The finals are set. On the private side, it’s No. 1 Eagle’s Landing Christian (13-0) vs. No. 2 Athens Academy (13-0), while the public championship game will feature No. 2 Irwin County (12-1) vs. No. 5 Clinch County (11-2).
Here’s how the four teams advanced:
-- ELCA easily dispatched of No. 5 Prince Avenue Christian of Bogart, 55-0. Josh Mays scored three touchdowns in the first half, helping to propel the Chargers to a 41-0 lead at the break. The ELCA defense bent a little, allowing the Wolverines inside the 10-yard line three times. But on all three occasions, Prince Avenue was denied on fourth-and-goal. In three playoff games, ELCA has now outscored its opponents 164-0.
-- Athens Academy avenged a loss to No. 3 Mount Paran Christian in last season’s quarterfinals, with a 14-7 win. The Spartans overcame a 7-0 halftime deficit, after Mount Paran took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on an 8-yard touchdown pass. The Spartans tied the game just after halftime on a 2-yard run by Len’Neth Whitehead. The short run capped a 60-yard drive, which was set up by a pass from Jack Thomas to Owen Roberts. Just over a minute later, the Athens Academy defense forced a fumble that was picked up and returned for a touchdown by George Smith to give the Spartans a 14-7 lead. Athens held on in the fourth quarter to put away the game. Thomas finished the game 6-of-9 passing for 74 yards. Payton Bowles led in rushing yards with 45 on 13 attempts. Trey Willis and William McLanahan combined for 10 tackles and five assists for the Spartans.
-- Clinch County blocked a field-goal attempt in the last 15 seconds to preserve a 23-20 win over No. 8 Mt. Zion-Carroll. Dantonio Robinson rushed for the go-ahead score with four minutes left to play after Mount Zion had taken a 20-16 lead with nine minutes remaining. Robinson’s touchdown was set up by a 37-yard run by Trezmen Marshall on the drive. Clinch held a 16-14 lead at halftime, and into the fourth quarter, after two touchdown runs from quarterback Charles McClelland (11 yards, 2 yards) and a safety with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Punter Warren Stovall angled a kick out of bounds at the 1-yard line to help set up the safety, as Clinch tackled a Mt. Zion ball-carrier in the end zone on the ensuing possession. Mt. Zion outgained Clinch County 350 to 242 in a losing effort.
-- D.J. Lundy rushed for a 10-yard touchdown and ran in the 2-point try to give Irwin County a 38-35 lead in the fourth quarter, and Davion Pollard intercepted a pass by Emanuel County Institute quarterback Chase Whitehead on the next possession with six minutes to play to preserve the 38-35 victory. Irwin quarterback Will Stephens converted a fourth-and-2 from the ECI 10-yard line with a minute left to seal the win. Irwin County gained 468 total yards, 162 in the first half and 306 in the second, and overcame a 22-8 ECI lead in the second quarter. Javon Stanley put Irwin up 8-0 in the first quarter on an 8-yard run, and Stephens hit Jamorri Colson on a pass for the successful 2-point conversion attempt. Eric Dixon rushed for a 13-yard touchdown and Kiernan Johnson caught a pass from Whitehead for the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 8-8. Whitehead’s QB sneak and Dixon’s 3-yard TD run made it 22-8 ECI before Colson’s 53-yard touchdown catch from Stephens made it 22-14 at halftime.
Irwin made it 29-22 on a 22-yard TD pass from Stephens to Hunter Spires and a 2-point conversion on a pass from Stephens to Jay Stanley. Stanley caught a 27-yard TD pass from Stephens, and Wil Hudson caught Stephens’ pass for another 2-point conversion to give Irwin the 30-29 lead. Dixon had a 34-yard run to give ECI a 35-30 lead before Lundy’s game-winning rushes.
Lundy rushed 24 times for 127 yards, including 93 in the second half, and Stephens was 10-of-14 passing for 165 yards and three touchdowns. For ECI, Dixon carried 20 times for 171 yards.