Top Header

Today, we preview the Class AAAA and AAAAA state championships. Stay tuned all week as we countdown to championship weekend with previews of all eight matchups.  

Join Our Mailing List
In This Issue

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter 



Score is looking for writing interns!  

Call 404-256-1572
or click here  

for more information.


Join Our Mailing List
Thursday, December 8, 2016



Cartersville (14-0)

Riding a state-best 29-game winning streak, Cartersville is the hottest program in the state entering championship weekend. The Purple Hurricanes have once again turned in an undefeated resume on their path to the Georgia Dome, and are a win away from capturing back-to-back titles for the first time in program history. Head coach Joey King took over the program in 2014 with a promising freshman quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. The duo has compiled a 41-2 record together and Lawrence has blossomed into the No. 1 rated prospect in the Class of 2018. Lawrence has been lights out this season, leading an offense that turns in 45.5 points per game. The 6-foot-5 junior has completed 236-of-372 passes (63.4 percent) for 3,708 yards (264.9 per game) and 49 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. He threw a career-best seven touchdowns in Cartersville's 77-14 win over Chestatee to open the postseason and has thrown 16 touchdowns without an interception in the first four rounds. Lawrence's elite skillset allows him to find targets down field and sideline to sideline and it's the reason 10 different targets have caught touchdown passes this season. Leading the receiving corps is Avery Showell, who has caught 16 touchdowns this season off of a team-high 42 receptions. Junior E.J. Turner is another big play receiver and is coming off a season-best of 111 receiving yards in the 38-17 semifinals victory over Mary Persons. Turner has hauled in eight touchdowns this season. In the backfield of the unstoppable Cartersville offense is senior running back Trey Creamer. The 6-foot back took just two carries in last year's state championship game, but made an impact in the passing game where he hauled in three passes for 62 yards. Creamer's versatility compliments his ability as a feature running back, and he is coming off a season-highs of 18 carries and 146 rushing yards in the semifinals. Creamer has accounted for 17 of the team's 26 rushing touchdowns this season and 711 of their 1,063 yards. 
Thomson (14-0)

Like three-year Cartersville head coach Joey King, Thomson head coach Rob Ridings has led the Bulldogs into the finals in his third season at the school. Ridings is a 16-year head coaching veteran that has improved the Bulldogs' win total from four games in 2014, to an 11-2 finish last year. Now, undefeated Thomson sits a win away from the program's first state title since 2002 and what would be the sixth crown in its history. Thomson has been unstoppable in 2016 and a 20-7 win over Burke County on Oct. 28 is the smallest margin of victory this year. In the playoffs, Thomson has outscored Americus-Sumter (57-23), West Hall (42-14), Spalding (30-7) and Jefferson (27-7) by an average 26.3 points per game. Thomson operates a prolific running offense that has thrashed opponents with a 312.6 rushing yards per game average. Michael Thomas has led Thomson with 2,240 rushing yards and 160 yards per game, while finding the endzone 24 times. In the first round win over Americus-Sumter, the senior took just 10 carries for a season-high 335 rushing yards and five touchdowns. His playoff stat line has seen him take 89 carries for 830 yards (9.3 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He also threw a 32-yard touchdown in the semifinals to Tray Parker on a halfback pass. Sophomore Bubba Murray shares the load in the backfield and has put together a 1,007-yard rushing effort this season. Murray has rushed for 17 touchdowns this season and has three rushing performances of 100 or more yards. Quarterback Mills Ridings rushed for a touchdown in last Friday's win over Jefferson and he has thrown 15 touchdowns this season. Thomson's successful rushing attack limits Ridings' throws, but the junior makes them count with unmistakable effectiveness. Ridings has completed 90-of-133 passes this season (67.7 percent) for 1,393 yards and 15 touchdowns with seven interceptions. In the playoffs, he has thrown six touchdowns with two interceptions, while completing 33-of-43 attempts (76.7 percent) for 121.5 yards per game.

It's a battle of unbeaten teams and a tale of contrasting offensive philosophies as Cartersville's unstoppable passing games goes head-to-head with Thomson's relentless rushing attack. The two programs have spent the past four months ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in Class AAAA, while seemingly improving each week on their road to the Dome.  Cartersville, the defending champion, stands one victory from becoming the 11th team to produce back-to-back 15-0 seasons and the 19th to sustain a 30-game winning streak. Thomson is in its first state-title game since its 2002 Class AAAA championship season. The only other time the programs met on the gridiron came in the 2012 quarterfinals when Cartersville hosted and advanced to the semis with a 21-13 win. 


Buford (13-1)

Buford is making its 10th consecutive appearance in a state championship game. The Wolves fell short to Cartersville 10-0 last season in finals, but have been victorious in the championship seven other times since 2007 and have 11 state titles on their resume. This year's season opened with a 24-7 loss to Roswell in the MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic, and followed with a trio of out-of-state opponents and the start of a 13-game winning streak. The Wolves' latest win was a 28-16 victory over Kell that brought out the physicality needed to hold off a disciplined Longhorns team. Running back Christian Turner rushed for 139 yards on 24 carries, and his 3-yard touchdown with 2:11 left essentially clinched the 12-point win. This followed Turner's 276-yard rushing effort in the quarterfinals victory over Carrollton. T.D. Roof, who is a force at linebacker, rushed for 114 yards and had two sacks on defense. It was the second straight playoff game in which Buford had two 100-yard rushers. Roof also scored on an early four-yard touchdown and kept the Wolves in control of the game by converting on three fourth down tries. On the final fourth down call made by head coach Jess Simpson, Roof raced his way in for a 58-yard touchdown. The Georgia-Tech commit added a pair of sacks on defense as the unit held Kell to 179 yards of total offense. "What's fun for me is to see how excited they are to have an opportunity to get to play in the Georgia Dome next Friday," Simpson told the Gwinnett Daily Post following the win. "It's been a long grind, it's been a long season. Just for any team, we are going to be prepared, we are going to savor it. We are looking forward it." Buford's offense and defense were clicking last week, but a 44-yard Kell punt return touchdown surrendered after the first possession of the semifinals is an area the Wolves will address before taking on Rome.  
Rome (12-2)

Rome's successful run to its first-ever state championship has been fueled by a pair of sophomore playmakers. In the semifinals, this Class of 2019 duo came up huge to score a thrilling 28-21 victory over Stockbridge. Q uarterback Knox Kadum threw for 152 yards and a touchdown while Jamious Griffin carried the ball 31 times for 157 yards and three scores. The three trips to the end zone marked Griffin's10th multi-touchdown game of the season and brought his total up to 25 rushing scores this year. Defensively, Stockbridge was held to just 75 rushing yards in the semifinals, but the passing game was a much different story. Stockbridge quarterback Kenderick Duncan found wide receiver Marquez Ezzard nine times for 201 yards. It took Griffin's game-winning touchdown run with 6:40 left in the game and a fortunate muffed punt by Ezzard in the final 1:32 to close out the win and overcome an otherwise brilliant performance from the Stockbridge receiver. "I just don't think our kids got a quit in them, and that's why our kids are going to the championship," Rome head coach John Reid told the Rome News-Tribune. "This was a game unlike what we've seen in 10 weeks and that worried me, but these kids responded. ... It is hard to game plan against that receiver [Ezzard]. They [Stockbridge] just threw it deep and the kid is a great player." With plenty of film to watch and reflect on in regards to the passing game, Rome can polish up its top-notch defense before Friday's challenging matchup with Buford. In the eight victories before Stockbridge, Rome's defense produced four shutouts, held three other teams to single digits and averaged a mere 4.1 points allowed per game. Rome had seen a running clock in nearly every fourth quarter during its current 11-game winning streak, before having to find a way to close out Stockbridge. The focus against Buford will be avoiding the big play and putting together the long scoring drives that will keep the defense as rested as possible.

In this all Wolves championship showdown, one of championship weekend's most intriguing storylines is set to unfold. While Buford makes its 10th straight finals appearance, Rome making its first-ever championship appearance against the state's most familiar finalist. Rome has grown from a 1-2 start by compiling an 11-game winning streak that included the Region 7 crown. In addition to a defense that has held seven of its last nine opponents to single digits, Rome has an offense headlined by sophomores that have seen breakout years. Buford has often cruised to the finals without being challenged, but this year the Wolves have hard-fought wins over Carrollton and Kell and the taste of a championship loss to Cartersville a year ago sharpening their focus. 

© Score Publishing, LLC 2011