*Colquitt County 42, Dacula 17:QB Daniel Mobley passed for 255 yards, completing 20 of 33 attempts, and Colquitt County led 28-3 in the first quarter and played the fourth quarter with a running clock. Sophomore WR Kiel Pollard had seven catches for 136 yards, and junior LB Tomarcio Reese had five tackles for losses.
What it means – Colquitt County became the first team to reach five consecutive semifinal games in the highest classification and set up a rematch of the 2012 semifinal against Norcross.
*Norcross 28, Lowndes 7:Norcross forced five turnovers, held Lowndes to 167 yards in total offense and led 28-0 by midway in the third quarter. Junior DT Dorian Kithcart had three sacks. Norcross had only fair success on offense as 1,250-yard rusher Josh Boyd was held to 79 yards on 20 carries, and QB A.J. Bush was 12-of-26 passing for 169 yards.
What it means – Norcross, the only No. 1 seed remaining, won its 10th consecutive game and became the first defending champion in the highest classification from metro Atlanta to get back to the semifinals since 2002 Parkview. The previous five had failed.
*McEachern 35, Collins Hill 32: Taj Griffin returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown with 1:00 left for the game-winner. McEachern had led 28-10 before Collins Hill scored three touchdowns, one on a punt return of its own. Griffin, rated by many as the top junior running back prospect in Georgia, rushed for 155 yards on 23 carries. Freshman QB Bailey Hockman was 14-of-27 passing for 155 yards. Ty Clemons, McEachern’s starting quarterback until an injury in the final regular-season game, played a little but was not a factor.
What it means – McEachern reached the semifinals for the first time since 1999 and did it as the only unranked team in the final four. McEachern also qualified as the only final-four team not from Gwinnett County or Region 1, which have conspired to win or share every state title in the highest class since 1996.
*North Gwinnett 35, Hillgrove 31: Hayden Sphire threw a 10-yard TD pass to Daniel Imatorbhebhe with 1:13 left for the winning score. Caleb Scott made an interception in the end zone on the game’s final play. North Gwinnett RB C.J. Leggett rushed for 159 yards and four touchdowns. Hillgrove QB Elijah Ironside, who has thrown 40 TD passes on the season, was 6-of-13 passing for 76 yards but could not play in the second half because of injury. Hillgrove’s Richardre Bagley rushed for 150 yards, getting much of that from the wildcat formation.
What it means – North Gwinnett won its second consecutive playoff game in the final two minutes to reverse a history of bad luck (1-4 record since 2006) in the quarterfinals. North Gwinnett reached its second semifinal and first since 2007.
*Creekside 41, North Paulding 14: Creekside RB Dexter Knox rushed for 197 yards, scored four touchdowns and caught four passes for 48 yards. Bricen Terry rushed for 122 yards, and QB Felix Harper was 14-of-22 passing for 172 yards and a touchdown. North Paulding was held below 27 points for the first time this season; the Wolfpack had scored 50 or more points five times.
What it means – Creekside is 13-0 and going to the semifinals for the second time in school history. The Seminoles have matched the 2000 team, which reached this point in the playoffs but lost to Statesboro 20-12.
*Kell 52, Warner Robins 28: Kell turned a Warner Robins fumble, an interception, a missed field goal and a 10-yard punt into touchdowns in building a 31-0 lead in the third quarter. Kell’s Jay Moxey scored three touchdowns and rushed for 100 yards. Julian Burris scored on a 6-yard run and had a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD after Warner Robins’ first score.
What it means – Kell, which opened in 2003, set a school record for victories in a season with 13 and advanced to the semifinals for the first time. The Longhorns were 12-0 in 2010 but lost to Statesboro in the quarterfinals.
*Tucker 29, Ware County 0: QB Joseph Farrar had two short touchdown runs and DB Yaquis Shelley returned an interception 65 yards for a score (his seventh return touchdown) as Tucker posted its second shutout of the year and held an opponent to two touchdowns or less for the 11th time in 13 games. Eric Webber had field goals of 36 and 42 yards. Ware County was held to just three first downs.
What it means – Tucker is in the semifinals for the fifth time in seven seasons. The Tigers, who won state titles in 2008 and 2011, were eliminated by Northside of Warner Robins in the quarterfinals in 2012. Ware County lost to Gainesville in the 2012 state championship game.
*Gainesville 42, Mundy’s Mill 28: Deshaun Watson injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder in the first quarter but completed 23 of 30 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns and ran for two TDs for the defending champions. Michael Byrd rushed for 53 yards and had five catches for 52 yards and two touchdowns. Mundy’s Mill RB Rodney Smith, who ran for more than 600 yards in the Tigers’ first two playoff games, finished with 220 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.
What it means – Gainesville advanced to the semifinals for the third consecutive season and the fourth time in five years. Gainesville’s semifinal game against Tucker will match the two most recent champs in the second-highest classification.
*Griffin 32, Sandy Creek 26: Telly Sloan’s 1-yard run with 1:46 left was the winning score for Griffin, which had trailed 26-17 when Sandy Creek scored its final touchdown with 7:31 left. Both teams committed four turnovers, leading to several touchdowns, including Griffin DB Jordan Colbert’s 78-yard interception return for the game’s first score.
What it means – Griffin, ranked No. 2, ended Sandy Creek’s 14-game home playoff winning streak and made the semifinals for the first time since 2009 and 10th time in history. Sandy Creek became the first No. 1-ranked team to lose in the playoffs this season.
*Wayne County 52, Alexander 21: WR Krenwick Sanders, who had six TD receptions in the first round, had another huge night with six catches for 216 yards and touchdowns covering 89, 50 and 79 yards. Sanders, committed to Wisconsin, also rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on four carries and scored on a 70-yard run. Wayne’s Levontae Larry returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown, making it 45-21 in the third quarter. He also blocked a field-goal attempt. Alexander led in total offense 533-442 but committed six turnovers. Alexander RB Mikell Lands-Davis, who entered with 2,261 yards rushing, finished with 111 on 28 carries and had three catches for 139 yards and threw a 43-yard TD pass.
What it means – Wayne County made its first semifinal since 1976 and fifth in history.
*Marist 42, Burke County 20: Marist rushed for 431 yards and did not punt or attempt a pass. QB Chase Martenson rushed for 160 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries. RB Marcus Miller rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
What it means – Marist ended Burke County’s 11-game home playoff winning streak and brought the semifinals back to its home field, where Marist has won 50 of its last 52 playoff games. It also sets up a rematch of Marist’s five-overtime victory over Carrollton in the 2012 second round. Marist is in the semifinals for the 19th time.
*Carrollton 24, Stockbridge 14: Carrollton had only 195 yards in total offense and attempted only one pass (it was intercepted) but won a defensive battle that turned on three critical plays in the fourth quarter, two starring Carrollton DT Dontravius Russell, who is committed to Georgia. With the score 14-14, Russell intercepted a pass at midfield and returned it to the Stockbridge 34, setting up Tyler Newsome’s 32-yard field goal that made it 17-14 with 6:34 left. On Stockbridge’s next drive, Russell got a sack on third-and-five, forcing a punt. Jarvis Terrell scored on a 44-yard run with 1:29 to put the game away. Stockbridge led in total yards 246-195.
What it means – Carrollton is in the semifinals for the 23rd time but only second time since the 1998 state championship season. The other was 2010. Carrollton had been 1-7 in quarterfinals since 1998.
*Callaway 35, St. Pius 21: Eddie Culpepper rushed for 143 yards and QB Tez Parks ran for 132, each scoring two touchdowns, as Callaway finished with a 321-285 advantage in rushing yardage against run-based St. Pius. Callaway led 14-6 at halftime but broke the game open in the third quarter with back-to-back two-play scoring drives capped by a 47-yard run by Parks and a 59-yarder by Culpepper. Dre Martin returned an interception 42 yards for Callaway’s final touchdown.
What it means – Callaway, which opened in 1996, is in the semifinals for the first time. St. Pius, which lost in the Class AAA championship game last season, was knocked out in the quarterfinals for the second time in three years.
*Buford 36, Carver (Columbus) 6: Buford turned the ball over four times but held Carver to 58 yards of total offense, including minus-10 yards rushing. Taylor Mitchell and Evin Cooper had short touchdown runs, Matthew Bonadies kicked two field goals and the Wolves got a safety in building a 22-0 lead in the first quarter. Thomas Wilson led the running game with 78 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
What it means – Buford has won 20 consecutive home playoff games, the third-longest streak of its kind in state history, and is one victory away from playing in the championship game for the seventh straight season.
*Washington County 46, Blessed Trinity 17: Washington County’s Melvin Hill rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns and D.J. Sanders intercepted four passes. The Golden Hawks led just 19-17 in the third quarter after a 1-yard TD run by Blessed Trinity’s Carter McManes but pulled away from there. Hill’s touchdown runs covered 26, 24, 22, 19 and 43 yards.
What it means – Washington County is in the semifinals for the 10th time since 1992 but first since 2006. The Golden Hawks went 15-0 and won state championships in 1994, 1996 and 1997.
*Ringgold 35, Central (Carrollton) 10: Slade Dale ran for two touchdowns and threw a 50-yard TD pass to Christian Plott in the second quarter that gave the Lions the lead for good at 14-7. The Tigers finished with 242 yards rushing, led by D.L. Goins (126 yards, one touchdown) and Kile Sholl (85 yards, one TD). The victory avenged Ringgold’s 19-15 loss to Central in September during the regular season. Damarious Owensby led Central with 100 yards on 12 carries.
What it means – Ringgold advanced to the semifinals for the first time in its history. The school first played in the GHSA in 1949 and had never won a state playoff game until this season.
*Lamar County 35, Jefferson 24: Jefferson led 17-14 at halftime, but Lamar County scored on three of its first four possessions of the second half to gain control. RB Lawrence Austin rushed for 129 yards. His brother, QB Lance Austin, ran for 114. Quay Searcy scored on a 40-yard interception return and 31-yard pass.
What it means – The defending champion is out, and the No. 1-ranked team is in. Lamar County reached the semifinals for the second consecutive season and second time ever.
*Benedictine 35, Calhoun 14: Benedictine forced six turnovers and controlled the second half after taking a 21-14 lead into the break. Calhoun had 264 yards passing but was intercepted three times, lost a fumble after one reception and had only 81 yards rushing. Benedictine RB/DB Mike Huggins rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns and recovered a fumble. J.J. Gaines rushed for 92 yards and one touchdown.
What it means – Benedictine reached the semifinals for the first time since 1978 and ended Calhoun’s streak of five, which had been one of the 10 longest in history.
*Lovett 35, Laney 33: Lovett trailed 20-7 at halftime but scored three touchdowns in the final six minutes of the third quarter to lead 28-20. Laney got within 28-26, but Grant Haley’s 57-yard TD run with 6:09 remaining put Lovett back in control. Haley, committed to Vanderbilt, rushed for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. Laney QB Horatio Keller rushed for 129 yards and passed for 163. Lovett led in total yardage 346-340.
What it means – Lovett made the semifinals for the 12th time overall and fifth time under coach Mike Muschamp, hired in 2005. Lovett also won for the 11th time on the road in the playoffs under Muschamp.
*Brooks County 42, Bowdon 26: Brooks County QB Malkom Parrish, hobbled by a leg injury that limited his running, threw five TD passes, two to Derric Herring, one a 70-yarder. He also threw a 68-yarder to Devon Wimms and a 28-yarder to Exavius Medlock on a fourth-and-24. Mitavius Brooks’ 88-yard TD run in the fourth quarter made it 42-20.
What it means – Brooks County made the semifinals for the first time since 2008 and sixth time overall.
Class A (public)
*Charlton County 42, Seminole County 0: Andrew Lee rushed for 169 yards on 14 carries and scored on runs of 57 and 63 yards to lead Charlton County, which ended Seminole County’s undefeated season and knocked out the No. 1 seed in the public-school bracket. Trae Harrington, returning to form after a knee injury, passed for 134 yards and threw touchdown passes of 32, 50 and 18 yards. Seminole County was held to 103 yards of offense and four first downs and was shut out for the first time since 2008.
What it means – Charlton County played in four consecutive state finals beginning in 2003, but this will be the Indians’ first trip to the semifinals since that streak ended in 2006. Charlton lost in the first round in 2012 and finished 5-6.
*Irwin County 56, Johnson County 26: Jakyron Young rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns to lead a dominant running game for Irwin County, which was never threatened after building a 28-0 lead in the first half. Irwin County rushed for 516 yards on 55 carries while completing its only pass attempt for minus-1 yard. Antuane Merritt had 124 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Ryan Peterson (nine carries, 99 yards) and T.J. Wynn (7, 70) scored two TDs each.
What it means – Irwin County is in the semifinals for the first time since 1997, when it lost to Manchester in the Class A final. The Indians’ semifinal opponent is 2-A rival Charlton County, which Irwin beat 29-26 in the regular-season finale.
*Hawkinsville 23, Clinch County 8: J.D. Burden rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns as Hawkinsville knocked out the No. 3 seed in a game in which neither team scored after halftime. Burden had 184 of his yards in the first two quarters. Hawkinsville also got a 3-yard touchdown run by QB Dakota Sloan and a safety when a bad Clinch County snap rolled out of the end zone. Clinch County QB Octavius Johnson rushed for 115 yards and was 5-of-12 passing for 24 yards.
What it means – Hawkinsville won its sixth consecutive game after starting the season 3-3. The Red Devils, who were 4-6 the past two seasons and hadn’t won a playoff game since 2006, are in the semifinals for the first time since 2004.
*Marion County 24, Dooly County 21: A.J. Wells, who is committed to Appalachian State, kicked a 23-yard field goal with 45.4 seconds remaining as Marion County rallied for its second victory of the year over Region 4-A rival Dooly County. Marion County trailed 21-14 midway through the fourth quarter but tied the game 21-21 on a 25-yard run by Johnny Royal with 4:56 left. Lorenzo Smothers led Marion County with 81 yards rushing on 14 carries and had a long kickoff return that set up the game-tying drive.
What it means – Marion County is in the semifinals for the first time in the program’s eight-year history and can reach its first championship game by avenging its only loss of the season when it faces another 4-A rival, Hawkinsville.
Class A (private)
*Eagle’s Landing Christian 24, Darlington 10: ELCA played without preseason all-state QB Dalton Etheridge (season-ending leg injury). Sophomore Jordan Long (4-for-7 passing, 87 yards) made his first varsity start and threw a 47-yard TD pass to Jamaal Tookes in the second quarter as ELCA jumped to a 17-0 lead. Darlington got within 17-10 with 7:31 left, but ELCA drove for the clinching touchdown. ELCA RB Lane Timpson rushed for 80 yards with two touchdowns, and ELCA held Darlington to 147 yards in total offense.
What it means – ELCA reached its third consecutive semifinal and won its 20th straight game against private-school opponents.
*Calvary Day 33, Prince Avenue Christian 14: Calvary Day trailed 14-0 in the second quarter but scored the final 33 points. QB Michael Peterson was 18-of-24 passing for 258 yards. Robert Heyward rushed for 182 yards on 17 carries and scored on TD runs of 42 and 48 yards. WR Derek Kirkland had three catches for 74 yards and TD receptions of 25 and 37 yards.
What it means – Calvary Day made the semifinals for the first time in the GHSA. The Cavaliers, GHSA members since 1988, did make a GISA semifinal in 1983.
*Aquinas 35, Mount Paran Christian 32: Aquinas led 35-14 at halftime and didn’t score in the second half but held on. Aquinas 1,000-yard rusher Ruben Garnett was limited to only six carries for 36 yards because of a strained Achilles tendon. Mount Paran RB Dorian Walker rushed for 235 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries. His last touchdown brought Mount Paran within 35-32 with 3:42 left. Mount Paran had one more possession but failed to threaten. Picking up for Garnett, John Morris (103) and Daniel Lindsey (105) each had more than 100 yards rushing.
What it means – Aquinas, founded in 1957, made the semifinals for the first time and prevented Mount Paran from doing the same.
*Mount Pisgah Christian 15, Holy Innocents’ 7: Aaron Winchester was 15-of-24 passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns, both in the second quarter for a 12-7 lead. Winchester’s first TD pass was a 27-yarder to Ben Miller against a strong rush, the other a 23-yarder to Oz Dixon at the first-half buzzer. Mount Pisgah DB Patrick Ainsworth had two interceptions, one on Holy Innocents’ final drive that ended at the Mount Pisgah 14.
What it means – Mount Pisgah, which began varsity football in 2003, made the semifinals for the first time and kept Holy Innocents’ from doing the same.
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