Expectations are high when a high school football team is ranked No. 1 in preseason ahead of a two-time defending champion on a 30-game winning streak.
What was presumptuous in August became official on Friday night in Moultrie, where top-ranked Grayson made Colquitt County an ex-champion with a 49-21 victory in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals. The game was played with a running clock in the fourth quarter after the Rams opened a 49-7 lead.
Only the margin was shocking as Grayson (12-1) fields six of the state’s 32 highest-rated college prospects (and 13 of the top 250 at that) and was favored to win by 16, according to the Maxwell Ratings. Colquitt (8-5) had been 9-0 in home playoff games under coach Rush Propst, so there was some suspense in tradition and the magic of the old ball coach and his seven career state titles. But Colquitt had done well just to win eight straight after an 0-4 start during a serious rebuilding season.
The high majority of Friday night’s third round went as expected, as the higher-ranked teams were 28-4, but the high class was treated to the biggest upset.
Westlake, one of only seven unranked teams among the 64 in all classifications to make their final eight, beat No. 6 Lowndes 24-21 in a AAAAAAA game. The Lions let a 21-0 lead get away but won on a 33-yard field goal. A school best known for alumnus Cam Newton, Westlake is in the football semifinals for the first time.
New coach Kareem Reid, also facing down what was thought to be a rebuilding season (Westlake's QB, a major recruit, transferred to Roswell), has done a pretty remarkable job. Westlake has won eight straight.
Coincidentally, Westlake next faces Roswell, a 42-21 winner over No. 8 North Cobb.
Grayson will play No. 3 Mill Creek, a 31-28 winner over No. 5 McEachern, in the other semifinal.
It will be the first all-metro Atlanta final four in the history of the highest classification.
That's no slight on non-metro teams. They're just out-numbered these days. There are only four of them, and two made the quarterfinals - Colquitt and Lowndes. Surely Camden County will be back, and Tift County is well above average in its own right.
In Valdosta's glory days of the 1980s, there were about 20 South Georgia teams in the high class, and another 15 or so from around Columbus, Macon or Augusta.
This will be the first time since 2000 (Harrison, Parkview, Starr's Mill, Westside-Macon) that no South Georgia team is in the semifinals and the first time in history that all four are from metro Atlanta.
Congrats to Westlake, Roswell, Mill Creek & Grayson - the Final Four.