Westfield, Memorial Day, Robert Toombs win GISA titles

Class AAA

Westfield 34, Stratford Academy 31: Ryan Fitzgerald threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Josh Jenkins with 4:31 remaining as Westfield of Perry rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit to win the first state championship in the program’s 42-year history. Stratford reached the Westfield 26 on its final drive, but a fourth-and-5 pass fell incomplete, and Westfield ran out the clock. Stratford led 24-7 late in the second quarter, but Westfield scored two touchdowns in the final minute of the half, with the help of a Stratford fumble, to get back in the game. Westfield, which beat Stratford 21-20 in the regular season on Sept. 27, finished the season with 12 consecutive victories after losing to Tattnall Square 21-0 in the opener. It was the third GISA championship for Westfield coach Ronnie Jones, who led Brookwood School of Thomasville to titles in 1983 and 1985 before taking over the Hornets in 1993. He was 0-4 in four previous championship-game appearances with Westfield, most recently in 2008. Stratford Academy of Macon, in its first season under former Prince Avenue Christian coach Mark Farriba, finished 10-3 in its final season before moving to the GHSA next year.

Class AA

Memorial Day 42, Valwood 20: Marlin Latson rushed for 109 yards and scored four touchdowns as Memorial Day School of Savannah knocked off defending Class AA champion Valwood. Memorial Day finished 12-1, with its only loss coming to Valwood 13-12 on Sept. 13. Memorial Day took a 7-0 lead 28 seconds into the game when Latson scored on a 71-yard run. Valwood answered with a 6-yard run by Kyle Wilkes to tie the game 7-7, but Memorial Day then scored 21 unanswered points. Latson’s 32-yard interception return for a touchdown made it 28-7 going into the fourth quarter. The championship was the second in school history for the Matadors, and both have come in Michael Thompson’s six seasons as head coach. They had never won more than seven games in a season before his arrival in 2008, when they went 13-0 and beat Flint River Academy for the championship. Valwood (12-1) of Valdosta suffered its first loss since the 2011 semifinals against Edmund Burke Academy.

Class A

Robert Toombs Academy 26, Curtis Baptist 14: Rico Rogers rushed for 195 yards and a touchdown and Marion Dingle ran for 76 yards and two TDs as Robert Toombs Academy of Lyons won its first state championship since 2004 and fifth overall. Curtis Baptist of Augusta got two touchdown passes from Christian Reid to Ian McDaniel, the second of which covered 18 yards and cut Robert Toombs’ lead to 20-14 in the third quarter. But Robert Toombs put the game away early in the fourth quarter when Rogers scored on a 4-yard run to cap a nine-play, 83-yard drive. Robert Toombs beat Curtis Baptist 48-7 in the first round last season and lost to Frederica Academy 34-30 in the final. It closed the 2013 season with eight consecutive victories after starting 3-3. Curtis Baptist (11-3), which began playing football in 1991, has never won a state title and finished with a winning record this season for the first time in school history.

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