For a scouting report and a prediction for the Class AA title game, go here.
There might not be a more deserving team to reach the state finals than the Lovett Lions. Though the private school in Atlanta comes from Region 6-AA, where there are only five teams – four of which make the playoffs – it’s their non-region schedule that has paved a tough, battle-tested road to the Class AA title game, where they’ll face the Lamar County Trojans from Region 4 at 2:30 p.m. today at the Georgia Dome.
The Lions (13-1) – led by all-purpose standout Grant Haley – posted impressive regular season wins against ranked opponents from higher classifications, including AAA’s No. 10 Woodward Academy (21-14), AAA’s No. 7 Blessed Trinity (14-3), AAAA’s No. 4 Marist (41-38, double overtime) and AAA’s No. 2 St. Pius X (28-7). Not to mention, they had to get past No. 3-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian for the region title, and did so with a 17-14 win.
Their only loss was to AAA’s
For a full preview of the Class AA state title game, go here.
Class AA Title Game (2:30 p.m.)
Lovett (13-1) vs. Lamar County (14-0)
Overview: When the regular season ended, the Lamar County Trojans were ranked No. 1 and the Lovett Lions No. 2. Today, they will decide on the field which team is the state champion. The Trojans will make their first state title game appearance in school history. The Lions are in the title game for the first time since 2007 and are seeking their first state championship since 1970.
Lovett season: The Lions have played perhaps the toughest schedule of any team in the state, facing off against five ranked teams from higher classifications plus Region 6-AA rival Greater Atlanta Christian, which was ranked No. 3 at the time. Their lone loss was to No. 3 Washington County of Class AAA, and that came in overtime and with the Lions missing their starting quarterback due to injury.
Lamar County season: The Trojans are 14-0 for the first time in school
By David Purdum / For the AJC
–Carrollton runs a wing-T attack featuring three backs —Jarvis Terrell, Malik Sheppard and Trey Chivers—who have each rushed for more than 800 yards. Carrollton averages seven yards per carry. Will Griffin’s defense be able to stand up?
–Griffin runs an explosive no-huddle, up-tempo offense featuring senior quarterback Jaquez Parks and a bevy of weapons at receiver, including Christian Owens, who is committed to Georgia. Second-leading receiver Keyston Fuller is back after suffering a shoulder injury against Sandy Creek. If the game turns into a track meet, the coaches I spoke to this week believe the Bears will have the advantage.
–This is Carrollton coach Rayvan Teague’s second time taking the Trojans to the state championship game. A lot of the seniors on this year’s team were freshmen, when Carrollton reach the 2010 title game in the Georgia Dome. This is the first time for Griffin coach Steve DeVoursney to coach in a
Class AAAAAA Title Game (Saturday 8:30 p.m.)
Norcross (12-2) vs. North Gwinnett (13-1)
Overview: Norcross and North Gwinnett are Region 7-AAAAAA rivals that have played each season since 2003, including a Sept. 13 game won 36-17 by North Gwinnett. This game ensures that a Gwinnett County team will be champion in the highest classification for the fourth straight season.
Norcross season: Ranked in the top 10 nationally in preseason, Norcross was embarrassed 55-0 in its nationally televised opener to B.T. Washington of Miami. Three weeks later, Norcross was shelled by North Gwinnett to fall to 1-2. Norcross since has won 11 straight while holding six playoff opponents to fewer than 10 points.
North Gwinnett: North Gwinnett handily defeated three reigning region champions (Camden County, Grayson, Norcross) to open the season to seize the No. 1 ranking. North was upset 53-28 to Collins Hill at midseason but has won six straight, including four playoff games on the road.
There have been teams to win state championships after losing their first game. Some have lost their first three. But it’s safe to say no team has won a state championship after losing its opening game 55-0.
Norcross’ season of redemption and conviction continues Saturday, when the Blue Devils try to defend their state championship against region and county rival North Gwinnett in the Georgia Dome.
Norcross has put its nationally televised debacle against Booker T. Washington of Miami in its rear-view mirror – not to mention a 36-17 loss to North Gwinnett that followed three weeks later – and won 11 straight games. The defense, led by a half-dozen or more Division 1 prospects, is allowing 7.6 points per game in that time.
‘’They didn’t waver,’’ Norcross coach Keith Maloof said of his players. “Just because they got their nose bloodied didn’t matter. We knew we were good. We just had to stay the course and block what the outside was telling
By David Purdum / For the AJC
The Carrollton Trojans found out they weren’t ready for a big game on Nov. 1, when defending champion Sandy Creek came into their stadium and handed out a deflating 24-7 loss. The Trojans’ confidence was shaken. Their feelings were hurt, and their senior defensive captain Casey Collins was lost for the season with an ACL injury.
“He was our leader, made all the calls and checks,” said Carrollton coach Rayvan Teague. “We emotionally hated it for him, and we got our feelings hurt, because we weren’t quite as ready as we thought we were for a big game. But once they got over having their feelings hurt and having their bubble burst that they might not be as good as they thought they were, they went back to work and with a purpose.”
The Trojans’ swagger has returned during a playoff run featuring three road wins over ranked opponents, including last week’s four-overtime thriller at No. 5 Marist. But Carrollton’s biggest test comes
Class AAA Title Game (5:30 p.m., Saturday)
Carrollton (13-1) vs. Griffin (14-0)
Two state finals this season match unbeaten, untied teams. Those are Tucker vs. Creekside and Buford vs. Washington County. There have been 47 state finals in history matching unbeaten, untied teams. Ten have been played at neutral sites, including the past six at the Georgia Dome, home of the finals since 2008. One of the arguments for bringing the finals to the Dome was that a championship field should be neutral. The home team was 21-14-2 in these games before 2008.
2011 – Calhoun 27, Buford 24
2011 – Tucker 22, Lovejoy 7
2011 – Grayson 24, Walton 0
2010 – Sandy Creek 14, Carrollton 7
2010 – Chattahoochee 24, Starr’s Mill 0
2009 – Peach County 13, Gainesville 12
2006 – Charlton County 13, Dublin 13
2005 – Statesboro 13, Northside (Warner Robins) 10
2003 – Hawkinsville 18, Lincoln County 8
2002 – Screven County 24, Dublin 7
2002 – Thomson 42, Thomas County Central 27
2001 – LaGrange 22, Cedartown 19
2001 – Parkview 12, Northside (Warner Robins) 7
2000 – Americus 14,
Here is the all-region team for 3-A West, as chosen by the league’s coaches:
Offensive player of the year: Markel Horne, Johnson County
Defensive player of the year: Emmanuel Davis, Johnson County
QB – Austin Oliver, Wheeler County
RB – James Brown, ECI
RB – Paul Legrant Montgomery County
RB – Michael Sutton, ECI
WR – Michael Taylor Johnson County
WR – Kyle Rosen Treutlen
WR – Drew Gillis Treutlen
TE – Justin Kilpatrick, Wheeler County
OL – Stephen Peeples, Montgomery County
OL – Zac Frost, Johnson County
OL – Brandon Bigham, Johnson County
OL – TJ Hackle, ECI
OL – Jarod Downer, ECI
Special teams – Brad Cammack Treutlen
DE – Kevion Scott Johnson County
DE – Ronnie Gordon, ECI
DL – Desmi Young Johnson County
DL – Brandon Carswell, Montgomery County
DL – Britt Todd, ECI
DL – Colorado Gearheart, ECI
LB – Dez Williams, ECI
LB – Bryce Rogers, Wheeler County
LB – Deveret Davis, Johnson County
DB – Ronquez Harden, Johnson County
DB – Tyler
Here is the all-region team for 7-AAAA, as chosen by the league’s coaches:
Player of the year: Nick Chubb, Cedartown, Sr.
Offensive player of the year: Shannon Brooks, Pickens, Jr.
Defensive player of the year: Isaiah Mack, NW Whitfield, Sr.
Special teams player of year: Miguel Villa, NW Whitfield, Sr.
Co-athlete of the year: Eder Mora, Dalton, Jr.
Co-athlete of the year: Tevin McDaniel, NW Whitfield, Sr.
Coach of the year: Wesley Tankersley, Gilmer
QB – Caleb Shiflett, NW Whitfield, Jr.
QB – Tanner Brumby, Pickens, Sr.
RB – Kelvis Rhodes, Dalton, Jr.
RB – Johnie Flakes, Gilmer, Sr.
FB – Tyler Bertolini, Gilmer, Sr.
WR – Israel Battle, Cedartown, Sr.
WR – Tevin McDaniel, NW Whitfield, Sr.
WR – Andy Whisenant, NW Whitfield, Sr.
TE – Chase Westfall, Dalton, Jr.
OL – Jake Roberts, Dalton, Sr.
OL – Drake Eddy, Cass, Sr.
OL – James Egan, River Ridge, Sr.
OL – Jake Ingram, Gilmer, Jr.
OL – Tyler Prewett, Cedartown, Sr.
K – Manny Lopez, Gilmer, Sr.
Rich McWhorter wouldn’t have predicted a state championship game appearance for Charlton County’s 2013 season, which also happened to be the senior year for his daughter Darby, a Charlton cheerleader who was in elementary school when the Indians last appeared in the Georgia Dome in the 2006 Class AA semifinals.
“She kept telling me how nice it would be to cheer in the Dome,” said McWhorter, the veteran coach with four state crowns on his resume. “I just cringed because I didn’t see it happening.”
Coming off a 5-6 season, the only losing season of his head coaching career, McWhorter saw plenty of reason to wonder how good the 2013 team would be.
“I kept looking at our schedule this year. The teams we lost to last year were all going to better. I really believed with what happened last year and what we had coming back that we could be a 1-9 team. Our motivation was to not let that happen,” he said.
The early returns were not ideal. A 49-0 loss in week 2 was the
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 four straight 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
Here is the all-region team for 6-AAAAAA, as chosen by the league’s coaches:
Offensive player of the year: Chase Solomon, Johns Creek
Defensive player of the year: Bryce Grauss, Alpharetta
Coach of the year: Jason Dukes, Alpharetta
QB – Hampton McConnell, West Forsyth
QB – Austin King, Alpharetta
RB – Chase Nelson, Chattahoochee
RB – Trevor O’Brien, West Forsyth
RB – Isaiah Williams, South Forsyth
WR – Daniel Clements, Alpharetta
WR – Andre Harton, Alpharetta
WR – Collin Lisa, Chattahoochee
WR – Avery Ward, Chattahoochee
TE – Chris Laye, Lambert
OL – Michael Carter, North Forsyth
OL – Chris Conway, Centennial
OL – Nick Krauter, Centennial
OL – Andrew Marshall, West Forsyth
OL – Jayce Ratliff, West Forsyth
OL – Derrick Roughton, North Forsyth
OL – Kyle Watford, South Forsyth
OL – Kevo Yeremian, Lambert
ATH – Christian Robinson, Centennial
ATH – Sam Walker, South Forsyth
DL – Andrew Butcher, Alpharetta
DL – Jake Chickowski, Lambert
Teams with Wing T offenses have won Georgia’s highest classification seven of the past 10 years.
North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire said this week that you might not see another one.
Prince Avenue Christian coach Jeff Herron disagreed. Herron won three state titles at Camden County using a Wing T offense. (Grayson and Lowndes won the other four with Wing T offenses since 2003.)
I spoke with both coaches this week on the subject. I’ll just let the quotes speak for themselves -
From Sphire –
“A simplistic offense like the Graysons or Camdens or Lowndes is predicated on being a defensive-dominated football team with an offense that compliments that with physicality and controlling the clock. Think about those teams that have had success. It’s really been defensive-first. That’s why they won.’’
”It’s evolved to where moving forward it’s going to be hard to win a state championship with that approach unless you are just absolutely more talented. If it’s fairly
Here are the Maxwell Ratings through the semifinals.