The Coffee Trojans overcame injuries to their top two running backs to hold off the Alpharetta Raiders for a 28-14 road win on Friday in the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals.
The No. 4-ranked Trojans (9-3), a No. 2 seed from Region 1, are in the semifinals for the first time since 1981 and next week they’ll will travel to play top-ranked Tucker, which beat Allatoona 20-12 on Friday.
The Raiders finish 11-2 after making their deepest playoff run in program history, which dates back to 2004.
The Trojans lost running back Jameon Gaskin to injury on their opening drive. On their third offensive series they lost Marqavius Jefferson, who racked up an interception on defense and then scored on a 16-yard carry on the Trojans’ ensuing possession to give them a 14-0 lead with 32.9 seconds left in the first quarter.
Jefferson would not return and Trojans coach Robby Pruitt said his status for next week is undetermined. Gaskin would return in the second half and picked up two crucial first downs on the game’s final drive to melt the clock.
By the time Gaskin and Jefferson were knocked out, the Trojans had a two-score lead. Quarterback Wade Sumner rushed for a 4-yard score that gave Coffee a 21-0 lead with 7:37 remaining in the half.
Sumner, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior, knew he’d have to step up with his top two rushers on the sideline. He led the Trojans with 76 rushing yards on 10 carries and was aided sophomore running back Antonio Dawson, a 5-foot-6, 125-pound sophomore who had 62 yards on 13 carries.
“We didn’t really skip a beat there in the first half,” Sumner said. “Antonio Dawson, one of our young guys, came in there and made some big plays for us and the line opened up some holes for me. It wasn’t very hard for me to run through them big, wide-open holes. But as a unit we played solid in the first half.”
All the game’s scoring happened in the first half. The Trojans’ first drive ended in Sumner’s 21-yard pass to Milton Jackson to give them a 7-0 lead with 6:14 left in the first.
Alpharetta’s ensuing possession ended when Jefferson stepped in front of Matthew Downing’s pass on the Trojans’ 1, returning it to the 9. He then scored on a 16-yard run that capped a four-play, 91-yard drive in which he rushed three times for 38 yards. The other play was a 53-yard Sumner run.
The Raiders got on the board when Luke Estes caught his first of two touchdown passes, this one on a 38-yard reception that brought the score to 21-7 with 4:31 left in the half.
Coffee immediately responded, first with a 51-yard kickoff return from Jackson coupled with a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Raiders that placed the Trojans on the Alpharetta 31. Three plays later, Sumner found Raekwon Burch for a 28-yard touchdown pass on third-and-7.
Alpharetta again responded, this time with an 80-yard drive that lasted 1:35 and ended with a Downing 10-yard touchdown pass to Estes. As it would turn out, that would be the game’s final score, which came with 1:12 left in the half.
The Raiders appeared to come out in the second half with momentum, forcing Coffee to go three-and-out on the opening possession and then driving down the field to sit at first-and-goal from the 5. But the Trojans’ defense didn’t allow them a yard further and then blocked a 23-yard field goal attempt and returned it all the way to the Raiders’ 40.
After that, Alpharetta’s second-half possessions ended in a turnover on downs, a punt and another turnover on downs — the last of which was a goal-line run stuff inside the 1 with 7:47 remaining.
Alpharetta never got the ball back.
“That was huge,” said Pruitt, who picked up his 340th career win and has seven state titles won in Florida. “We worked on that. We knew that was one of their plays. And our defense bowed up a lot in the second half. That’s a good football team. Blocking the field goal was huge and then that play certainly was huge for us.”
The Trojans took over from inside their own 1, but Alpharetta was called for encroachment on the first play from scrimmage. The Trojans would go 3-for-3 on third down conversions on that drive, including a Gaskin run on third-and-1 in which he appeared stopped behind the line before a second and third effort got him a 3-yard gain. He then converted on another third-and 1 after the Raiders had burned all their timeouts, allowing the Trojans to run off the remainder of the clock.
Sumner finished 9 of 14 passing for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Burch had 54 yards and a score on three catches and Jackson had 38 yards and a score on three catches. Jefferson had 53 yards and a score on seven carries and Jefferson had 38 yards on 11 carries.
Downing led Alpharetta in passing and rushing. He completed 12 of 29 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and rushed 11 times for 52 yards. Estes finished with touchdowns and 78 yards on four catches and Spencer Gaddis had 89 yards on seven catches.
Coffee 14 14 0 0 - 28
Alpharetta 0 14 0 0- 14
C - Milton Jackson 21 pass from Wade Sumner (Jose Rodriguez kick)
C - Marquavious Jefferson 16 run (Rodriguez kick)
C - Sumner 4 run (Rodriguez kick)
A - Luke Estes 38 pass from Matthew Downing (Dylan Schorr kick)
C - Raekwon Burch 28 pass from Sumner (Rodriguez kick)
C - Estes 10 pass from Downing (Schorr kick)