Welcome to Atlanta is a song by the famous musical artist Jermaine Dupri. It should be the theme song for the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) football championships. All roads led to the Georgia Dome this past weekend for that very reason. It was a bitter sweet trip. It was great for the 16 teams involved but sad because this is the last high school football games to be played there. Next year the games will be played in the brand new Mercedes Benz Stadium (it hasn’t been fully confirmed). This year provided plenty of intrigue for the eight football games in Atlanta.
Class A Private: Eagles Landing Christian Academy 34 Fellowship Christian 27 OT
This was Fellowship Christian’s first time playing in the championship game for football. They were at a slight disadvantage since Eagles Landing won last year. This game was as close as the score indicates. Fellowship actually out gained the Eagles 346 to 297 total yards. It took Josh May’s one yard touchdown run to seal the game for the Eagles.
Class A Public: Macon County 35 McIntosh County 0
McIntosh was a newcomer to the football championship game and sadly for them it showed. Macon County were heavy 14 point favorites to win the game. Although the time of possession was almost equal, Macon County out gained McIntosh 346 total yards to 159. McIntosh really didn’t help their cause with three fumbles and an interception.
Class 2A: Benedictine 49 Fitzgerald 26
This game was a quarterfinals rematch from last year that Fitzgerald won 54-28. Benedictine might have wanted this game too much. They were out rushed 311 to 196 yards, they lost the time of possession battle, and fumbled twice. Fitzgerald couldn’t seal the deal thanks to an interception for a touchdown and committing 11 penalties for 136 yards.
Class 3A: Cedar Grove 30 Greater Atlanta Christian 19
One team was bound to make history since neither school had won a state title in football. Cedar Grove decide that it would be them. They had been averaging 41 points a game and proved to be slightly off on that in this game. Cedar Grove used a 16 point second quarter to take a 23-3 halftime lead that GAC never recovered from. They out rushed Cedar Grove by 100 yards but turnovers hurt them. They had an interception returned for a touchdown and two fumbles.
Class 4A: Cartersville 58 Thomson 7
Cartersville came into the game on a mission. They were going for back to back 15-0 winning seasons and a second championship. They accomplished both. They out gained Thomson 399 yards to 284. I’m not sure who the record keeper was but I’m sure he was from Thomson. I guess he couldn’t give them that extra yard. Thomson like previous teams, got bit by the turnover bug. They fumbled five times. It’s hard to beat anybody with that many mistakes, and the final outcome reflected that.
Class 5A: Rome 16 Buford 7
Rome had never played in a state championship game in football until this past weekend. The school had never won a state title in any sport. Buford was making their 10th straight championship game and a lost from last year was fresh on their minds. Rome controlled the rushing attack by out gaining Buford 222 yards to 61. With 1:44 left in the game, Rome got a stop on 4th and 1 at the Buford 26 yard line. A few plays later, Rome scored a touchdown with 1:12 left in the game. Rome made the plays when they had to and pulled off an upset.
Class 6A: Valdosta 17 Tucker 7
Valdosta jumped out to a 17-0 lead at halftime, and turned the game over to the defense. It was a bend but don’t break defense that gave up 310 total yards. Valdosta forced 10 punts and four turnovers on downs.
Class 7A: Grayson 23 Roswell 20 OT
This was the crème de la crème of games, the heavyweight title bout. Grayson was a heavy favorite to win by 14 points. Revenge was also a factor because of a semifinals rematch from last year when Roswell won with 10 seconds left in the game 30-26. Twelve of the top-75 seniors and juniors in Georgia played in this game. Thirteen of the top-100 seniors in Georgia played in the game. This game lived up to the hype with Roswell missing a 32-yard field goal to tie the game. Neither team was effective running the ball with Grayson having only eight yards and Roswell having 68. Coach Jeff Herron is the only coach to have won state titles at three schools (Oconee County and Camden County).
I’m glad that the GHSA continued to host the championship games at the Dome instead of the semifinals. It gives these young players a taste of what it’s like to play for a college or professional team. It puts them on the big stage and provides a litmus test of performance under pressure. Thankfully at the Dome, everything is equal when it comes to weather and field conditions. It seemed unfair to have to play a championship game outside at the home team’s stadium. This was especially true when both teams had the same record and it had to be decided by a coin toss. Dave Hunter, coach of 1992 Brookwood team said, “The Georgia Dome has without question elevated the status of high school football in Georgia. The players have really looked forward to playing in a great facility, and every school that has played there says that their program has been enhanced because of ‘The Dome’ experience.” Congratulations to all the schools, coaches, and players that came to Atlanta and left champions!