Class A Public Title Game (11:30 a.m)
Charlton County (9-4) vs. Marion County (12-1)
Overview: The Charlton County Indians have by far the stronger championship pedigree in this matchup, having won four titles, including three straight from 2004 to 2006. The Indians have won 10 games or more 17 times in 24 years under head coach Rich McWhorter … The Marion County Eagles have won three region titles under Mike Swaney and are making their first state finals appearance. Both avenged regular-season losses with semifinal wins.
Marion County season: The second-seeded Eagles have four shutouts and have allowed 20 or more points just twice, and RB Johnny Royal (1,393 yards, 20 TD) and Lorenzo Smothers (1,700 all-purpose yards, 16 total TD) have provided offensive punch. Smothers has five interceptions and DE Rodrick Bishop has recorded nine sacks.
Charlton County season: The Indians were one-dimensional early and struggled at times in the absence of RB Andrew Lee. They went 6-4 and entered the state playoffs as the No. 9 seed in the field, but established themselves as a serious threat with a 42-0 trouncing of No. 1 Seminole County in the second round. They advanced to the state final after blocking an extra point by Irwin County in the semifinal to survive for a 34-33 win.
Marion County strength: Running game and special teams. K A.J. Wells has 60 touchbacks in 72 kickoffs and averages 41 yards per punt. Royal averages 107 yards per game and Smothers has been the X-factor, scoring via the rush, pass, interception, kickoff return and punt return.
Charlton County strength: Diverse offense, creating turnovers. RB Andrew Lee (1,167 yards, 14 touchdowns) returned from broken arm at mid-season and as he has found his form the team has taken off. QB Trae Harrington (2,147 yards, 20 TD passing) triggers the spread offense that has scored 101 points in three playoff games. The defense has created 35 turnovers.
Marion County’s top players: K/P A.J. Wells (committed to Middle Tennessee), WR/DB Lorenzo Smothers (473 rushing yards, 444 receiving yards), LB Brandon Green (106 tackles), RB Johnny Royal .
Charlton County’s top players: RB Andrew Lee, WR Daveron Reed (49 rec., 671 yards, 6 TD), WR Curt Nixon (40 rec., 691 yards, 8 TD), LB Tevis Dasher (3 fumble recoveries, 7 INT), LB Lance Thompson (91 total tackles)
On Marion County: “That kicker (Wells) is very good. If they score you’re guaranteed to start from the 20 yard line, and he can punt them out of trouble. The Smothers kid intercepted a pass against us for a touchdown and he ran for another one. He’s shifty and you can’t hardly hit him in a phone booth. When we beat them, we out-physicaled them and didn’t make any mistakes. You’re going to have to play mistake-free football, and you’re going to have to be very physical. ” – Hawkinsville coach David Daniell, whose team splith with Marion County, winning 14-10 in the regular season and losing 40-7 last week in the seminfinals.
On Charlton County: “ Defensively they were better than I thought. Their front three were better than our front five. The lanes were there, but they got so much penetration we couldn’t get anything going. The night they played us they were just as good as his best teams through the years. They threw the ball well. The zone blocking gave us fits. Our two inside linebackers overpursued their stretch play and they cut it back up on us. The running back [Lee], we knocked him down and knocked him down and then he hit a big one. .” – Seminole County coach Alan Ingram, whose team lost to Charlton County 42-0 in the second round of the playoffs.
AJC pick: Marion County 34, Charlton County 30.