For all the talk of how wide open the Class AAAAAA playoff bracket was this season, it has turned out about the way one might have expected going into next weekend’s semifinals.
All four of the remaining teams were ranked in the top five in the final regular-season poll, and the one top-five team that didn’t make it (No. 3 Mays) was knocked out by the No. 4-ranked team.
So we’re left next week with No. 5 Northside-Warner Robins at No. 4 Tucker and No. 1 Valdosta at No. 2 Dalton. Here’s a look at the four remaining teams, how they got to the semifinals, and the significance of their victories. They are listed by their positions on the bracket.
*Tucker: The Tigers advanced with a 28-21 victory over Region 5 champion Mays. Tucker took an early 7-0 lead and then got three rushing touchdowns from Chris Broadwater as Mays stayed close but was never able to pull even. The victory put Tucker in the semifinals for the first time since the 2013 team lost to Creekside in the AAAAA final. The Tigers won state titles in 2008 and 2011.
*Northside: The Eagles are the only remaining team that did not win a region title. Northside reached the semifinals for the eighth time in 12 years with a 42-20 victory over Glynn Academy. Northside was outgained 407-294, according to the Macon Telegraph, but took advantage of three turnovers to build a three-touchdown halftime lead. Tobias Oliver rushed for 101 yards and passed for 107.
*Valdosta: The nation’s winningest program is two wins away from its first state title since 1998 after it survived third-seeded Stephenson 31-21. Valdosta, which played in the highest classification for decades before dropping down this year, is in its first semifinal since 2003, when it lost in the AAAAA final. Valdosta will be on the road after hosting in the first three rounds this year.
*Dalton: The Catamounts built a 30-7 lead but needed a stop on a two-point conversion with less than three minutes left to preserve a 30-28 victory over Coffee, the No. 4 seed from Valdosta and Northside’s Region 1. Ahmaad Tanner ran for 242 yards, and Dalton got big plays from the special teams. The Catamounts are in the semifinals for the first time since 2001, when they lost in the AAAA final.
Tucker 28, Mays 21
Northside-Warner Robins 42, Glynn Academy 20
Valdosta 31, Stephenson 21
Dalton 30, Coffee 28
(R1 #2) Northside-Warner Robins at (R4 #1) Tucker
(R1 #1) Valdosta at (R6 #1) Dalton