Two undefeated teams slugged their way into the first state championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
No. 1 Rome, the defending state champion, easily dispatched No. 2 Buford 45-7 in a rematch of last year’s title game. In the other semifinal, No. 4 Warner Robins finally pulled away from unranked Carver in the second half for a 31-7 win.
Rome (14-0) will meet Warner Robins (14-0) for the Class AAAAA championship on Friday at the Benz.
Rome increased its winning streak to 26 games. The Wolves will try to become the first Class AAAAA team to win back-to-back championships since the GSHA went to seven-plus classifications in 2012.
It’s been a while since Buford has been manhandled in such a manner, not since a 44-point loss to Duluth in 1973. It was wasn’t quite the slugfest from a year ago when Rome prevailed 16-7 to win its first state championship.
“I don’t know if I slept all week," Rome coach John Reid said. "Buford is so good, but our kids just did such a great job. They pressured their quarterback, wouldn’t let them run the ball. I don’t know how they did it, but our players just kept getting after Buford and didn't stop. We dominated on defense and offense and that is hard to do against a team like Buford.”
Rome quarterback Knox Kadum ran 11 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns and threw for two more touchdowns to Xavier Roberts. Rome rushed for 416 yards. The Rome defense limited Buford to 42 rushing yards and 102 total yards.
“We just didn’t play our best game,” Buford coach John Ford told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “We made some mistakes and you can’t do it against a team like this that’s on the top of the mountain. At the end of the day you can’t have those kinds of mistakes and that’s what we did.”
Warner Robins will be seeking its fifth state championship, the first since 2004, when the Demons went 14-0-1. Warner Robins hasn’t gone 15-0 since 1981.
Carver finished 12-2 and finished one win short of its first championship appearance since 1967. It was the finest season for the Panthers since 2007, when they went 11-1 and reached the quarterfinal round.
“I am just excited,” Warner Robins quarterback Dylan Fromm told the Macon Telegraph. “Ready to get to work next week and hopefully play well in the Benz.”