The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
If this were a normal week at the end of the high school football season, we would be just two days away from the kickoff of the state championship games in the Georgia High School Association.
But as many of you know, this year we aren’t getting the normal finish to the prep football season.
The Atlanta United made sure of that, but they aren’t to blame. They are just doing their thing, and Georgia’s professional soccer squad will play for all the marbles this Saturday in Major League Soccer when it hosts the championship match, which futbol fans know as the MLS Cup.
Their making the championship match forced the GHSA to move the eight state title games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta away from the weekend and into next week.
This was the state’s backup plan that was devised in the summer in the event that the United did need their home field this weekend if they were hosting the soccer final.
Now that Plan B has become the reality, the GHSA is taking some serious heat mostly from fans who are disturbed by the fact that the games are mid-week. Their beef with the GHSA is that playing the games next Tuesday and Wednesday as now planned makes it more of a chore for many of them to make the trip to Atlanta to watch their favorite teams play for a state crown than it would be if the games were held on the weekend.
And thus, many of them won’t be going to the big city from whatever corner in the Peach State that they call home. They will watch the games right along with the masses on state-wide public television, assuming their local cable company provides the channel or will listen to their team’s radio broadcast if they have one.
I agree that this isn’t good, but I said last week, I will not pass final judgement or offer up other alternatives to avoid this scenario in the future until I see how it all plays out.
My guess is the games will be fine, and we will still see some good football played on the field. But this figures to hurt ticket sales, and therefore with even fewer people in the stands, the game-day atmosphere in this spacious stadium just won’t be the same.
Having said all that, today the plan is to look back at what happened in the semifinal games played this past weekend and set the stage for the upcoming title games next week.
We will dissect each of those in more detail in the coming days, seeing as now we are still six days away from the games kicking off versus two had the title contests stayed on the original dates of this Friday and Saturday.
So, here goes:
There won’t be an all-Region 1 final, and we were close to not even having title favorite Colquitt County in the championship game.
The Packers, who were the champions in Region 1, survived a 22-21 game against Archer when they blocked an extra point in overtime.
Milton, meantime, opened up a 21-0 lead before halftime against Region 1’s Lowndes and then held off a rally by the Vikings to reach the title game for the first time.
Colquitt is ranked in the top 5 in several national polls and still has a shot at a national title should the Packers close out a 15-0 season with the state crown.
Northside took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and those two touchdowns were enough for the 14-7 win as the Eagles gave up only a late touchdown to Dacula before recovering an onside kick and running out the clock.
Top-ranked Lee County also jumped ahead 14-0 in the first six minutes of its semifinal against Lanier and ran away for another easy win.
The title game will be a rematch of the Region 1 regular-season meeting in which Lee defeated Northside 24-7.
The big news here is that Rome did not make it to the title game.
The state’s top-rated team lost 45-28 to Warner Robins in a rematch of last year’s state final.
Led by Dylan Fromm, who passed for 376 yards and four touchdowns, the Demons scored the final 17 points after Rome tied the semifinal game at 28-all late in the third quarter.
Rome had won 40 straight games, the seventh-longest winning streak in state history.
Now, Warner Robins meets region rival Bainbridge for the state title. The Bearcats knocked off Stockbridge 20-19 in one of the craziest finishes in GHSA playoff history.
Bainbridge trailed 13-0 going to the fourth quarter, but went 95 yards to score and then returned an intercepted halfback pass for a touchdown to tie the game.
Stockbridge went back up 19-13 just inside the final two minutes. It would squip the kickoff.
Stockbridge almost recovered the loose ball on the kick, but after it bounced into the hands of Bainbridge player Randy Fillingham, he advanced it 4 yards before tossing it backward to Caleb McDowell who returned it 60 yards for the deciding touchdown.
Defending champion Blessed Trinity is back in the championship tilt after a 51-35 victory over Troup.
The teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards of offense in a game Blessed Trinity led 32-6 in the first half before Troup rallied within 37-27, only to see Blessed Trinity pull away again.
Cartersville advanced to another final as it defeated Marist 17-14 in the other semifinal. The Purple Hurricanes trailed 14-10 in the fourth period before scoring the eventual game-winning touchdown with just under eight minutes left in the game.
Peach County avenged its loss to Calhoun in last year’s state final that ended in controversy as the Trojans posted a 22-7 victory at home last Friday in the semifinal matchup.
Peach led 13-7 late in the first half and held Calhoun scoreless in the second half.
The Trojans will face powerful Cedar Grove which started fast against previously unbeaten Pierce County in the other semifinal and went on to a 30-6 victory on its home field.
Robert Jones rushed for 259 yards and had two long touchdown runs to pace Cedar Grove which won the 2016 state championship.
Heard County advanced to its first-ever final with a 38-30 overtime win against Fitzgerald.
Heard’s Aaron Beasley ran for 260 yards and three scores including a 15-yard run in overtime. He also intercepted a pass in overtime to seal the victory.
Fitzgerald had a chance to win in regulation, but a 46-yard field goal on the final play bounced off the right upright and fell away.
Rockmart is in the state final for the first time since 1957 after knocking off Callaway, 28-22.
Rockmart took a 28-20 lead early in the fourth period, but after giving up a safety, had to stop two Callaway drives inside its own 20-yard line to come away victorious.
Class A Private
Athens Academy held off Prince Avenue Christian 28-21 after taking a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Spartans forced three turnovers while committing none and held Prince Avenue to 16 yards rushing.
With the semifinal win, Athens Academy took an 8-7 lead in its rivalry series with Prince Avenue which is also located in the Athens area.
Eagles’ Landing Christian advanced to the state final with a 70-21 win at Savannah Christian. ELCA racked up 689 total yards in the runaway win.
The 70 points are the most ever scored in a state semifinal.
ELCA will go for its fourth straight state title. Athens Academy, which was the runner-up last year, is looking for its first state crown.
Class A Public
Irwin County defeated Pelham 23-6 as it pulled away after holding only a 10-6 cushion in the third quarter.
Pelham was averaging a state-best 52.83 points per game going into the semifinal contest.
Clinch County advanced to the final with a 31-23 triumph over Marion County.
Clinch led 31-17 going into the fourth period.
Irwin and Clinch are region rivals and also met in the state final last year which was won by Clinch.
Irwin won the regular-season meeting between the two teams. Irwin will attempt to win its first state title since 1975.
Clinch can win its eighth state crown with a victory.