McEachern was an unranked, 24-point underdog with a freshman quarterback who didn't know he was starting until just before the game. The opponent was an undefeated No. 1-ranked team. The game was being played 250 miles away from McEachern's home in one of the biggest, noisiest stadiums in the state.
McEachern trailed 24-0 with less than a minute left in the first half Friday night. With less than four minutes left in the game, the score was 31-14.
What were the chances?
As most have heard by now, McEachern somehow defeated Lowndes 36-31 Friday night to reach the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals.
Carlos Del Rio - the ninth-grader - passed for 274 yards and led his team to three touchdowns in the final 200 seconds. Del Rio threw a 30-yard TD pass to Genuine Potts with 54.8 seconds left. Lowndes, averaging over 50 points per game, tried to rally, moving in striking range, but McEachern intercepted a pass in the end zone.
Here are more observations from Friday’s second-round games and where things are headed in the highest classification.
Notice the theme: Reversals of fortune.
McEachern's was just the most sudden. Others have been brewing for the whole season.
-Two elite-eight teams – Archer and Marietta – had losing records last season.
-Two more - Tift County and North Gwinnett – were 6-5 and lost in the first round.
-Archer (12-0) is the only remaining undefeated team. Archer beat Mill Creek 16-10 on Friday. That was Archer's fifth win by six or fewer points.
-Lowndes and Grayson at one point were so dominant that this blog asked whether it was inevitable that they would play in the state championship game. Almost three-fourths of respondents to a poll agreed they were clearly the best two teams with 37 percent believing their state-championship meeting was just a matter of time. Both lost in the second round Friday.
-Only three region champions – Brookwood, Archer and North Gwinnett – are still playing.
-Three unranked teams are in the quarters. They are McEachern, McEachern and Marietta.
-One fifth-place team is still alive. That would be Marietta, which benefited got the at-large berth. Almost written off two months ago when its star quarterback was injured, the Blue Devils are in the quarters for the first time since 1994. Blue Devils beat Woodstock 38-28. (The quarterback is back.)
Looking ahead: Three quarterfinals will be played in Gwinnett County next week.
Tift County at Brookwood
Colquitt County at Archer
Parkview at McEachern
Marietta at North Gwinnett
Looking back: Six of eight second-round games were decided by seven points or less.
Brookwood 28, Milton 23
Tift County 31, Hillgrove 24
Archer 16, Mill Creek 10
Colquitt County 28, Walton 21
Parkview 48, Mountain View 13
McEachern 36, Lowndes 31
North Gwinnett 35, Grayson 28
Marietta 38, Woodstock 28