Welp, the quarterfinals are in the books so let’s cut right to the chase: there will be a new AA champion by the end of this year’s playoffs, as top-ranked defending champs Benedictine lost at home to the No. 2 Hapeville Charter Hornets by a score of 31-17.
The Hornets (12-1) are in the semifinals for the first time in program history. Because of the GHSA’s universal coin toss, they’ll have to travel to Heard County to play the No. 8 Braves (12-1), who beat No. 4 Thomasville 28-14 on the road.
The Cadets (12-1) see their 27-game win streak snapped after being ranked No. 1 all season. They were held to their lowest points total since 2013, when Lamar County beat them 10-7 in the AA semifinals.
The Hornets never gave Benedictine a chance. They jumped to a 21-0 lead and didn’t looked back. It was a punch to the mouth the Cadets haven’t felt since their last loss, when Fitzgerald stunned them in the quarterfinals with a 54-28 win in Savannah. No defense is more locked in than the Hornets in AA, and with the exception of Rome, maybe none in the state — regardless of classification.
Hapeville Charter quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams accounted for all four touchdowns, rushing for one and throwing for three, according to Dennis Knight’s game story for the Savannah Morning News.
As for the Braves, they put a stamp on Thomasville’s season and, in the process, reached the semifinals for the first time in program history. They were led by one of the best players in AA, Ohio State commit Emory Jones, who accounted for three touchdowns and recorded the game-clinching interception on defense.
The Bulldogs (12-1) — led by second-year coach Zach Grage — were aiming to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1993 and enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history, setting numerous individual and team records along the way.
In Sylvania, the No. 5 Rabun County Wildcats (13-0) bulldozed through No. 3 Screven County for a 56-14 win. The Wildcats scored above their 48.5 point average against a Gamecocks defense that came in allowing just 7.27 points a game. Like the Braves and Hornets, they’re in the semifinals for the first time in school history.
Bailey Fisher threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 149 yards and three more scores in a dominant performance, according to accessWDUN.
The Gamecocks (11-1) either came out flat, were unprepared for the Wildcats’ up-tempo, spread offense or a combination of both. Before Friday, the Gamecocks hadn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game. They finish as quarterfinalists for the second year in a row.
The Wildcats now host a No. 6 Brooks County Trojans team that earned one of two quarterfinals shutouts across the state. They smothered the No. 9 Callaway Cavaliers 31-0 and are now 11-1 and in the semifinals for the third time in five years. The other shutout was Cedar Grove’s 28-0 win over Pike County in AAA.
The Cavs (11-2) were looking to reach the semifinals for the second consecutive season but instead were shutout for the first time since 2012, when Washington County knocked them out of the second round of the AAA playoffs by beating them 28-0.
For more on Brooks County’s win, read Glendon Poe’s game story for The Valdosta Daily Times.
Check back on Tuesday when I compare my predictions made before the tournament started to how they look now. (Spoiler alert: my bracket is irreparably busted.)
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