Semifinals in review

Marist wide receiver Matthew Houghton (80) catches a tipped pass for a touchdown against St. Pius defender Jacob Pajer (24) and wide receiver Kyle Hamilton (10) in the second half of the semi-final of the Class AAAA state playoffs at Marist School Friday, December 1, 2017, in Atlanta. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Class AAAAAAA

*Colquitt County 31, Brookwood 14: Brookwood led 14-10 after stuffing a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on the final play of the first half, but Colquitt outscored the Broncos 21-0 in the second half to avenge a regular-season loss. Daijon Edwards rushed for 183 yards on 22 carries. Colquitt scored on its opening possession of the second half and took control on Jay Ward’s punt block and J.T. Leggett’s recovery for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead with 7:47 left in the third quarter. Edwards scored on a 75-yard run with 1:36 left for the final margin.

What it means – Colquitt County became the 10th team in history to win four state-playoff games away from home to advance to the state finals, the first since Pace Academy and Westminster in 2015, and put itself in position to win a third state title in four seasons. Brookwood is the 12th region champions that Colquitt County has beaten in the playoffs on the road under coach Rush Propst, not including two beaten in the Georgia Dome.

*North Gwinnett 38, McEachern 17: Tyler Goodson rushed for 135 yards, and Jimmy Urzua passed for 190. North Gwinnett lost four fumbles, two on its first two possessions, but the game turned on Quinton Newsome’s interception and return to midfield just before halftime. Urzua hit Javonni Cunningham on a 7-yard TD pass for a 14-7 lead. North then scored on its first drive of the second half on Urzua’s 32-yard pass to L.J. Fisher and led 21-7. McEachern got within 24-17 in the fourth quarter, but Goodson responded with a 43-yard TD run for the knockout.

What it means – North Gwinnett advanced to its third state-championship game in its 57th season of varsity football and seeks its first state title. McEachern’s loss eliminates Cobb County teams and ensures that the state champion in the highest class will come from Gwinnett County (North Gwinnett) or South Georgia (Colquitt County) for the 22nd consecutive year.

Class AAAAAA

*Coffee 14, Tucker 3: Coffee QB Wade Sumner scored on a 5-yard run on the third play from scrimmage after Tucker fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Trojans went on to eliminate the top-ranked Tigers. Sumner threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Dawson in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Sumner was 10-of-14 passing for 118 yards and rushed for 72 yards on 18 carries. Tucker came into the game averaging 270.7 yards rushing but was limited to 130 by the Trojans.

What it means – Coffee advanced to its first championship game in its 48th season of varsity football. Predecessor schools Coffee County and Douglas, which date to the 1920s, also never played in a state final. Coffee defeated a No. 1-ranked team in its same classification for the first time in its history. The Trojans had been 0-10 in those matchups.

*Lee County 42, Glynn Academy 38: Lee County’s Dashawn King returned a fumble 78 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with less than three minutes remaining, and the Trojans preserved the victory when they recovered another fumble in the final minutes after Glynn Academy had driven to the Lee County 5-yard line. Glynn Academy led 31-14 at halftime and 38-21 in the fourth quarter but turned the ball over four times in the final period. Lee County finished with 499 yards of offense, including 355 passing by Jase Orndorff and 127 rushing by Shaundarious Kimbrough.

What it means – Lee County advanced to its first championship game in its 47th season of varsity football and denied Glynn its first title since 1964.

Class AAAAA

*Rome 45, Buford 7: Knox Kadum rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and was 7-of-12 passing for 107 yards and two touchdowns. His 50-yard TD run to open the second half made the score 24-7, setting the rout in motion. Rome held Buford to five first downs, 91 yards of total offense, 6-for-25 passing and 0-for-12 on third-down conversions.

What it means – Rome, the defending champion, ended Buford’s state-record streak of semifinal victories at 10 and inflicted the most-lopsided defeat against Buford since 1973 (Duluth 44-0).

*Warner Robins 31, Carver (Atlanta) 7: Dylan Fromm was 21-of-34 passing for 204 yards and two touchdowns, and Julius Burnett rushed for 96 yards on 18 carries. Warner Robins led in total yards only 306-291 but committed no turnovers and intercepted three passes. Those by Tyler Fromm and C.J. Harris ended long Carver drives, and the third, by Ke’Shawn Duvall, was returned 55 yards for a 28-7 lead.

What it means – Warner Robins is in the state finals for the first time since its 2004 championship season. The Demons became the 28th team to reach the finals after a losing season (3-8 in 2016).

Class AAAA

*Marist 35, St. Pius 14: Marist led 13-7 at halftime, but Chase Abshier’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Houghton on the War Eagles’ first drive of the second half broke the game open. Abshier attempted just five passes but completed three, two of which went for touchdowns. Abshier passed for 154 yards and led his team in rushing with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Marist outrushed St. Pius 274-80 and finished with a 428-232 advantage in total offense.

What it means – Marist, in pursuit of its first state title since 2003, defeated its archrival and advanced to its first state final since 2008. Marist remains in position for its first 15-0 season since 1989.

*Blessed Trinity 28, Mary Persons 7: Steele Chambers ran for two touchdowns and had another on a reception as Blessed Trinity avenged a 28-27 loss to the Bulldogs in the 2016 quarterfinals. Chambers scored on a 9-yard run and a 25-yard screen pass to give the Titans a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and added a 28-yard touchdown run in the fourth. He finished with 88 yards rushing on 15 carries. QB Jake Smith threw for 137 yards to surpass 2,000 for the season. Blessed Trinity outgained Mary Persons 393-167.

What it means – Blessed Trinity, in its 17 season of varsity football, reached the final for the second time, first since 2015, in search of its first championship. Tim McFarlin moved into position to become the 15th coach in GHSA history to win state titles at two schools (2006 Roswell).

Class AAA

*Peach County 28, Greater Atlanta Christian 23: Antonio Gilbert was 27-of-36 passing for 309 yards, completing passes to eight receivers, and his 17-yard TD pass to Jaydon Gibson on the first drive of the second half game Peach a 19-7 lead. GAC never threatened to take the lead from there and scored its final touchdown with 16 seconds left.

What it means – Peach County is in the finals for the first time since 2011. The Trojans last won in 2009.

*Calhoun 14, Cedar Grove 6: Calhoun ended Cedar Grove’s 23-game winning streak. Calhoun held Cedar Grove to 170 yards and blocked a punt that set up its first touchdowns. Bralin Barton intercepted three passes. Gavin Gray passed for 209 yards that included a 60-yard TD pass to Brannon Spector for a 14-0 lead with 4:59 left in the third quarter.

What it means – Calhoun reached the state finals for the first time since its 2014 championship season and the eighth time overall under coach Hal lamb. The victory was Calhoun’s fourth against a No. 1-ranked team in the playoffs since 2010. The others came against 2010 Carver (Columbus), 2011 Buford and 2014 Washington County.

Class AA

*Rabun County 23, Brooks County 12: Rabun County trailed 5-0 until Bailey Fisher’s 6-yard touchdown run with 1:14 to play in the first half made it 7-5, and the Wildcats led the rest of the way. Fisher led the Wildcats with 56 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 carries and was 15-of-20 passing for 234 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown to Austin Jones with 3:25 to put the game away. Cole Keener had three of Rabun County’s five interceptions.

What it means – Rabun County advanced to its first championship game in its 69th season of varsity football.

*Hapeville Charter 28, Heard County 21: Marcus Carroll’s touchdown run with 5.3 seconds remaining gave Hapeville Charter the victory in a game that was close throughout. Tied 14-14 at halftime, Heard County took a 21-14 lead on Aaron Beasley’s touchdown run with 7:17 to play in the third quarter, but Hapeville pulled even on a 22-yard TD pass from Hajj-Malik Williams to Andunte Devereux late in the quarter. Williams and Harper Atkins also had rushing touchdowns for Hapeville.

What it means – Hapeville Charter advanced to its first championship game in its seventh season of varsity football. Hapeville is the first south Fulton County school to play for a title since Creekside won Class AAAAA in 2013.

Class A (private)

*Eagle’s Landing Christian 55, Prince Avenue Christian 0: ELCA rushed for 458 yards and seven touchdowns on 44 carries. Justin Menard rushed for 134 yards on five carries. ELCA attempted two passes – one for minus-3 yards, the other an interception.

What it means – ELCA, the defending champion, became the 12th team to win 35 consecutive games. The 55-0 score was the most lopsided defeat ever for Prince Avenue Christian and tied for third-most in GHSA semifinal history with Cedar Grove’s 55-0 win over Crisp County last season.

*Athens Academy 14, Mount Paran Christian 7: Athens Academy scored two touchdowns in a 26-second span of the third quarter to overcome a 7-0 first-half deficit. Len’Neth Whitehead scored on a 3-yard run with 9:25 left in the third quarter, a touchdown set up by a 48-yard pass from Jack Thomas to Owen Roberts. With 8:59 left, George Smith returned a fumble 25 yards for the go-ahead score. Mount Paran QB Kyle Terry was attempting to throw the ball away, but the pass traveled only a couple of yards and was ruled a live ball. Athens Academy held Mount Paran to two first downs from there.

What it means – Athens Academy advanced to its first state-championship game in its 41st season of varsity football and can become the first Athens school to win a title since Clarke Central in 1985.

Class A (public)

*Clinch County 23, Mount Zion (Carroll) 20: Dantonio Robinson scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 7-yard run with 4:42 remaining, and Clinch County blocked a Mount Zion field-goal attempt in the closing seconds to preserve the victory. The game was tied 14-14 late in the second quarter, but Clinch County recorded a safety and then recovered a fumble at its 3-yard line in the final two minutes of the half and led 16-14. Charles McClelland ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Mount Zion had a 350-242 advantage in total offense.

What it means – Clinch County is in the finals for the first time since its 2015 state championship, which was the sixth title in school history.

*Irwin County 38, Emanuel County Institute 35: D.J. Lundy’s 10-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion midway through the fourth quarter gave Irwin County the victory in a game that ECI led 22-8 in the second quarter and 29-14 early in the third. Lundy rushed for 132 yards. QB Will Stephens was 11-of-14 passing for 165 yards and three touchdowns. Davion Pollard had an interception in the fourth quarter that allowed Irwin County to run out the clock.

What it means – Irwin County, seeking its first state title since 1975, is in the finals for the third time in four seasons.

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