutive game and reached its sixth straight semifinal with a 35-13 victory over Wesleyan last week. Trevor Gear, who ran for 965 yards in the regular season, had 176 of ELCA’s 351 rushing yards. Gear is one of eight Chargers named first-team all-region in 5-A. ELCA has allowed just 80 points this season, 44 of which came in two victories over Wesleyan.
Fellowship Christian at Prince Avenue Christian
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Brad Akins Field, Bogart
Records, rankings: Fellowship Christian is 12-0, the No. 3 seed and No. 3; Prince Avenue Christian is 12-0, the No. 2 seed and No. 2.
Last meeting: Prince Avenue Christian won 42-14 in 2009.
Things to know: Fellowship Christian, which started football in 2004, has set a school record with its 12 victories and is in the semifinals for the first time. The Paladins get 68 percent of their offense from a running game led by Andrew Johnson (162 carries, 1,032 yards, 12 TDs) and Andrew Minkert (144-920-9), but QB Jack Hardin passed for a season-high 227 yards and five TDs in a 45-13 victory over Mount Paran Christian last week. He has 1,510 yards passing and 576 yards rushing for the season. Prince Avenue Christian started football in 2005 and is in the semifinals for the fourth time in six seasons. The Wolverines average 176 yards rushing and 153.4 passing. The offensive leaders are QB Grant Roland (1,822 yards passing), RB Thomas Huff (942 yards rushing) and WR Christian Parrish (740 yards receiving).