It’s finally here. State title week. And, like you, we haven’t been this excited since the birth of our first child/our wedding/the most recent time we ate bacon.
At The List HQ, this is our favorite time of the year. We can’t wait to see all the big games. All the big-time programs trying to continue their dominance, while the upstarts look to win their first titles in forever.
And with seven title games, that’s two more opportunities for drama than we’ve had the past several years. Thinking about that got us talking about the best title games of the past decade. There have been some great ones, and here they are (hint: Buford and Calhoun figure prominently):
10. 2004 AAAAA Lowndes 17, Parkview 14
Lowndes got the deciding score in the third quarter and went into the fourth figuring it needed to play stout defense to stay in the lead. But they say the best defense is a great offense, don’t they? So all the Vikings did was basically churn out the final nearly nine minutes with an 8:45 drive, mostly on the ground, to hold on for the win.
9. 2008 AAAAA Camden County 21, Peachtree Ridge 14
The Wildcats scored 21 points in the third quarter to erase a halftime deficit, breaking a 14-14 tie for the winning score with fewer than 90 seconds left in the third. Then, the Camden defense did its part, holding off Peachtree Ridge over the final quarter and intercepting a pass at the end to seal it Camden’s first of two straight titles.
8. 2006 AAAAA Roswell 14, Peachtree Ridge 14
While this game was obviously close – we’re not experts at math, but we’re not sure it could get any closer – and was evened up late on a Zack Graham touchdown and 2-point conversion by Peachtree Ridge, it’s notable just as much for the confusion that ultimately resulted. That confusion – along with a matching tie between Dublin and Charlton County in AA – led to the GHSA mercifully putting an end to state-title ties.
7. 2010 AAA Sandy Creek 14, Carrollton 7
This one had overtime written all over it. Carrollton’s offense kept marching in pursuit of a tying score, and Sandy Creek kept turning the Trojans away. The final denial came with 1:59 left, when Jamal Ware forced Telvin Brown to fumble at the goal line, and Sandy Creek recovered to hold on for the win.
6. 2004 A Clinch County 14, Hawkinsville 14
This one gets downgraded a bit for being a tie, but it did have a wild finish. Both teams got within striking distance of the winning score during the final 4:30 of a scoreless fourth quarter. The game finished when Clinch’s Boris Lee saw his 32-yard field goal attempt sail left of the upright, leaving both teams and fans a bit bewildered in the face of the first state-title tie in 13 years.
5. 2009 AA Buford 13, Calhoun 10
In these teams’ first title-game clash, Buford’s defense held an electrifying Calhoun offense to just 10 points. While the Wolves offense struggled most of the game, one final five-minute drive that ended in an Eric Barr 1-yard touchdown run with less than a minute left gave Buford the close win and a third of four straight titles.
4. 2007 AAA Carver-Columbus 16, Cairo 13
Trailing 13-9 with 3:11 left after a Cairo touchdown, the Tigers needed quarterback DeRon Furr to lead one more drive. That’s just what he did, posting 74 total yards on the 80-yard march, including a 24-yard scamper with 1:01 left on the clock to carry Carver to its first state title.
3. 2009 AAA Peach County 13, Gainesville 12
It was Peach’s third state title in five years, and it was by far the toughest. The Trojans could only manage one touchdown against the Elephants’ defense. Then, when Gainesville scored a touchdown with no time on the clock, the Elephants made sure this wasn’t going to be the third tie of the state title season. They went for two, and Peach County linebacker Luke Crowell knocked down the pass to preserve the win.
2. 2010 AA Buford 31, Calhoun 24 OT
Going for their fourth straight title, the Wolves led 24-7 four minutes into the third quarter, and Calhoun looked done. But the Yellow Jackets’ high-powered offense came to life, rallying to tie the score and send it to the first overtime in GHSA championship history, but they couldn’t match Buford’s extra-time touchdown. They would get another chance one year later, though.
1. 2011 AA Calhoun 27, Buford 24 OT
It was Calhoun’s fourth consecutive title-game shot at the Buford juggernaut, and it was the third straight time the Yellow Jackets gave the Wolves every bit of fight they could handle. This time, it was Buford who rallied back after trailing 24-10 with just 3:07 left. But the Wolves fumbled it away to Calhoun on their first overtime possession, and a 32-yard Adam Griffith field goal gave the Jackets their first title since 1952.
Now we want to know what you think. What are the best title games you’ve seen? Did any of the ones mentioned above break your heart or send you into a euphoric goal post-carrying celebration? Can any of you seriously get Buford and Calhoun to play another title game just for the heck of it? Let us know in the comments here or on Twitter at @ajcprepsports.