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Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Quarterfinals in review


*Etowah 43, Newton 29: Newton took a 29-21 lead with 9:17 left, but Etowah drove for the tying touchdown and two-point conversion on its next possession. Scott Morgan, a lineman committed to Georgia Tech, got a first down on a fourth-and-inches at the Newton 8, then scored on a 2-yard run. Etowah then forced a fumble at the Newton 32, and Tyray Devezin scored two plays later on a 16-yard run. Devezin rushed for 232 yards and three touchdowns. The most critical play of the first half was QB Robbie Knox's 48-yard TD run on a fourth-and-2.

What it means -  Etowah became the first Cherokee County school to reach the semifinals in any classification. Newton's best season since 1987 ended with a 7-4 finish.

*Archer 56, Hillgrove 13: Archer took a 56-0 lead at halftime. QB Gabe Tiller was 12-of-12 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns and didn't play the second half. Dylan Singleton scored on an 11-yard run, a 41-yard pass and 57-yard punt return. Jamyest Williams scored on a 46-yard pass and 35-yard run. The margin of victory was the largest in the highest classification in the quarterfinals or later since 1984 (Valdosta 45, Statesboro 0).

What it means - Archer, opened in 2009, made the semifinals for the first time and became the seventh Gwinnett County school to do it in the past 10 seasons. The others were Norcross, North Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge, Collins Hill, Grayson and Dacula. Hillgrove, opened in 2006, fell to 0-3 in quarterfinal games.

*McEachern 62, Tucker 36: Bailey Hockman was 16-of-25 passing for 438 yards and four touchdowns. T.J. Rahming had seven catches for 258 yards and two touchdowns and returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown. McEachern led 21-0 in the first quarter, and Tucker never got within 14.

What it means - McEachern made the semifinals as an unranked team for the second consecutive season.

*Colquitt County 42, Milton 35: Tied 35-35 with 6:13 left, Colquitt County drove 69 yards for the winning touchdown, an 8-yard run from Sihiem King with 2:37 left. Milton had scored on Austin McLeod's 57-yard TD pass to Obe Fortune. Milton drove to Colquitt's 20-yard line in the final minutes but was stopped on downs. Chance Parrish was 16-of-21 passing for 221 yards and two TDs. King rushed for 133 yards.

What it means - Colquitt County made the semifinals for the sixth straight time, a state record for the highest classification. Milton's best season since 1952 ended at 11-2.


*Mays 44, Jones County 41: Asahnia Aderhold threw a game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass to Julius Whitehead on the final play of the game. Mays converted a fourth-and-22 at its 33 with a minute to play. Aderhold passed for 366 yards and four TDs, including a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. Deparis Carter scored on a reception and a kickoff return.

What it means - Mays becomes the first city of Atlanta school to make the semifinals since Grady in 2005. Jones County's best-ever season ends at 10-3 under first-year coach Justin Rogers.

*Stockbridge 42, Houston County 22: Stockbridge trailed 20-0 in the first quarter but scored 35 unanswered points to seize control. Jajuan Jackson's 73-yard punt return with 41 seconds left in the first half was a key play, cutting the lead to 20-14. Malachi Brown passed for 136 yards and three touchdowns, and Artemus Mitchell rushed for 154 yards.

What it means - Stockbridge, opened in 1964, became the first Henry County public school ever to reach the semifinals. Houston County was denied its first semifinal since 1993 and finished 10-3.

*Northside (Warner Robins) 31, Glynn Academy 7: T.J. Anderson ran for two touchdowns and Willie Jordan and Tobias Oliver scored one each for Northside, which never trailed. The Eagles turned the ball over three times inside the Glynn Academy 10 and had two TDs called back because of penalties. Glynn's only points came on a kickoff return.

What it means - Northside is in the semifinals for the third time in coach Kevin Kinsler's five seasons. Glynn Academy (9-4) falls one victory short of its first 10-win season since 1985 and semifinal since 1968 under first-year coach Rocky Hidalgo.

*Allatoona 24, Gainesville 17: Josh Bettistea had 20 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 15-yard run with 3:14 remaining. Gainesville led 17-7 midway through the second quarter. Russell Halimon, the leading rusher in Class AAAAA, had 99 yards on 26 carries and scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter.

What it means - Allatoona, which opened in 2008, is in the semifinals for the first time. Gainesville's run of three straight semifinal appearances is over.

Class AAAA

*Cartersville 35, Sandy Creek 31: Tiamon Pennymon scored on a 1-yard run with 20 seconds left, giving Cartersville its first lead at the end of an 80-yard drive. Cartersville trailed 31-21 entering the fourth quarter. The other scoring drive was 52 yards. Cartersville QB Trevor Lawrence was 18-of-32 passing for 300 yards and a touchdown.

What it means - Cartersville returns to the semifinals after making it in 2012 and is a victory from its first state final since the state championship of 1999.

*Buford 30, Marist 6: Joshua Thomas scored three touchdowns and rushed for 75 yards, and Luke Humphrey was 6-for-11 for 176 yards. Marist was held to 95 yards in total offense with no play from scrimmage longer than 10 yards. The turning point came when Buford went for a fourth-and-2 at the Marist 48. Thomas scored on the play. Buford then recovered an onside kick and quickly scored again for a 21-3 lead with 5:42 left in the first half.

What it means - Buford is in the semifinals for the eighth consecutive time, a state record, and won its 38th straight game, tied for the fifth-longest streak in state history. Marist was denied its third straight semifinal appearance.

*St. Pius 31, West Laurens 13: St. Pius scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to break open a close game. West Laurens' Darius Bradford rushed for 163 yards, but St. Pius shut down a passing game (7-for-22, 53 yards) that threw for 254 yards the previous round against Stephens County. St. Pius had 211 yards rushing, 89 by Joey Connors.

What it means - West Laurens' best playoff run and season since 1994 ends. St. Pius moves onto its third semifinal (2006, 2012) in the Paul Standard era.

*Woodward Academy 35, North Oconee 32: Trailing 32-28, Woodward went 75 yards for the winning touchdown, an 18-yard pass from Jes Sutherland to Josh Johnson. Woodward survived a fourth-and-6 from its own 29-yard line on the drive. Sutherland was 24-of-29 passing for 218 yards and three touchdowns, and Elijah Holyfield rushed for 103 yards. North Oconee's Kawon Bryant rushed for 145 yards.

What it means - Woodward is in the semifinals for the first time since its 1980 state-championship season. North Oconee's deepest playoff run was ended, and Bryant finished his career with 6,903 rushing yards and 102 touchdowns.

Class AAA

*Washington County 62, Pierce County 35: Washington County quarterback A.J. Gray rushed for 442 yards and eight touchdowns, including four of 50 yards or more. Pierce County QB Stetson Bennett passed for 272 yards and two Bears rushers topped 100 yards, but Pierce turned the ball over five times. Washington County led 28-13 at halftime.

What it means - With 682 points on the season, Washington County moved within 26 points of Buford's state record of 707 points, set in 2013. Washington County is in the semifinals for the second consecutive season and 11th time since 1992.

*Blessed Trinity 28, Jefferson 21: Conor Davis threw a touchdown pass to Pat Jaskinski on the first play of Blessed Trinity's overtime possession, and the Titans won when Jefferson's pass on fourth-and-5 was incomplete. Davis threw three touchdown passes, two to Matthew Higgins, and Milton Shelton scored on a 1-yard run.

What it means - Blessed Trinity, which started varsity football in 2001, is in the semifinals for the first time. Jefferson's season ends in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.

*Calhoun 19, Elbert County 17: Calhoun scored the winning points when it forced Elbert County QB Mecole Hardman out of bounds for a safety with 1:56 remaining. Calhoun took a 17-10 lead in the third quarter on a 13-yard run by QB Kaelan Riley, but Elbert tied it on an 83-yard pass with about five minutes left. Riley passed for 160 yards and ran for 85.

What it means - Calhoun is in the semifinals for the sixth time in seven seasons. Calhoun has been 13-0 five of those times. Elbert County's bid for its first semifinal since its 1995 state-championship season is over.

*Westminster 14, Hart County 0: Westminster played the game without a quarterback because of injuries to starter Rankin Woley and backup Keller Harper. Most of the snaps went directly to RB Isaiah Malcome, who rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown and threw a 40-yard TD pass. Malcome broke the school's single-season rushing record (1,537 yards).

What it means - Westminster is in the semifinals for the first time since 1996 and has its most victories (12) since its 1978 state-championship season (13-2). Hart is denied its first semifinal since 1999.

Class AA

*Brooks County 35, Heard County 34: Heard County missed an extra point with 4:18 left that would've tied a game that Brooks County never trailed. Demontay Jones was 13-of-19 passing for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Exavius Medlock had six catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Heard County's Duranta Dunson had 216 yards and five touchdowns.

What it means - Brooks County returns to the semifinals in the season after three-time all-state QB Malkom Parrish, now at Georgia. Dunson's career ends with 6,915 career rushing yards and 96 touchdowns.

*Benedictine 31, Lovett 10: John Kennedy rushed for 131 yards, and Stevie Powers was 11-of-18 passing for 251 yards and three touchdowns. Two TD passes went to Brad Stewart, who had five catches for 104 yards. His 17-yard TD catch made it 24-3 late in the third quarter.

What it means - Benedictine is in the semifinals for the second straight season and fourth time in history. Lovett's reign as the AA champion is over.

*Greater Atlanta Christian 34, Vidalia 22: No. 1 GAC jumped to a 21-0 lead in this game between unbeaten teams ranked 1-2. Micah Abernathy rushed 19 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns, one a 70-yarder that made it 28-6 in the first half.

What it means - GAC is in the semifinals for the first time since 2012 and a step closer to its first state title. It was Vidalia's best season since 2004 (also 12-1).

*Fitzgerald 49, Pace Academy 21: Fitzgerald took a 35-7 lead at halftime and rushed for 495 yards as a team. Gerald Morgan was the leading rusher with 200 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.

What it means - Fitzgerald is in its 10th semifinal, first since 2009. Pace's deepest playoff run in a seven-year history of varsity football is over.

Class A (Public)

*Marion County 53, Mount Zion (Carroll) 14: Lorenzo Smothers scored on a run (16 yards), a punt return (70 yards) and a reception (23 yards). The game was tied 7-7 after the first quarter, but Marion scored the next 46 points. Johnny Royal ran for 110 yards to surpass 1,000 for the season.

What it means - Marion County won its 17th consecutive game in defense of its state title. Mount Zion's best season since 1996 is over at 8-4.

*Hawkinsville 12, Charlton County 6: Charlton County scored with 25 seconds remaining in regulation, but the Indians missed the extra point, sending the game to overtime. Hawkinsville scored on its first play in overtime on a 15-yard pass from Dakota Sloan to Royce Owens, then recovered a fumble on Charlton County's first play to end the game.

What it means - Hawkinsville advances to play Marion County in the semifinals for the second straight season. Charlton County's bid to reach the finals for the second consecutive season ends at 10-2.

*Commerce 10, Calhoun County 0: QB Caleb Brooks rushed for a team-high 40 yards and scored a second-quarter touchdown on a 1-yard run for Commerce, which fumbled four times and was held to 113 yards of total offense. Cole Chancey recovered three fumbles by Calhoun County, which had just 53 yards of offense.

What it means - Commerce got its first 10-win season and semifinal berth since 2006 under second-year coach Michael Brown, a Commerce alumnus. Commerce was one of seven Northeast Georgia teams in the quarterfinals, but the only one to survive. Calhoun County's best season since 1993 ends at 8-4.

*Irwin County 40, Dooly County 29: Region 2 player of the year  Jakyron Young ran for 74 yards, scored two touchdowns and had an interception for Irwin County, which trailed 7-6 in the second half but scored 20 unanswered points to take control. Irwin County had 261 yards of offense in the second half (355 total) and intercepted four passes.

What it means -  Irwin County returns to the semifinals under first-year coach Buddy Nobles. Dooly finishes 8-4 for the second straight season.

Class A (Private)

*Calvary Day 35, Mount Pisgah Christian 21: Robert Heyward rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns, his third putting Calvary Day up 35-7 early in the fourth quarter. Calvary took a 21-0 lead, and Mount Pisgah never got closer than 14 points.

What it means - Both made the semifinals last season. Only Calvary Day returned, and did it without its starting quarterback, Sal Calderon, who was lost for the season to injury in the final regular-season game.

*Eagle's Landing Christian 47, Prince Avenue Christian 17: The score was 27-17 at halftime, but ELCA dominated the second half. QB D.J. Hammonds was 8-of-8 passing for 147 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 82 yards and three touchdowns.

What it means - ELCA won its sixth consecutive game after starting 0-6.

*Mount Paran Christian 35, Savannah Christian 14:

Emoni Williams returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and later scored on a 55-yard run midway in the third quarter for a 28-7 lead. Mount Paran had short fields for most of its touchdowns, two coming from forced turnovers, another when Savannah Christian was stopped on a fake punt on fourth-and-2 near midfield. Williams rushed for 83 yards and two TDs, and Dorian Walker ran for 80 yards.

What it means - Mount Paran, in its seventh season of varsity football, is in the semifinals for the first time.

*Aquinas 21, Tattnall Square 6: Ruben Garnett rushed for 271 yards on 31 carries and scored three touchdowns, the last one in the fourth quarter when Tattnall was still within 14-6. Tattnall ran 56 plays to Aquinas' 36 but managed only two field goals.

What it means - Aquinas won its 26th consecutive game and kept alive its bid to defend its state title. Tattnall Square completed its first season in the GHSA.

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