The Class AAA football champion is going to come from North Georgia.
That was determined Friday night when Buford, Cartersville, North Hall and St. Pius all won their quarterfinal matchups. This week’s semifinals will feature No. 3 Buford at No. 6 Cartersville, and unranked North Hall at No. 7 St. Pius. St. Pius won a coin flip on Saturday morning to determine the site of that game.
Cartersville 21, Thomson 13: The No. 6-ranked Purple Hurricanes improved to 13-0 by knocking off No. 1 Thomson 21-13 in Cartersville, as quarterback Brooks Barden threw a pair of touchdown passes. The Canes advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2004, when they lost to Washington County in the Georgia Dome.
Cartersville took the lead on a touchdown pass from Barden to Hayes Lynn. Thomson tied the game before the half on a 2-yard run by William Bussey and went ahead with 10-yard run by Torrie Battle in the third period, although the extra point was blocked.
Cartersville responded by going ahead on Kalin Heath’s 67-yard touchdown run and Preston’s Slemp’s extra point, which gave the Hurricanes a 14-13 lead. Cartersville added another touchdown after the defense forced a Thomson fumble. The Canes scored on a 30-yard pass from Barden to T.L. Ford.
Thomson (12-1) had one last possession, but turned it over on downs with 1:48 left. On fourth down quarterback Quay Cummings threw a long pass to Felton Hatcher, but officials ruled Hatcher did not remain inbounds when he caught the ball. Cartersville then ran out the clock.
St. Pius 40, Washington County 35: The game was still in the balance inside two minutes when St. Pius faced a fourth-and-inches, but Washington County jumped offsides. That gave Pius (11-2) the first down and allowed the Golden Lions to run out the clock. It was a fitting finale to a frenetic game in which neither team punted.
St. Pius was led by Branden Mitchell, who rushed for 164 yards and caught two passes for 42 yards. Quarterback Jack Spear threw a pair of touchdown passes and fullback Ryan Braswell scored three touchdowns, giving him 28 this year.
Washington County (11-2) was led by Melvin Hill, who rushed 16 times for 218 yards and three touchdowns, and came away with an interception. Quarterback William Walker rushed for 64 yards and completed 8 of 11 for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
St. Pius moves onto the semifinals for the first time since 2006, when they lost to Northside Warner Robins in the Georgia Dome.
North Hall 52, Peach County 10: North Hall (11-2) the only unranked team remaining in the quarterfinals, jumped out to a 28-0 lead and handed Peach County (11-2) its worst defeat since a 40-0 loss to Shaw in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
North Hall’s wishbone offense rushed for 430 yards, led by T.J. Tate with 182 yards; he ran for scores of 5 and 48 yards, and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass. Kevin Christmas ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns. The Trojans advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2007, when they lost to Cairo in the Georgia Dome.
Buford 31, Carver Columbus 7: Buford spotted Carver a touchdown and scored 31 unanswered points to reach the semifinals for the sixth straight year. The Wolves have advanced to the Final Four in 11 of the last 13 seasons.
Buford (12-1 on the field, 9-3 counting two forfeits) rushed for 255 yards, with Dontravious Wilson gained 134 of that. The Buford defense forced two fumbles and Bryson Jordan returned one of them for a touchdown. Carver’s only touchdown came on an interception return.
Carver (11-2) was led by quarterback Torrance McGee, who threw for 52 yards and rushed for 37 yards.