Troup at Blessed Trinity
This will be the first meeting in school history for reigning Class AAAA state champion Blessed Trinity and the Troup Tigers. Since opening the playoffs, Blessed Trinity has elevated its game to a whole other level. Last week’s 42-15 win over previously undefeated Eastside stifled an Eagles' offense that managed a school-record 38.5 ppg even after the 15-point outing.
Stopping Troup’s explosive offense (37.62 ppg) will be another challenge, but the Titans are phenomenal when it comes to limiting explosive plays and keeping talented quarterbacks in check. As for the offensive side, Blessed Trinity got a major boost when the playoffs started with the return of sophomore Jackson Hamilton to the rotation. Hamilton has tallied four rushing touchdowns through the first three rounds, and provides great support behind U.S. Army All-American and Ohio State commit Steele Chambers.
The Titans have also been able to assert control of games early, and Troup will have to come out much sharper than Eastside—which found themselves down 35-0 by the half. For Troup, the Tigers are going to have to disrupt the rhythm of Blessed Trinity and overwhelm them with their athleticism. Defensively, Troup has done a good job in stopping the run, but Blessed Trinity’s offensive balance will steepen this task.
Offensively, junior quarterback Kobe Hudson has accounted for 29 passing touchdowns with 3,152 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns with 1,206 yards. There is no doubt that Hudson's gifted abilities make Troup a dangerous opponent for the Titans. Troup’s outcome will once again depend largely on Hudson’s performance, and it will be up to his versatility and leadership to ensure this game remains competitive for all four quarters.
Peach County at Calhoun
No. 4 Peach County (11-2, 6-0) will make the nearly 3-hour trek north for a rematch of the 2017 title game against Calhoun (13-0, 8-0). For a series that only has two previous games, this is one of the hottest rivalries in the state, hands down, bar-none.
And there’s clearly a reason.
Let’s make this quick-ish ... it has been a long year, and our memories aren’t all that great.
To recap: At the end of the 2017 title game between Calhoun and Peach, Peach receiver Noah Whittington appeared to make a catch on the left sideline and dive toward the end zone as the Trojans were driving with roughly three minutes left, trailing 10-6. The ball was secured and then cameout of Whittington’s grasp as he extended his arm toward the goal line after taking a few steps.
The pass was called incomplete, and all hell broke loose in the ensuing weeks. Peach County, its fan base and most of the country agreed that the ball was caught. Calhoun fans will argue that Whittington went out of bounds to avoid defender Brannon Spector early in his route. If footage of Whittington’s route was shown to 20 unbiased people from Wisconsin, for example, 10 would say he was re-routed and 10 would say he wasn’t. There was a brush of contact, the extent of which is left to semi-grainy footage and the imagination.
But all of those Wisconsinites would agree the pass was caught.
Peach appealed the game at the GHSA offices in Thomaston a few weeks later, hoping for a rematch, a replay or a re-do of the final few minutes of the game. It was denied, but the GHSA agreed to add a seventh referee, a back judge, to playoff games in 2018. Silver lining.
That didn’t stop the Trojans’ fan base from declaring Peach County the 2017 state champions and creating a now-defunct website, www.peachcountyrings.com, which asked for financial help to provide the team with state-title rings.
All the while, the flames were being stoked on online message boards and social media as the fan bases have bickered back and forth for nearly a year.
Fast forward to this year.
Calhoun returns a lot of good players. Quarterback Gavin Gray leads the Jackets with 2,405 passing yards. Brannon Spector, a Clemson commitment, plays both ways as a receiver and defensive back. He has 683 receiving yards and 43 tackles. Davis Allen, another Clemson-commitment, also splits duties between tight end and linebacker with 121 tackles and four interceptions.
Peach County quarterback Jaydon Gibson has passed for 1,851 yards and 17 touchdowns. Tijah Woolfolk led the Trojans through the second round with 156 yards against Liberty County. Against Westminster in the quarters, Woolfolk rushed for 109 yards.
Clemson’s third commitment in this game is on the Trojans side, and if Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is reading this, please room Brannon, Davis and Peach’s Sergio Allen together to prove my point that the fan bases created too much drama around this game, not the student-athletes. Spector and the two Allens likely will be great friends in the ensuing years, if they aren’t already.
The fans in attendance Friday should remember that this is a game, and these are kids.
So when you get into the stands, shake the hand of an opposing fan and nestle into your seat. Keep it cordial on both sides and enjoy a quality game between two of the best football programs in the state. And may the best team win.
Lowndes at Milton
The last time Milton was in the semifinals was 1952 and it was really by default. Back in those days, the first round was technically the semifinals. After storming through an undefeated regular season, the 1952 Eagles, in their second year of existence, lost to Hogansville 42-6 in the semis under coach Gus Letchas. The region title captured by the Eagles that year would be the first in the three title in Milton’s history (1952, 2014 and this year) and it marked the only one in Letchas’ 17-year career.
Fast forward to today and, its clear to say, that Milton’s path to the semifinals was a bit more taxing. In the first round, the Eagles handled South Gwinnett (28-19). In the second round it enjoyed a 24-3 thrashing of Mill Creek. Against Hillgrove in the quarterfinals, Milton squeaked by 20-19 to earn the semifinal berth.
Dual-threat quarterback Jordan Yates, a Georgia Tech commit, is a major part of Milton’s success. When he’s swarmed, he can escape with either his legs or his arms. He is elusive and can pass. It really is a deadly combination.
Yates leads the Eagles balanced offense which averages 165.4 receiving yards and 190 rushing yards per game. He has passed for 2,232 yards and 21 touchdowns on 160 of 254 passing with just six interceptions. Joshua Edwards leads the team in rushing yards with 1,054 yards on 186 carries for 17 touchdowns. Yates had added 12 touchdowns and 829 yards on 158 carries.
Lowndes is led by Kentucky commit Travis Tisdale who has rushed for 1,723 yards. Gary Osby leads the team in tackles with 43 solos and 14.5 for loss. He has also scored 10 rushing touchdowns as a steamroller back.
Rome at Warner Robins
In what will be a rematch of last year’s state title game that was played in Warner Robins after snow cancelled the scheduled games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Rome will take to the road on the way to its third-consecutive state championship.
Knox Kadum has passed for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 591 yards and 10 touchdowns. Star back Jamious Griffin has been one of the most productive powerbacks in the state and has rushed for 2,662 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Quarterback Dylan Fromm, yes that Fromm, leads Warner Robins and has passed for 3,727 yards and 40 touchdowns. Back Jahlen Rutherford has rushed for 949 yards and Deondre Duehard adds 685 yards. Receiver Marcayll Jones has 92 catches for 1,744 yards, Ty’Jarrious Carr has 46 catches for 547 yards.
Archer at Colquitt County
A nearly four-hour drive awaits Archer’s football team as it will travel to Colquitt County on Friday to face one of the best teams in the nation in Rush Propst’s Packers.
Colquitt quarterback Jaycee Harden has passed for 2,293 yards and 22 touchdowns on 146 of 236 passing to lead the Packers to a very balanced offense. Colquitt is averaging 190 receiving and 194 rushing yards per game. On the ground, stars Daijun Edwards (1,318 yards, 26 touchdowns) and Ty Leggett (862 yards, 14 touchdowns) are formidable performers.
Archer’s path to the semis went through Collins Hill (42-19) in the first round and Parkview (36-24) in the second round to earn a quarterfinal berth against Tift County which it beat 16-10. Semaje Banks (936 yards rushing) and Carter Pevy (2,338 yards passing) lead the relatively balanced Archer offense. Receiver Braylon Weems has 864 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
Since 2009, the Packers have been in at least the semis nine times only missing out in 2016 when it lost in the quarterfinals. In that same span, Colquitt has been to the championship game four times and has two championships, back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.