Lee County became the third team from the region in four years to win the championship in the second-largest classification when it beat Coffee, another Region 1 team, in the state final Friday night in Leesburg.
Jase Orndorff’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Drequan Garmon in overtime and Tay Mayo’s interception on Coffee’s ensuing possession gave the Trojans their first state title in school history. Lee County trailed 21-7 late in the first half and did not take the lead until the overtime touchdown. Coffee had a chance to win in regulation but missed a 29-yard field goal as time expired.
It was the second consecutive dramatic victory for Lee County, which was ranked in the top five all season. The Trojans won their semifinal game against Glynn Academy 42-38 when Dashawn King returned a fumble 78 for the go-ahead touchdown with less than three minutes remaining and recovered another fumble at their 5-yard line in the final minute.
Lee County joins 2014 Northside-Warner Robins and 2016 Valdosta as recent champions from Region 1. Those three teams have combined for 28 state titles all-time, the most by the current membership of any of the state’s 56 regions.
Here are some of the other top stories from Class AAAAAA this year.
*What might’ve been: Harrison was ranked No. 4 in the state and on its way to an important Region 6 victory over Dalton when quarterback Justin Fields, the nation’s top-rated senior recruit who is expected to sign with Georgia this week, suffered a broken finger that would end his season. The Hoyas went on to clinch the region title the following week, but they lost two of their final four games, including 31-7 at Glynn Academy in the quarterfinals. Still, Harrison’s trip to the quarterfinals was the school’s best run since 2002. Harrison is 19-6 over the past two seasons after going seven consecutive years with five victories or less.
*Breakthrough season: It was a big year for Douglas County in its second season under coach Johnny White. The Tigers made the playoffs for just the second time in 10 years and recorded their first 10-win season and first playoff victory since 2005. Douglas County finished in second place in Region 5 and beat Dalton in the playoffs before losing to Alpharetta in the second round. The Tigers missed the playoffs by just one game in 2016 but made the leap this year. White is 16-6 in two seasons in Douglasville.
*Just a little short: The best Class AAAAAA team that failed to reach the playoffs this year was Northgate. The Vikings were in position to clinch a berth in the last week of the season, but a loss to Mays combined with an Alexander loss left Northgate in a three-way tie for third place in Region 5. The region tiebreaker favored Hughes and Alexander for the final two playoff berths. Northgate was ranked as high as No. 6 early in the season. Other 6-4 teams that didn’t make the playoffs were Bradwell Institute (Region 2), Greenbrier (Region 3) and Creekview (Region 6).
*Taking a step back: Creekside finished 5-5 last season and missed the playoffs for just the third time in 12 years. This year, the Seminoles bottomed out with the first 0-10 season in school history. Creekside went 15-0 four years ago and won the state title. Valdosta, which was 14-1 and won the state championship in 2016, lost in the first round this year and finished 4-7. Houston County went 2-8 after going 6-4 with Jake Fromm in 2016. Defending Region 7 champion Johns Creek went 3-7 a year after finishing 8-3.
*Changes are coming: Region 8 champion Dacula will have a new coach next season after Tommy Jones resigned to start the program at the new Cherokee Bluff in Hall County. Jones was 37-22 with three region titles in five seasons with the Falcons and has an overall record of 64-65 that included seven seasons at Lumpkin County. Two other AAAAAA schools currently have openings. Apalachee coach Steve Sims stepped down after three seasons, and South Paulding’s Ed Koester resigned after five years at the school and 40 years in the coaching business.