Class AAAAA Title Game (8:30 p.m. Friday)
Creekside (14-0) vs. Tucker (14-0)
Overview: The Creekside Seminoles are making their first appearance in a state final and trying to become the first team from south Fulton County to win a title since Palmetto in 1983. Creekside opened in 1990 as a merger of Palmetto and Campbell-Fairburn. The Seminoles’ previous best season was in 2000, when they went 13-1 and lost in the semifinals. … The Tucker Tigers are trying to join Avondale and Lakeside as the only DeKalb County schools to claim three state championships. Tucker won titles in 2008 and 2011 and is 23-4 in the playoffs since last missing the postseason in 2006.
Creekside season: The season got off to a tragic start for Creekside when starting defensive back De’Antre Turman died of injuries suffered in a preseason scrimmage. The Seminoles came back two weeks later to beat Hughes 16-14 and have rolled ever since, winning by at least 15 points in 12 of the next 13 games. Creekside has dedicated its season to Turman.
Tucker season: Tucker went 10-0 in the regular season for the 14th time in school history and won its 15th region championship, including eight in the past 13 years. The Tigers had close calls in the regular season against Stephenson (31-28) and Mays (16-11) and rallied from an early 14-0 deficit last week to oust defending champion Gainesville.
Creekside strength: Creekside has a fairly balanced offense that runs for 214.4 yards and passes for 181 yards per game. But the Seminoles are better known for a defense that finished third in Class AAAAA in fewest points allowed during the regular season, giving up 11.4 per game. They have held 10 of 14 opponents to two touchdowns or less.
Tucker strength: The Tigers like to run the ball. No player has more than 716 yards, but the Tigers average 232 yards rushing while attempting only about seven passes per game. Tucker finished the regular season ranked seventh in Class AAAAA in scoring defense, allowing 13.9 points and giving up more than 14 just twice.
Creekside’s top players: Dexter Knox (1,314 yards, 22 touchdowns) and Bricen Terry (1,243 yards, 16 TDs) both surpassed 1,000 yards rushing, and quarterback Felix Harper passed for 2,358 yards and 35 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Brothers Elliott (LB/RB) and Evan (DB/WR) Berry have committed to Tennessee. LB Chris Collins leads the team in tackles by a wide margin and has offers from several FCS schools.
Tucker’s top players: The Tigers’ top senior college prospects all come from the defense. They include LB Detrick Dukes (committed to Georgia), DB Kirk Tucker (Stanford), and LB Justin Hughes, the team’s leading tackler. Yaquis Shelley (135 yards receiving, six interceptions, four kick-return touchdowns), Elijah Sullivan (45 tackles, eight sacks, 694 yards rushing) and Dominick Sanders (eight interceptions, 572 yards rushing) are dangerous on both sides of the ball.
On Creekside: “They’ve got some really big guys up front. They can just come out there and wall you off. The running backs are really talented, and then you’ve got to respect everything else. They kind of spread you out, and then they’re going to run the football. I think that’s what they do best.” – Whitewater coach Amos McCreary, whose team lost to Creekside 27-23 on Oct. 18 in the regular season. McCreary was Creekside’s head coach from 1993-2002.
On Tucker: “They’re the fastest team we played all year. Their closing speed on defense is just … their back seven are just so fast. There were a couple of times we felt if we had been playing anybody else we would have had touchdowns, but they didn’t work out to be touchdowns against them. That was the biggest thing. Their team speed is just tremendous.” – East Paulding coach Chuck Goddard, whose team lost to Tucker 16-13 in the second round of the playoffs.
AJC pick: Creekside 21, Tucker 20