*Lovejoy 21, North Gwinnett 6: Lovejoy took a 14-3 lead late in the third quarter when Veion Robinson stripped North Gwinnett QB Michael Haynes of the ball, which Tyrell Brown returned 40 yards for a touchdown. North Gwinnett had only 129 yards in total offense. Lovejoy RB Travis Custis rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
What it means – The 2011 AAAA runner-up, Lovejoy is the first Clayton County school to make the semifinals in the highest classification since Forest Park in 1995 and seeks to become the first Clayton team to win the big class since Morrow in 1987.
*North Cobb 42, Mill Creek 35: North Cobb trailed 21-7 early in the third quarter but turned four of Mill Creek’s six turnovers into 28 points in a 12-minute stretch to take a 42-28 lead. QB Tyler Queen passed for 221 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a score. J’Vontae Herrod rushed for 111 yards, Xavier Borishade had eight receptions for 151 yards and two TDs, and Cameron Albright had an interception, recovered a fumble and threw a touchdown pass.
What it means – A school that had not won a playoff game since 1979, North Cobb is in the semifinals for the first time since 1959 and is the first west Cobb team to make the semis since Harrison in 2000.
*Norcross 34, Camden County 20: RB Alvin Kamara rushed for 158 yards and threw a TD pass to Trey Smith. Norcross trailed 20-19 early in the fourth quarter before intercepting a pass and driving 38 yards for the go-ahead score. A bad snap to the punter set up Norcross’ clinching touchdown with 4:14 left.
What it means – Opened in 1957, Norcross is in the semifinals for the first time in what also will be the first semifinal for 18-year head coach Keith Maloof, who is 128-59, which includes three seasons at Tucker.
*Colquitt County 31, Parkview 15: Parkview led 7-0 and had third-and-goal from Colquitt’s 2-yard line with 28 seconds left in the first half, but Colquitt intercepted a pass, then drove for a touchdown to open the second half and dominated from there. Parkview suffered an interception and fumbled kickoff, which Colquitt cashed in for touchdowns in the third quarter. QB Cole Segraves was 9-of-18 passing for 117 yards. It was Colquitt’s fourth consecutive come-from-behind victory.
What it means – Beating the odds as the only No. 4 seed remaining in any classification, Colquitt is the first school in the highest classification to make four consecutive semifinals since Valdosta (1968-71).
*Northside 23, Tucker 20: Glenn Smith threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Keshun Hill with 24 seconds left for the winning touchdown. Hill had returned a kickoff 40 yards to midfield to set up the drive. Tucker had driven 85 yards on 11 plays to take a 20-16 lead with 1:22 left.
What it means – Northside avenges a 17-16 semifinal loss in 2011 to Tucker, the eventual AAAA champion, and makes the final four for the eighth time.
*Ware County 14, Stephenson 0: Ware County held Stephenson to 63 yards of total offense, and Tremon Porter intercepted two passes. QB Jamar Johnson scored on a 25-yard run in the first quarter, and Xavier Tobler scored on a 3-yard run in the third. It was the fifth shutout of the season for Ware County. That is tied with Buford, Marist and Northside for most in the state.
What it means – Ware County is in the semifinals for the first time since 2007. So is its fourth-year head coach, Ed Dudley, who led Walton of Marietta to the Class AAAAA semis that year.
*Gainesville 64, Harris County 13: Gainesville scored the most points ever in a state quarterfinal game, and one point more than Gainesville allowed in a 63-28 loss to Burke County in the 2011 semifinals. Deshaun Watson was 31-of-39 passing for 427 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns. WR Caleb Hayman had seven catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns.
What it means – Despite losing its final two games of the regular season, Gainesville is in the semifinals for the 19th time since 1951, still looking for its first state championship.
*Whitewater 24, Allatoona 3: Whitewater RB Kendall Conley rushed for 135 yards, went over 2,000 on the season and scored his 35th and 36th touchdowns. Whitewater held Allatoona’s 1,000-yard rusher, T.J. Herron, to 72 yards.
What it means – Opened in 2004, Whitewater is in the semifinals for the time and is the only semifinal team among 28 in any classification not ranked at any time during the season.
*Monroe Area 47, South Effingham 8: Monroe Area RB Kwan Brooks rushed for 135 yards and scored three touchdowns against the fourth-seeded Mustangs. South Effingham RB Josh Mercer, an N.C. State pledge, was lost to a toe injury in the first quarter, and starting QB Brandon James was knocked out in the second.
What it means – Monroe Area is in the semifinals for the first time and is the only unranked team in the AAAA semis after being dropped for losing its season-ending game to Eastside.
*Sandy Creek 31, Burke County 20: Cole Garvin’s 74-yard TD pass to Demarre Kitt with 10:24 left gave Sandy Creek the lead for good at 24-20. Kitt had seven catches for 153 yards. Garvin had 201 yards passing, and RB Eric Swinney had 92 rushing yards. Burke County QB Donquell Green, a player-of-the-year candidate, rushed for 104 yards.
What it means – The preseason No. 1 team is in, and the 2011 Class AAA champion is out.
*Ridgeland 45, Mary Persons 14: RB Darrell Bridges rushed for 205 yards and went over 2,000 for the season. He is averaging 221 yards in the playoffs.
What it means – Opened in 1989, Ridgeland is in the semifinals for the first time.
*Marist 15, Stockbridge 7: DL Greg Taboada had three sacks and another tackle for a safety, and second-ranked Marist held fourth-ranked Stockbridge to 33 yards rushing and 139 total. Marist had only 181 total yards as star QB Myles Willis had 59 yards rushing on 28 carries and went 0-for-2 passing. RB Gray King’s 15-yard run with 4:06 left in the third quarter gave Marist the lead for good at 10-7.
What it means – Marist is in the semifinals for the 18th time overall and first since 2008.
*Buford 31, Carver 7: RB Dontravious Wilson rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries for Buford, which put up 255 yards on the ground. Carver was held to 123 yards of total offense. Carver was ranked No. 2 and Buford No. 3 in the final regular-season poll.
What it means – Buford is in the semifinals for the sixth consecutive time, the longest current streak and tied for third-longest in state history.
*Cartersville 21, Thomson 13: Cartersville was leading 14-13 when Brooks Barden threw a 22-yard TD pass to T.L. Ford with 8:50 left in the upset of the No. 1-ranked team in AAA. Barden was intercepted for the first two times this season but threw two TD passes, the other a 61-yarder to Hayes Linn. Linn also intercepted a pass in the end zone. Cartersville, ranked No. 6, also stopped a fourth-and-1 at the Cartersville 25 and a fourth-and-goal from the Cartersville 6.
What it means – Cartersville is the lone unbeaten team in AAA and is in the semifinals for the seventh time, first since 2004, after a 5-5 finish in 2011.
*North Hall 52, Peach County 10: Unranked North Hall rushed for 430 yards, getting 182 and three touchdowns from T.J. Tate and 172 and two touchdowns from Kevin Christmas, and defeated fifth-ranked Peach.
What it means – North Hall is in the semifinals for the second time, first since 2007, after a 4-6 finish in 2011.
*St. Pius 40, Washington County 35: In a game of five lead changes, St. Pius went ahead for good 24-21 in the second quarter on Jack Spear’s 57-yard pass to WR Nick Ruffin. WB Branden Mitchell rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Washington County was ranked No. 4 in the final regular-season poll. St. Pius was No. 7.
What it means – St. Pius is in the semifinals for the fifth time, first since 2006. The others came in the 1960s under George Maloof, who was the head coach of current St. Pius coach Paul Standard.
*Jefferson 53, Fitzgerald 51: Seventh-ranked Jefferson won in the third overtime when Bryant Shirreffs threw a two-point conversion pass to Tristan Jackson. Jefferson blew a 31-16 lead in the final quarter and got it to overtime when Wesley Simonton blocked Fitzgerald’s 33-yard field-goal attempt with 19 seconds left in regulation. Fitzgerald, ranked No. 4, is only the third team to lose a playoff game while scoring 50 points. The others were Stephens County (2007 to Chamblee) and South Cobb (2004 to Collins Hill).
What it means – Jefferson overcame an opening-game upset loss to arch-rival Commerce to win 12 straight games and make the semifinals for the first time since 1977, while coach T. McFerrin makes the semifinals with his fifth different school, a state record.
*Greater Atlanta Christian 27, Early County 24: Brandon Holzgrefe kicked a 19-yard field goal on the final play of the game for GAC. Early County had driven 91 yards to tie the game 24-24 with 59 seconds left. QB Rafe Chapple was 16-of-27 passing (5-for-5 on the winning drive) for 133 yards and two touchdowns, and RB Kyle Scales rushed for 121 yards on 20 carries.
What it means – GAC, ranked ninth and seeded No. 2 from Region 6, is in the semifinals for the third time, first since 2002.
*Calhoun 49, Brooks County 14: No. 1 beat No. 2 in a game between the top-ranked teams in AA as Calhoun’s Taylor Lamb threw four TD passes, and RB Alex Urbano scored on a 99-yard run after a goal-line stand.
What it means – Calhoun is in the semifinals for the fifth consecutive season and is the only 13-0 team in AA.
*Lamar County 35, Lovett 28: Fifth-ranked Lamar County got a 34-yard TD pass from Lance Austin to brother Lawrence Austin for a 34-21 lead with 1:40 left. Lovett, ranked eighth, scored its final touchdown with 12 seconds remaining. Lance Austin rushed for 96 yards and was 6-of-6 passing for 141 yards.
What it means – Lamar County is in the semifinals for the first time since starting varsity football, and coach Franklin Stephens is in the semifinals for the second straight season. He won a state championship at Tucker in 2011.
Class A (public)
*Lincoln County 28, Wilkinson County 22: Jamar Norman returned a punt 38 yards for a touchdown with 3:03 left in the third quarter to give Lincoln County the lead for good, 21-14. QB Ben Turner was 18-of-27 passing for 232 yards and a touchdown. Lincoln County, ranked No. 4, had beaten Wilkinson County, ranked No. 7, 21-19 in the regular season in a game that decided the Region 7 title.
What it means – Lincoln County’s four-year drought of not making the semifinals – the longest of coach Larry Campbell’s 41-year career – is over.
*Dooly County 34, Seminole County 28: Dooly County QB A.J. Smith threw for 255 yards and four touchdowns. Dooly trailed 21-7 in the first half.
What it means – Dooly County is in the semifinals for the third time, first since 2002.
*Emanuel County Institute 27, Trion 10: ECI RB James Brown rushed for 176 yards, and his 80-yard TD run with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter made it 21-10.
What it means – ECI is in the semifinals for the fifth time, first since 2008.
*Wilcox County 39, Marion County 21: Fifth-ranked Wilcox County led 26-7 at halftime and held on. QB Makail Grace was 28-of-34 passing for 352 yards and three touchdowns, and WR Johnathan Howard had 13 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Grace also rushed for 125 yards.
What it means – Wilcox County is in the semifinals for the seventh time, first since 2009.
Class A (private)
*Prince Avenue Christian 24, Athens Academy 7: RB Carl Mattox rushed for 127 yards on 19 carries for Prince Avenue, which ended Athens Academy’s undefeated season.
What it means – Prince Avenue is in the semifinals for the second year in a row after avenging a 14-7 loss in the regular season.
*Landmark Christian 38, First Presbyterian 24: Landmark led 14-7 at halftime but recovered a fumble on the second-half kickoff and scored on Jeremiah Kirkland’s 41-yard run. Landmark’s freshman quarterback, Stockton McGuire, completed 11 of 14 passes.
What it means – Landmark, the 2011 Class A runner-up, is in the semifinals for the second time ever and second time in a row after a 1-2 start.
*George Walton Academy 37, Walker 7: Stanley Williams rushed for 225 yards and scored two touchdowns for unranked George Walton and knocked out one of two remaining unbeaten teams in Class A. (Athens Academy was the other.)
What it means – No unbeaten teams remain in Class A, and George Walton, a four-time champion in the Georgia Independent School Association, ties Monroe Area (see Class AAAA) as the first school from the Walton County to make the GHSA semifinals.
*Eagle’s Landing Christian 42, Savannah Christian 7: QB Dalton Etheridge passed for 189 yards and rushed for 75 and had a hand in five touchdowns for No. 1-ranked ELCA.
What it means – The 2011 Class A champion is out, and ELCA gets its second shot at the semifinals after being upset by Landmark Christian last season.
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