Championship games in review
Grayson senior WR DeAngelo Gibbs (8) scores a touchdown over Roswell senior CB LeAnthony Williams (4) during a play in the first half. (Daniel Varnado/Special)
Complete statistics from the eight state championship games, delivered by West Georgia Sports Information Services, can be found by clicking here.
Grayson 23, Roswell 20
Recap: Will VanPamelen kicked a 25-yard field goal in overtime to cap off a frantic finish as Grayson took its first lead of the game with 1:04 remaining and gave up that lead on the final play of regulation. Roswell’s Turner Barckhoff, who had kicked field goals of 47 and 29 yards during regulation, missed a 32-yarder on the game’s final play. Grayson had just 71 yards of total offense and trailed 13-6 when it took possession at its 3-yard line with 10:15 remaining. The Rams drove 97 yards in 10 plays and scored on a 62-yard pass from Chase Brice to Jaquavius Lane. Roswell’s Jujuan White blocked the extra-point attempt, preserving a 13-12 lead with 6:36 left. Grayson then forced a punt and drove 61 yards on six plays, with Brice throwing a 35-yard TD pass to Lane. The two teamed up again for the two-point conversion for a 20-13 lead with 1:04 left. Roswell answered with a seven-play, 70-yard drive and scored on a 20-yard pass from Malik Willis to Kentrell Barber on the final play of regulation to tie the game 20-20.
History: Grayson won its second state title, first since 2011. Grayson’s Jeff Herron became the first coach in history to win state titles at three Georgia schools (Oconee County and Camden County were the others). The overtime game was the fourth in state finals history. Roswell, which lost in the 2015 final to Colquitt County, was denied its first title since its 2006 tie with Peachtree Ridge that prompted the GHSA to abolish state-final ties and require overtime. Grayson maintained the 21-season run in which a Gwinnett County or Region 1 team has won or shared every state championship in the highest classification (Roswell, of Fulton County, shared the title with Peachtree Ridge of Gwinnett in 2006). Grayson clinched a top-five national ranking, as the Rams entered the finals at No. 4 in two polls and No. 5 in two others.
Valdosta 17, Tucker 7
Recap: Valdosta took a 14-0 lead on its first two possessions as QB Josh Belton threw TD passes of 35 yards to Damarrias Morrow and 17 yards to J.R. Ingram. Tucker got within 17-7 on Chris Broadwater’s 8-yard TD run with 2:03 left in the third quarter but threatened only once thereafter, when it turned the ball over on downs at the Valdosta 21-yard line. Tucker was held to 121 yards under its season average and to less than 10 points against a Georgia opponent for the first time since 2012 (Stephenson). Tucker RB Taurean Taylor (1,315 yards rushing) missed the game with an ankle injury suffered in the semifinals.
History: Valdosta extended its state record to 24 state championships, though this was the first since 1998. Alan Rodemaker became the fifth Valdosta head coach to win a state title and first to win one in his first season.
Rome 16, Buford 7
Recap: Sophomore QB Knox Kadum put Rome in the lead with a 28-yard option up the middle with 9:47 left in the third quarter and iced the game with an 18-yard naked bootleg on a fourth-and-inches with 1:12 left. Buford had gone for a fourth-and-inches from its 26-yard line with 1:44 left and trailing 9-7 but was stopped for no gain by DE Ja’Quon Griffin, who had two previous tackles for losses in the game. Rome held Buford to 2.5 yards per play, and Buford RB Anthony Grant and RB Chris Turner – both major Division I recruits running behind a line with three already-committed D-I linemen – were held to 69 yards on 22 carries. Buford’s touchdown came after Grant returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to the 1-yard line. Rome, already without 1,000-yard rusher Jalynn Sykes, lost its other 1,000-yard rusher, Jamious Griffin, to a knee injury in the second quarter.
History: Rome, opened in 1992 with the merger of East Rome and West Rome, won its first state title in any sport. East and West had won a combined seven championships from 1965 to 1985. Rome coach John Reid won a state title in a second state. His Alcoa (Tenn.) teams won in 2004 and 2005. Buford, a runner-up the past two seasons, suffered its first two-year title drought since 2005-06.
Cartersville 58, Thomson 7
Recap: Cartersville put up 58 points, the second-most in GHSA finals history, but the defense was mostly the story as the Purple Hurricanes forced six turnovers (five on fumbles) and held Thomson to 94 yards rushing, 218 below its average. Avery Showell had a team-leading seven solo tackles, four for losses, one a sack. The fourth quarter was played with a running clock. QB Trevor Lawrence, rated the No. 1 junior recruit in the country, was only 14-of-34 passing for 196 yards but threw TD passes to Showell and Trey Creamer, giving him 51 TD passes on the season, third-most in state history. Jonathan Cruz kicked three field goals and threw a 45-yard pass on a fake punt.
History: The 51-point margin ranks second in finals history behind Tift County’s 59-6 win over LaGrange in 1983. Cartersville is the 19th school to win 30 straight games and the 11th to achieve consecutive 15-0 seasons. Cartersville joined Eagle’s Landing Christian as the only teams to be ranked No. 1 from wire to wire this season. Cartersville, which won state titles in 1991, 1999 and 2015, improved to 4-0 in state finals. Thomson fell to 5-1.
Cedar Grove 30, Greater Atlanta Christian 19
Recap: Tre Shaw scored two touchdowns, the second a 34-yard interception return that gave Cedar Grove a 23-3 lead with 1:09 left in the first half. Behind backup QB Jonathan Rose, GAC got within 23-19 with 6:03 left, but Cedar Grove put the game away with a 70-yard drive, 50 of which came on Grant Walker’s 50-yard run. GAC’s Davis Mills, rated the No. 1 senior quarterback recruit in the country, was knocked out of the game with a knee injury with 8:35 left in the first quarter and did not return. Cedar Grove was credited with 15 tackles for losses. DT Will Smith had 3.5 of those (including two sacks) totaling minus-31 yards.
History: Cedar Grove won its first state title. The team was a runner-up in 1991. Cedar Grove is the 13th DeKalb County Schools team (and seventh different DeKalb school) to win a state title, first since Tucker in 2011.
Benedictine 49, Fitzgerald 26
Recap: Benedictine scored on its first five possessions to race to a 35-6 first-half lead. Fitzgerald got within 35-26 but no closer. John Wesley Kennedy had 287 all-purpose yards, including a 43-yard interception return that finished the scoring.
History: Benedictine avenged a 54-28 loss to Fitzgerald in the 2015 quarterfinals and won its second state title, first since 2014, and achieved its first undefeated full season since starting football in 1908. Benedictine became the first Savannah school to win two titles in the GHSA. Savannah Christian (2011) and Savannah Country Day (1969) have one each. Fitzgerald lost in the finals for the fifth time since its last victory in 1948.
Class A (public)
Macon County 35, McIntosh Co. Academy 0
Recap: Macon County led only 7-0 until the final seconds of the third quarter, but K’hari Lane threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Trey Brown. That was the start of four straight TD drives that settled the game. McIntosh County Academy lost fumbles inside Macon County’s 5-yard line in the second and third quarters. Marquel Jackson had three sacks for Macon County, which held MCA to 159 yards in total offense.
History: Macon County won its second state title, first since 1996. Lane broke Hutson Mason’s 2009 state record of 54 touchdown passes in a season. Lane finished with 56. Brown finished with 24 TD receptions, which is believed to have moved him ahead of Chris Slaughter of Peach County (23 in 2006) and into second place all-time behind Demarco Robinson of M.L. King (27 in 2010).
Class A (private)
ELCA 34, Fellowship Christian 27
Recap: Alex Usry’s 30-yard field goal with six seconds left at the end of a 77-yard drive sent the game into overtime. With less than two minutes left, Eagle’s Landing Christian converted a fourth-and-9 at its 25-yard line (Brayden Rush 13-yard pass to Tre Douglas) to keep it going. Fellowship Christian had driven 80 yards on 13 plays covering 6:24 on the clock to take a 24-21 lead. After both teams kicked field goals in the first overtime, ELCA took a lead on Josh Mays’ 1-yard run and won it when Fellowship’s fourth-and-5 pass went incomplete.
History: ELCA won its third title in five seasons, the first Class A school to accomplish that since Lincoln County in 1990. ELCA joined Cartersville as the only teams to be ranked No. 1 from wire to wire this season. The overtime game was the third in GHSA finals history.
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