Dramatic quarterfinals demonstrate AAAA’s depth of talent

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

Woodward Academy went 10-1 in the regular season. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

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Woodward Academy went 10-1 in the regular season. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

The talent-packed quarterfinals showcased the ultra-competitive last three months of football that Class AAAA has seen by staging four outstanding football games. While Cartersville, Mary Persons, Jefferson and Thomson were the four teams that lived to fight another round, quarterfinalists Woodward Academy, Blessed Trinity, Cairo and Spalding deserve credit for the excellent seasons they had. Here’s a look at the four seasons that came to an end before we preview the semifinals on Tuesday.

Woodward Academy finishes the year 11-2 after falling 26-15 to Cartersville on Friday. The War Eagles fell behind 16-0 in the first quarter before cutting the deficit to 16-9 by the half. Quarterback Ryan Glover tossed a pair of touchdowns and finished 14-of-32 passing for 192 yards. Glover finishes the season with 37 touchdown passes and 2996 passing yards.

Blessed Trinity finished the year 10-3 and suffered its only instate loss of the season on Friday in a 28-27 heartbreaker at Mary Persons. Quen Wilson gave Mary Persons its first lead of the game (14-10) with a 9-yard touchdown run with 4:30 left in the first half. Blessed Trinity kicker Brooks Hosea cut the deficit to 14-13 with his second field goal of the game as the teams entered the intermission. Before the half, a Josh Smith to Ryan Davis touchdown gave the Titans a 7-0 lead. Mary Persons’ Zach Harvey tied the game 7-7 with an early second quarter touchdown. Blessed Trinity would reclaim the lead in the third quarter with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Jake Smith to Will Carlton and Steele Chambers ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 21-14. The Bulldogs answered with an 80-yard drive to tie the game at 21-21 with 4:19 left. Hosea added his third field goal in the fourth quarter to give Blessed Trinity a brief 24-21 lead before Caleb Speir connected with Roger Akins from 69 yards out to put Mary Persons up 28-24 with 10:44 left. Hosea was successful on his fourth field goal of the game to cut the deficit to 28-27. After a series of defensive stops, Mary Persons shanked a punt and gifted the Titans with prime field position. The Titans quickly drove down to the 11-yard line with seven seconds left, but Hosea’s game-winning attempt went wide right.

Cairo improved its record from 4-6 last year to 11-2 this season. The Syrupmakers fell 17-13 after a Jefferson comeback victory. Cairo took a 7-0 lead with 7:20 left in the opening quarter on a halfback pass form Walter Grant. The two teams went scoreless until Jefferson’s Hayden Kilgore connected on a 25-yard field goal with 10:38 left in the half to make it 7-3. Cairo’s Cole Phillips answered Jefferson’s kick with a monster 56-yard field goal to give the Syrupmakers a 10-3 edge at the half. Jefferson netted just 28 yards of offense in the first half, but freshman quarterback Colby Clark hit Garmin Randolph for a 26-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to tie the game 10-10. Phillips hit a 30-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter and give Cairo a 13-10 lead. Jefferson drove down the field but threw an interception in the endzone and gave Cairo the ball back with 7:15 left. After a series of stalled drives, the Dragons capitalized on a Cairo fake punt and took over at the Syrupmakers’ 41-yard line with 3:42 left. A couple of first down pickups and a pass interference eventual set up the game-winning touchdown as Colby Wood ran in a 3-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left.

Finally, Spalding’s 30-7 loss to Thomson is a disappointing finish to a hard-fought 8-5 season. The 2016 campaign proved to be the program’s first quarterfinals berth since 2003 and the first time in history that the school posted a winning record in three consecutive seasons. Thomson running back Mike Thomas rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the first half to fuel the Bulldogs’ 27-0 lead. A.J. Moses put Spalding on the board with a 6-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

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