Class A Private: Aquinas, Calvary Day facts and figures

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

Class A Private Title Game (Friday, 2:30 p.m.)

Calvary Day (11-2) vs. Aquinas (13-0)

Overview: This is a matchup of two first-time state finalists. Aquinas, located in Augusta, had been a relatively mediocre program for more than 50 years until Matt Lazotte took over in 2009 and led the Irish to a 28-16 record over four seasons. James Leonard, an assistant on Lazotte’s staff, was promoted to head coach this season and at 26-years-old is one of the youngest head coaches in Georgia. Calvary Day’s furthest advancement in the state playoffs was the quarterfinals in 1999. Mark Stroud took over the program at the Savannah school in 2008 after the Cavaliers won just two games the previous two seasons. Since 2010, Calvary Day has gone 38-9 with four consecutive playoff appearances.

Aquinas’ season: The Irish won their first region championship in school history. On the way to the Region 7 title, Aquinas beat Lincoln County (42-14) for the first time since 1972, snapping a streak of 32 consecutive losses to the perennial Class A power.

Calvary Day’s season: After dropping the first two games of the season to two teams (Class A Landmark Christian and Class AA Bryan County) that advanced to the state playoffs, the Cavaliers have won 11 straight by an average margin of nearly 30 points per game. After the first two losses in which Calvary Day’s defense gave up a total of 70 points, the unit surrendered a total of just 47 in the final eight games of the regular season, including three shutouts.

Aquinas’ strength: The Irish feature a balanced attack on offense, averaging 140 yards passing and 200 yards rushing per game. Defensively, Aquinas is giving up just 14 points per game.

Calvary Day’s strength: The Cavaliers feature one of the most potent offenses in Class A, averaging 230 yards passing and 180 yards rushing per game. On defense, Calvary Day is yielding just 15 points per game.

Aquinas’ top players: Sophomore quarterback Liam Welch has completed 108-of-169 passes for 1,772 yards and 28 touchdowns, with just four interceptions. Junior Ruben Garnett is the team’s leading runner and receiver, and has committed early to Duke. The defense is led by a trio of linebackers – seniors John Morris (109 tackles) and Chris Lambert (118), and junior Griffin Scott (191).

Calvary Day’s top players: Senior quarterback Michael Peterson has completed 70 percent of his passes while throwing for nearly 3,000 yards with 40 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His favorite targets are seniors Jordan Walker (787 yards, 8 touchdowns), Khaliq Hughes (607, 7), Derek Kirkland (586, 9), and Milan Richards (413, 5), who has committed to Clemson and is the nephew of UGA great Herschel Walker. Robert Heyward, one of the state’s top junior running backs, has nearly 1,300 yards rushing and 15 total touchdowns. Heyward leads the charge on defense with 119 tackles, along with junior defensive end Josh Imholz (103 tackles, 7 sacks) and senior defensive tackle Andre Wilson (88 tackles).

On Aquinas: “They are a well-balanced, well-coached team. Their quarterback (Welch) is outstanding and No. 1 (Garnett) is a very talented player. They have a lot of players who go both ways, so fatigue may be a factor, but I don’t see them having that many weaknesses at all.” – Lincoln County head coach Larry Campbell, whose team lost to Aquinas 42-14 on Oct. 11.

On Calvary Day: “They are so fast and athletic on the perimeter that not many teams in Class A, maybe only Our Lady of Mercy, can match up with them on the outside. They don’t play a physical brand of football, but they make it almost impossible to defend them.” – Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy head coach Jonathan Gess, whose team lost to Calvary Day 35-34 in overtime in last week’s semifinals.

AJC pick: Calvary Day 28, Aquinas 24

44 comments Add your comment

LUVIT

December 11th, 2013
2:21 pm

Great comments from Coach Campbell and Gess..Cavs 1st time being picked for anything much less the State Championship…Hope the boys don’t read this until AFTER the game…

CavsUncle

December 11th, 2013
2:30 pm

So proud of how the Cavs fought to get where they are. I’ll be in DOME! Go Calvary!!!

letdatruthbetold

December 11th, 2013
3:02 pm

Aquinas RB Ruben Garnett has rushed for 1800 yards this season and has accounted for 26 TDs… however he has not committed to any school as of yet… he is stioo enjoying the recruiting process. he has been on a visit to Duke University.

The Dogfather

December 11th, 2013
4:05 pm

Congrats to the IRISH and Coach Leonard (not many coaches can say they never lost to cambell) and staff. Get used to the IRISH Leonard should be coach of the year. ADAMS,FOX,MORRIS,LAMBERT-It is now your time to shine. Thanks to T Coleman. Even though i do not agree with your prediction I am grateful for an interested -interactive inventor

JOHNNY LAW

December 11th, 2013
4:17 pm

For those who enjoy trivia, Aquinas coach James Leonard follows in the footsteps of his grandfather Denny Leonard who was the first to coach the Aquinas football team.

CSRA706

December 11th, 2013
4:35 pm

Wow, AJC, im still baffled by these so called experts that you have, starting to think your just misinformed fans!!! Aquinas has been picked to lose every game this playoffs, starting as the upset pick in the first round, can the #2 ranked team and undefeated get a little respect!!!! I know that Calvary is a good team and they got by a heavily favorite ELCA, but “C’mon Son”!!!!! I can’t wait for our boys to see this!!! Nobody has figured out how to beat us yet everyone thinks we gonna get beat, I guess it’s just one of those paradoxes, see yall Friday!!!!

LUVIT

December 11th, 2013
5:08 pm

@CSRA706 – I’d rather have a trophy than press!

S. Thomas Coleman

December 11th, 2013
7:17 pm

CRSA:

While I’m sure Coach Leonard couldn’t care less about the “AJC pick,” I really think this game could go either way. I usually don’t give picks but was “forced” to this time, due to the nature of this piece. The only reason I gave the nod to Calvary Day is because I don’t think Ruben Garnett is 100 percent. Still, I think it could be the best game of the weekend.

STC

Im a Cavs' Uncle too

December 11th, 2013
7:36 pm

I agree about the predictions. ELCA was supposed to beat Calvary by 19….and Calvary never trailed. I think Calvary will win because of the 5 players mentioned excluding the QB. They really have a plethora of options. 4 of them scored the 5 TDs vs Eagles Landing. All 5 had plays of 20+ yards and Walker, Hughes and Heyward had plays of 30+Yards. As great as Heyward is, they still should throw the ball more. They did throw primarily in the 1st half vs ELCA and that’s why they were up by so much so fast.
Calvary’s defense has seen Wing T and Misdirection running attacks the last 3 weeks and succeeded against them all. I think both teams have a lot of players playing both ways, so I wouldn’t expect fatigue to affect one more than the other. State title on the line and I expect both teams to leave it all on the field.

Caves dad

December 11th, 2013
8:56 pm

@Im a Cavs’ uncle too —- why excluding the QB? You think it’s easy to compile the stats and big time throws that kid has made at critical points is easy? Anybody can do it? Give me a break show all the kids respect

Im a Cavs' Uncle too

December 11th, 2013
9:11 pm

I apologize Caves Dad. Peterson is a great QB. He is actually the centerpiece of the offensive machine and uses all his options well. Cant wait to be in the Dome Friday!!!

CSRA706

December 11th, 2013
9:31 pm

@luvit, of course we want the trophy and the rings come Friday, press has never really mattered to me much, but I will speak on something that to me is just blasphemous!!!! It goes to what I tell the kids its them against the world. @STC now you make a good point but for your pick and I could respect that, but Garnet is 100% and he will be ready to play, I know he is coming to play also, feeling that he got snubbed from the Jr Bowl!!! How he didn’t make it and has an offer from an ACC school that did just play in the conference championship is beside me!!! (More Blasphemy)

CSRA706

December 11th, 2013
9:43 pm

Now I did pick Calvary over ELCA, and as I said it was simply because of the Quarterback, after watching the game tape it was obvious ELCA did not have a playmaker out there and because of there depth they were really able to get back in the game and they squandered more than enough opportunities to win the game its just when it was time to make a play their best and maybe only was on the sideline, Great Job Calvary, though you survived ur semifinal to play in the Dome, you are going to see the best team in class A on the field come Friday afternoon and they will have a chip on there shoulder,

CSRA706

December 11th, 2013
9:55 pm

Now my pic is Aquinas(surprise), and it’s because we have the better running game, a solid passing game, prolly the best kicker in the state regardless of class (12 of 13 and that 1 miss came from a block), and a stout defense, I will give them the edge in passing game but not sure that’s good, I gave you all the inside scoop on how to beat us but I guess coaches don’t read threads!!! Point being there strengths don really attack our weakness and we have been able to adapt all season, we are who ever we need to be to win on Fridays!!!! See you in the Dome!!!!!

RG ONE

December 11th, 2013
11:02 pm

Aquinas has an underrated defense. The defense showed up big in the “STORM” last week against Mt. Pisgah(on the road). Reuben has been able to fight through the injuries, however Taz Lindsey has been picking up the slack. The Irish play as a “collective unit”, and I think their ability to trust each other on the offensive/defensive side of the ball, has been the key to their success on the field.

Sam Roney

December 12th, 2013
1:51 am

Well, I’m definitely pulling for Aquinas, but I’m rating the game as dead-even. Both are good teams, and are the two best, since no others are left now. I will say, I think Aquinas’ balanced attack will outlast Calvary, and I think our defense can play with anybody. I’m glad it’s Reg. 7 and Reg. 3 in the finals. Understand that we now have eight busloads of fans coming up, plus a number in cars as well. We had a super turnout in the rain & wind last week at Mt. Pisgah. Great support has kept this team fired up throughout the playoffs. GO IRISH!

CavsUncle

December 12th, 2013
5:48 am

I think I’d give the edge to Calvarys offense over anyone. ELCA’s D hadn’t given up that many points all year. 14 was the most. But even with ELCAs awesome pass rush, and overall penetration all game long, Calvary still made plays in the running and passing game. Peterson made short, intermediate and deep throws to different recievers, and Heyward pounded the ball all game and made big runs in the 4th quarter. Just too many options to choose from. Kinda have to pick your poison because of how they spread those playmakers across the field. I’m expecting a great game tho. Both teams have found ways to win despite adversity. Can’t Wait!!!

Ps I’m Robert Heyward’s uncle, and I’ll be I the dome!!!

LUVIT

December 12th, 2013
8:08 am

@ CSRA706.. Blasphemy – irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred, priceless, etc. PLEASE GET A GRIP it is High School Football
@Sam Roney…Good pick with analysis…Against ELCA the concern was depth, in this game it seems Cavs and Aquinas are both having key players play both sides…I see your LBs who are probably the best run support group having issues with staying with Cavs receivers and that will be the difference unless it comes down to a field goal…then Aquinas has a HUGE edge…
@CavsUncle…I love Robert! He should get way more credit for this ‘RUN’ than he does, never seen more heart and drive

Sam Roney

December 12th, 2013
12:29 pm

Just a word as to the comment by TC that Aquinas was only mediocre before Matt Lazotte. That’s sort of true, as we had real bad times in much of the 80’s and 90’s,
and Matt did instill a winning attitude. Current coach Leonard was part of this as an
assistant. We did have moments of good teams past. Playoffs in 1972, where we lost
a tough one on penetrations to Washington-Wilkes. In the 40’s, 50’s, & much of the 60’s, Boys Catholic played up in AA and AAA, with under 100 boys in the school. We
beat much larger Richmond Academy in 1954, tied them in 1956 when Richmond won
the state title in spite of the tie, and we beat Richmond again in 1957. In those days, since we had under 100 boys, and were playing up in AA & AAA, it was a good year to
go 7-3 or even 5-5. They played up because the rivalries were better to do so, more than winning or playoffs. We played Richmond on Thanksgiving Day in those days before 8,000 people & standing room only. Some great players went on to success in
colleges, including UGA in those days, even thought the won-lost records were so-so.
Never did Aquinas or BCHS ever achieve the playoff success of this season. That’s
why 8-9 busloads of fans + carloads will be there Friday.

blackmanwithasuntan

December 12th, 2013
12:41 pm

Aquinas also played the first integrated game in the state of Georgia against Laney in 1966, tip of the cap to them for that from Warren County, good look against Calvary.

bucket

December 12th, 2013
6:58 pm

From the “For what it’s worth category”, Prince Avenue Christian has only been beaten by the eventual State Champion in the playoffs for the last 2 years. I would expect that trend to continue on Friday. That being said I expect a great game between Aquinas and Calvary Day on Friday.

CSRA706

December 13th, 2013
4:03 am

@luvit, Georgia HS football is sacred!!! It maybe second to only Texas

CSRA706

December 13th, 2013
4:08 am

@all, its game day, expect a big game from #1, #23, #82, #7, #5, #4, #47, #24, #32, #55, #34, and the kicker for Aquinas!!!!

football fan

December 13th, 2013
5:06 am

Aquinas best team money can buy. Good luck Calvary Day.

CalvaryCoachsUncle

December 13th, 2013
10:01 am

Proud of the Calvary Day Players, Coaches, Students and Faculty. What a Great Year and testament to hardwork, Trust in each other and humbleness. Great Job Coach Stroud and Tillman! Proud of you. Finish Strong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CSRA706

December 13th, 2013
10:28 am

@football fan, don’t hate just, just congratulate!!!!

Middle Lion Backer

December 13th, 2013
10:28 am

@football fan is that all you got? You should of stayed in bed and away from this blog. You show support for one private school and say Aquinas somehow cheats. Show the facts….please…
Gee I can read that garbage from the government school folks who complain all the time about it and look who gets caught this year another PUBLIC school.
Who by the way @AJC why were not links to blogs on that AJC story on the net or did I just miss them.?

CSRA706

December 13th, 2013
10:29 am

Aquinas by at least 14!!!!!

Enjoys High School Football

December 13th, 2013
10:52 am

This Washington-Wilkes Alum believes Aquinas will win the State Championship today! Go Irish!

Willie62

December 13th, 2013
12:50 pm

OK guys, here we go. First and foremost both the Aquinas fans and team were nothing but first class! However, Aquinas did not beat Mt. Pisgah as much as Mt. Pisgah beat themselves. Total net yards last week 338 to 166, total net yards passing last week 44 to 14 Mt. Pisgah.

Therie is no doubt that Aquinas played a more disciplined game than Mt. Pisgah did hence the victory (and again congratulations) however, Reuben did not do a thing (33 carries-113 ? yards). Aquinas did not convert a first down from the 2nd. qtr. (facemask penalty against Pisgah) until their final drive in the 4th qtr.

Calvary Day, will use their huge tight end (committed to Clemson) to throw all over the tiny Aquinas secondary (particulary # 3 & 4) and this will end in a blood bath.

Again congrats to Aquinas players and fans however, Calvary Day in a sleep a thon, 38 – 17.

Sorrie Sam and CSLA the better team is not playing in the Dome!

Willie62

December 13th, 2013
12:55 pm

To Swampy, your thoughts? Aquinas please travel safely!!!!!

Class A Fan

December 13th, 2013
3:08 pm

GO CALVARY!!! OFF TO A GREAT START…. WE BEASTING AQUINAS…..

Class A Fan

December 13th, 2013
3:10 pm

I agree with you Willie62…. clearly Mt. Pisgah should have been our opponent!!!! We’ll see them next year

Brenda Carrick FindlY

December 13th, 2013
3:52 pm

Come a long way since Turkey Day against Richmond. We were always invited to a lot of home coming games.

Willie62

December 13th, 2013
5:09 pm

Congrats to Aquinas!!!!! I am more than happy to eat my humble pie. Swampy and our editor, do you thing ELCA might be a tad overrated?

JOHNNY LAW

December 13th, 2013
5:46 pm

Congrats to the Aquinas Fighting Irish for winning the 2013 Georgia Class A Private School Football Championship and in the process defying all of the “experts”!

bucket

December 13th, 2013
5:49 pm

Congratulations to Aquinas on your 2013 State Championship.

CSRA706

December 13th, 2013
6:40 pm

Shout out to Mr Rooney, Looks like we are the Only ones on here that know what we talking about!!!! @STC I would gladly run the blog for you next season!!!! #82 my brother took care of his bizness like he told me he was gonna do!!! Proud of them boyz, made history this season, Congrats to Calvary hold your heads high, yall had one hell of a season!!!

Luvit

December 13th, 2013
6:47 pm

Great game Aquinas..number 1 is a stud congrats

agentoranj90

December 14th, 2013
12:53 am

Good job by Cavs to get there. I was at the school in the late 80’s and we struggled to keep up with the GHSA as we had moved up from GISA. Obviously they have found their niche in GHSA and are able to get some good football talent to attend the school.

Sam Roney

December 14th, 2013
5:11 pm

Willie62…Thanks for coming clean at the end..You got your stats wrong on Reuben
Garnett..He didn’t lose 133 yards against Pisgah..He gained 133 yards on 33 carries.
At that he was still recovering from what could have been a serious achilles injury, or
he may have done better…Whoever said our Aquinas linebackers would have all kinds
of trouble with Calvary(?) Would you like to revise that now? We intercepted three of
Peterson’s passes and sacked him 5 times. Linebackers participated in most of that and it was what won the game. Nevertheless, agreed that the Cavs were a good team and deserved to be there. Would not be surprised to see them again, as both Aquinas
and the Cavs have quality players coming back. Another Douglas is coming in as a 9th grader, so don’t ever discount a Douglas either, although it may take a year or so
for him to develop. Has brothers who are good role models, as well as his father.

Sam Roney

December 15th, 2013
3:29 pm

Willie62..Whatever happened to your Calvary big boys & the huge end, throwing all over our little Aquinas guys all day..In case you missed it, our linebackers were all over
those Calvary guys, because our “little” linemen were sacking or close to it with Peterson all day..As to our close performance with Pigsah, unlike you pointed out incorrectly, Garnett gained 133 yards on 33 carries, while playing on an achilles injury.
He hardly played at all against Paran because of it. That hurt us on offense & defense
in both those games. He played against Calvary, gaining over 100 yards, and was back at normal speed on his defense. We had enough depth to get through that. And,
Football Fan, you should get some facts before coming on here with nothing but in-
correct allegations as to “recruiting”. Our players are all home grown..Most live close to
the school..One moved in from Florida to live with grandparents(we have no Florida
recruiting system either). Do you want to state any facts, or just shut up? I doubt that
Calvary had any recruits either. I can’t say if any Atlanta area schools do or not, but I
don’t know of any that do. Recruiting is not illegal. Aquinas just doesn’t have any money for that. We just finished a funds drive this season to install new lighting to re-
place a very outmoded system. Get your facts or don’t make allegations you know no-thing about.

Sam Roney

December 15th, 2013
3:37 pm

Despite my comments above, I thought Calvary had a very good team with a lot of possible college prospects, and they exhibited very good sportsmanship. My comments above were aimed strictly at Willie 62’s comments, which poked at our
defense and linebackers, and stated our guys would be in for a “bloodbath” while
Calvary was going to throw over our “little” linebackers all day. I don’t think that represented the views of most Calvary backers. Certainly it doesn’t now, even from
you, does it? Did you want to say any more on that?

Sam Roney

December 15th, 2013
3:47 pm

CAVS UNCLE – Robert Heywood is a very talented rusher. They never totally got him
loose that often(granted, he got enough), because the passing game was effectively controlled by Aquinas’ secondary and a good pass rush much of the time. I’ll be interested in where he plays
college ball. Since he’s in a good private school, I’d assume he must be smart as well,
so he probably will get a number of offers.