It’s rare for a No. 3 seed to make the championship game in the highest classification, but it’s a guarantee this season as North Gwinnett and McEachern – teams that were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 at one point before winding up third in their regions – play Friday at McEachern in the Class AAAAAA semifinals.
It’s hard to think of North Gwinnett or McEachern as a full-blown underdogs, though. North Gwinnett is ranked No. 1 but finished in a three-way tie for first place in Region 7-AAAAAA. A coin toss determined the top three seeds. McEachern was ranked No. 2 after a 7-0 start but lost two of its final three regular-season games.
What else to watch for in the AAAAAA semifinals:
- Colquitt County and Norcross, which play in the other semifinal, are perhaps more known for their defense than North Gwinnett and McEachern. Each has a fierce pass rush. Lorenzo Carter of Norcross is considered the top defensive-end prospect in the country, but Norcross has had six sacks in the past two games by defensive tackles Dorian Kithcart and Khyree Lee. Colquitt County’s best-known defensive lineman is preseason all-stater Jamiyus Pittman, who missed five games in midseason with a leg injury. Junior defensive end Quintin Hampton has had a breakout year with 30 tackles for losses, including four last week against Dacula.
- All four of the semifinal teams have a 1,000-yard rusher. McEachern has two in junior running back Taj Griffin (1,175) and quarterback Ty Clemons (1,171). North Gwinnett’s C.J. Leggett has rushed for 1349 with at least 133 in all three playoff games. Norcross running back Josh Boyd has 1,265 yards rushing. Colquitt County’s Sihiem King has 1,392 yards and has scored a touchdown in all 13 games.