Two teams that appeared as similar in so many ways as Creekside and Tucker heading into Friday’s Class AAAAA championship game played that way for two quarters. Then the third quarter began.
Creekside’s Cameron Jackson returned the second-half kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, Dexter Knox scored his third and fourth touchdowns of the night and Francisco Alejandre kicked a 33-yard field goal as the Seminoles broke the game open with a 24-point quarter and went on to beat top-ranked Tucker 52-28 at the Georgia Dome.
The victory gave fourth-ranked Creekside (15-0) its first state championship in football. The Seminoles became the first south Fulton team to win a state title since Palmetto in 1983. Creekside opened in 1990 as a merger of Palmetto and Campbell-Fairburn. It also was an emotional ending to a season the Seminoles had dedicated to De’Antre Turman, a starting defensive back who died from injuries suffered during the Seminoles’ preseason scrimmage in August.
Tucker (14-1) fell short of its third title in six years after winning in 2008 and 2011.
Jackson’s kickoff return broke a 14-14 tie, and the Seminoles added to the lead less than two minutes later when Knox scored on a 16-yard run. Creekside had taken possession two plays earlier when Thaj Perry forced a fumble that the Seminoles recovered at the Tucker 32.
After Tucker cut the lead to 28-21 on a 21-yard run by Yaquis Shelly, Creekside put the game away. Alejandre’s field goal and Knox’s 22-yard run made it 38-21 with 4:05 to play in the third quarter.
Creekside did what few teams had been able to do against the Tigers this season – run the ball. Tucker came in allowing just 81.8 yards per game on the ground, but Creekside rushed for 326 yards on 56 carries. That included 166 yards and five touchdowns from Knox and 141 yards from Bricen Terry. The Seminoles’ Felix Harper also was efficient throwing the ball. He was 8-of-14 passing for 209 yards and threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Jayson Stanley in the fourth quarter.
Tucker, which averaged 232 yards rushing, finished with 158 but had to go away from the run as the Seminoles pulled away. Tucker quarterback Joseph Farrar was 7-of-18 passing for 178 yards, well above his average of 75.9, and threw touchdown passes of 38 and 65 yards to Dominick Sanders. He also led the Tigers in rushing with 74 yards on 15 carries.
Both teams ran the ball well during time-consuming drives on their opening possessions of the game. Tucker took the kickoff and went 73 yards in 11 plays, 10 of which were running plays, and scored on a 1-yard run by Farrar for a 7-0 lead with 7:53 to play in the quarter. Creekside answered with a 15-play drive that covered 80 yards in 5:49, capped by Knox’s 1-yard run to make it 7-7 with 2:04 remaining in the quarter.
The Tigers regained the lead on Farrar’s 38-yard pass to Sanders with 26 seconds to play in the quarter, but Creekside tied it at 14-14 on a 3-yard run by Knox with 1:50 to play in the half.
Tucker – 14-0-14-0 – 28
Creekside – 7-7-24-14 – 52
T – Joseph Farrar 1 run (Eric Weber kick)
C – Dexter Knox 1 run (Francisco Alejandre kick)
T – Dominick Sanders 38 pass from Farrar (Weber kick)
C – Knox 3 run (Alejandre kick)
C – Cameron Jackson 99 kickoff return (Alejandre kick)
C – Knox 16 run (Alejandre kick)
T – Yaquis Shelley 21 run (Weber kick)
C – Alejandre 33 field goal
C – Knox 22 run (Alejandre kick)
T – Sanders 65 pass from Farrar (Weber kick)
C – Jayson Stanley 77 pass from Felix Harper (Alejandre kick)
C – Knox 7 run (Alejandre kick)