ATLANTA - It has been a long season for some of Georgia’s finest football teams. Long after the HIGH 5 Sports Big Show signed off, they were still playing for state bragging rights. Friday, the semifinals narrowed down those teams to just two in each of the seven state classes.
HIGH 5’s Cody Chaffins showed us the highlights and broke down who was meeting up at the Georgia Dome for the state championships during a Facebook Live exclusive event. You can check out the full show and give your opinion as to who should be this week’s HIGH 5 Sports Team of the Week here:
Of course, if you just want to cut to the highlights from a particular class, we broke it all down working our way from Class A to Class AAAAAA.
The Class A Private bracket features last year’s champion and Eagle's Landing Christian Academy.
The semifinals are becoming old hat for the Chargers. Not only did they make it to the Dome and win their third state title last year. They played for it all back in 2014, made the semis in 2013 and won state in 2012, and also made a semifinal appearance in 2011.
They hosted Tattnall Square from Macon Friday night down in McDonough.
The Trojans draw first blood as Ahmad Barron fought his way into from 2-yards out making it 7-0 Tattnall Square.
The Chargers get even as Brayden Rush swept in from 5-yards out tied at 7.
Later ELCA took the lead as Rush finds Trevor Gear for a 10-yard touchdown making it 14-7 ELCA.
The Chargers defense was making plays too. Tre Douglas picks off a pass and two plays later, Gear scores again.
ELCA wins 42-21.
On the other side of the bracket, the Fellowship Christian Paladins made the trip from Roswell out near Athens to face the Prince Avenue Christian Wolverines.
Paladins offense was off to a fast start as Andrew Minkert rumbled 18-yards to the 1-yard line setting up their first score, making it 6-0 Fellowship
Later in the 1st quarter, Paladins open their lead to 12-0 as Jack Hardin hit a wide open Ryan Reid for 25- yards.
To the 2nd quarter, Wolverines finally get on the board. Grant Roland floated one to Noah Campbell. He fought his way in for the 30-yard touchdown cutting the lead to 12-7.
Fellowship would answer on its next possession. Hardin with his second touchdown pass of the game, this one to Merrick Haigler for 11-yards, making it 19-7 visitors.
Just before the half, Hardin calls his own number and walks in from 5-yards out, making it 25-7 Paladins at the break.
Prince Avenue opened the second half with a great driver, but Grant Roland's pass is picked off in the end zone by, guess who, Jack Hardin.
Fellowship takes advantage of the turnover and goes 80-yards capped off by the 15-yard touchdown run by Andrew Minkert.
PAC came back, but the Paladins recovered a fumble with 2 minutes to go and hung on to win it.
Paladins advance to next week's final winning it 31-28.
The Class A Private final is set: Fellowship Christian and Eagles Landing Christian. Fellowship has never played for a state title before. ELCA has won 3 titles in their history. The game will be played on at 10 a.m. next Friday in the Georgia Dome.
As for the Class A Public bracket, Emmanuel County Institute was at Macon County and McIntosh County was at Clinch County. In that bracket, Macon County was the one seed and McIntosh County was the two coming in. That game is at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
This year the GHSA expanded those Class A brackets to include more teams and bye weeks for the big seeds.
The Hapeville Charter Hornets were on the road Friday night down in Fitzgerald facing the Purple Hurricanes.
The fourth play of the, Oklahoma State commit JD King took in the first touchdown of the evening, making it 7-0 ‘Canes.
Fast forward a bit, score now 14-0 in the first. Donterious Milsap took down Hajj-Malik Williams for the 3rd down sack.
The ‘Canes took over in their own territory. Quarterback James Graham made a goal line touchdown, putting the ‘Canes up 21-0 in the first quarter.
Another stop gives the ‘Canes the ball in Hornets territory. Graham outruns the defense to the edge for another score. Fitzgerald leads 28-0 in the 2nd. ‘Canes fans began planning their trips to the Dome.
JD King put in an exclamation before the half with a juke, a stiff arm and his second touchdown of the evening. ‘Canes led 35-0. They would go on to win 42-21.
On the other side of the Class AA bracket, the Callaway Cavaliers down in Savannah took on the Benedictine Cadets.
First quarter, Cadets already up a touchdown, Terrick Smalls on the carry and into your living room before going out of bounds at the 5.
Next play John Kennedy backpedaled, one of his four touchdowns that night, making it 13-0.
Next possession for the Cavs, Dylan Johnson gets swallowed up by Chris Harris to force 4th down
On Callaway's next series, they’ll tried and got something going behind DK Atkins who hurdled a would-be tackler on his way to a first down.
That would set up a Cavs field goal to make it 13-3 B.C.
But the Cadets wouldn't let up and into the 3rd quarter Cooper Marini busted his way up the middle for 6 more and the 40-3 lead.
Later, the Cadets had Callaway back way up in their own territory when the snap goes bad and Adam King strips the ball with B.C. coming up with a safety.
Benedictine beat Callaway 49-10.
So it is Benedictine and Fitzgerald headed to the Georgia Dome.
Benedictine is two years removed from winning the Class AA State Title. Last year they lost to Fitzgerald in the quarterfinals, which was their only loss of the season. Fitzgerald went on to lose to Pace Academy in the finals.
The title game is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m.
There were two metro Atlanta teams left and both hit the road. Cedar Grove trekked down to Crisp County while GAC journeyed to Peach County.
Peach County was fresh off their win over Westminster last week, but the Trojans were looking strong thanks to the efforts of Davis Mills and Kyler McMicael.
Greater Atlanta Christian was able to pull off the win here.
Other side of that Class AAA bracket, the Cedar Grove Saints were at Crisp County.
The Cougar fans packed the Den for first semifinal game since 1995.
A toss from Jelani Woods to Jadon Haselwood set up a first down and then some. The Saints eventually drawing first blood, 7-0.
After a Crisp County safety, Woods scores on the keeper, making it 16-0 Saints, still in the 1st.
Next Cougar possession, a mishandled snap led to another safety, putting Cedar Grove 18-0. Saints led 21-0 after one.
It was 4th and 30 for the Saints, Woods evaded pressure, finds Haselwood who broke the tackle and scored, making it 28-0 Saints.
Late 2nd half, a pass from Tre Shaw to Korey Hernandez made it 41-0.
The final for this one was 55-0 Cedar Grove.
That means Cedar Grove will face Great Atlanta Christian in the Class AAA State Title match.
Cedar Grove has never won a state title, but they did play for one back in 1991.
GAC has never won a state title either, but they last played for one back in 2014.
That game will be played Friday at 1 p.m.
As we reported this week, the Jefferson Dragons won their coin toss with Thomson to host their semifinal game, but Jefferson's Memorial Stadium was about 600 seats short of the 4,000 seats that the GHSA requires in order to host a Class AAAA semifinal game.
So, the game was moved to Thomson's Famous Brickyard.
These two teams were in a rematch of a Week 3 game that Thomson won.
It was a 2-hour drive from Jefferson to Thomson, which may have made the Dragons a bit antsy, because they moved early. Quarterback Bruce Jackson did most of the work, a couple of nice runs, but he couldn’t quite get it into the end zone. That set up a short field goal and the Dragons were up early 3-0.
Thomson driving, jump ball between Jefferson’s Malik Cooper and Bulldog's receiver Tra Parker. Parker comes down with it and sets up a touchdown leap by Michael Thomas
Thomson on the move again, another jump ball, another catch by Parker. Quarterback Mills Ridings did the rest.
Thomson advances with a 27-6 win over Jefferson.
On the other side of the bracket, the Mary Persons Bulldogs were on the road at Cartersville.
Cartersville kicker Jonathan Cruz hit it early with the field goal.
Then Trevor Lawrence founds E.J. Turner for a nice gain.
Lawrence then dumped one off to Trey Cramer, he turned it into a long touchdown.
The Purple Hurricanes advanced with a 38-17 win.
Thomson and Cartersville will battle in the Dome for the State Title. They have played once before, a quarterfinal game in 2012 that Cartersville won.
Cartersville, looking to repeat, is going for their fourth state title. Their last loss was 2 years ago in the 2014 semifinals.
The Thomson Bulldogs have won five championships with their most recent back in 2002.
This matchup will be played on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
The Stockbridge Tigers had to load up and head to Rome. Barron stadium was packed to see Rome and Stockbridge.
In the 2nd quarter, running back Jamious Griffin on the reverse, took it inside the 5-yard line for the Wolves.
Next play, direct snap to Griffin, he scores and the game was tied at 7.
Late 2nd quarter, 4th down, Stockbridge quarterback Kendrick Duncan with the Hail Mary into the end zone on 4th down caught by Marquez Ezzard, giving Stockbridge a 14-7 lead at the half, but Rome pulled it out 28-21.
On the other side of the bracket is Kell at Buford. “They live it" in Buford, but lots of Kell fans made the trip to Tom Riden Stadium.
Kell was on the move early. Josiah Futrell with the nice run which set up a field goal by senior Connor Mendleson, putting the Longhorns up 3-0.
Buford answered, Anthony Grant with some good running up the middle, putting the Wolves on top 7-3.
Buford quarterback Mic Roof has some wheels too and he showed them off on a nice scramble for a big gainer.
That set up a short touchdown from his twin brother, T.D. Roof, who is headed to Georgia Tech next season. The Wolves up 14-3 and they looked like they were about to blow it open.
But a late 2nd quarter stop by the Longhorns gave quarterback John Lampley a chance to get some points right before the half. He founds Josh Blancato for a nice score of 14-10 at half.
Rome and Buford advance to the fine.
The two teams have never before played. Rome has never won a state title.
Buford had their state title streak stopped last year by Cartersville, but they are still looking for their 8th title in the last decade, 11th overall.
That game will be played on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
The Tucker Tigers are in a familiar spot: In the semifinals for the sixth time in the last 10 years, a run including two state titles.
They hosted Northside-Warner Robins Friday night. It was the fourth time these two have played in the last 10 years as well. Northside held the all-time lead 2-1 coming into the game.
A lot of fans came out to Hallford Stadium for the match.
Tobias Oliver broke free for the Eagles with a big gainer, but couldn't score. That’s okay because he would get in on the keeper putting Northside up early on the Tigers.
Tucker answered, with a throw from Xavier Sheppard to Josh Vann.
Tigers were playing some good defense with Tre Leslie with the strip.
Tucker advances to the Dome with a 22-7 win.
On the flip side, Valdosta was at Dalton. Valdosta won the game setting the final: Tucker and Valdosta.
They've never before played each other.
Tucker is looking for their 3rd state title since 2008.
Valdosta has been doing this a while. The Wildcats have 24 state championships, but the most recent is way back in 1998.
The final is the nightcap on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m., but as in years past, expect some delay as the previous games push it back.
The Westlake Lions have had quite a run. They are into the semifinals for the first time in school history and have had two last-second field goals, including one last week.
So, when it came to presenting them with our Team of the Week trophy this week, we had kicker James Milelr kick a last-second field goal before we handed them the honor.
The Lions took on Roswell Friday night at the neutral site of Lakewood Stadium.
It started out with a break for Westlake. A punt hits the Roswell man and the Lions recover. They were in good shape until a pass was picked off by Sam Diroberto, bringing in a nice return.
The Hornets head down the field and Malik Willis dances around and then decides to tuck it. He runs it right in for the touchdown. Roswell strikes first 7-0.
Virginia Tech was in the house to see Willis. He’s committed there as an athlete.
He showed he can throw the ball, too. Second quarter, he puts one up for Christian Ford. He hauls it in deep in Westlake territory.
Later on that drive, Wildcat and Sheldon Evans takes it in.
The flip side of the bracket was an all Gwinnett County affair: Mill Creek at Grayson.
First quarter, Chase Brice tosses to Elijah Barnes for the touchdown, 6-0 Grayson.
Fast forward a bit, 9-0 later in the first, when Mill Creek handed off to Edmond Graham who scores, bringing it to 9-7.
Second quarter, Grayson’s Chase Brice hits Kurt Taylor. He’s in for the touchdown and 16-7 Grayson.
And then, their defense shows its teeth. Mill Creek’s pass is complete to Jack Plummer, but Quintin Thames grabs it and he’s off to the races.
Grayson wins 44-26.
Grayson and Roswell advance to the Dome for the title match.
It is a rematch of last year's semifinal game, which was quite the nail biter. A HIGH 5 Sports Game of the Week last year that Roswell won 30-26. But they went on to the Dome and lost to Colquitt County.
Roswell has 3 state titles, the last in 2006.
Grayson won one back in 2011. Jeff Herron, the Grayson Head Coach has four. This would be his third different team he’s won a state title with if they can get it done.
It will be the nightcap Saturday night. The scheduled start time is 8 p.m.