Over the weekend of December 15, there were seven championship games in the state of Georgia. One was in college; the other six were in High School.
The Celebration Bowl was the kickoff of the college football bowl season. The game was between the undefeated North Carolina A&T Aggies from the MEAC and the one loss Grambling State Tigers from the SWAC. This bowl game decides who the best HBCU School in the country is. It was the third annual game. This was the second time both teams would play in the game. The Aggies played in the inaugural game, while the Tigers were returning champions. The two previous games were decided by one possession and this game stayed true to form.
The Aggies quarterback Lamar Raynard finished off a seven-play, 56-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left in the game. It gave the Aggies a 21-14 victory and an unblemished record for the season, 12-0. Head Coach Rod Broadway said, “It was an excellent win. Let’s give Grambling their dues. There were two really good football teams out there, and usually when you get two teams like that together, it comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes and we were able to win the ball game. We made way too many mistakes and we had a lot of opportunities slip away. But I told the team prior to the last drive, this is how championships are won and we were able to go down and put the ball in the end zone to end the season 12-0, which is an unbelievable feeling.”
It was a great defensive battle between two outstanding teams. Coach Broadway and his players had the expression of “making chicken”. In his pregame conference, he talked about his team’s defense from day one has been all about stopping the run. He said, “We like Kentucky Fried Chicken. We do chicken. We don’t do hamburgers. We don’t do hotdogs. We don’t do beanie weenies. We do chicken. We stick with who we are and how we go about doing things.” That’s one of the reason why they went for it on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line with game tied up at 14. “We were in four-down territory. You’re thinking that if you don’t get it, you pin them down in a spot where you can get a short punt and get good field position. We let them out of the hole a little bit, but we were able to get it back. But we’d go for it again. You have to be able to make those plays in championship games.”
The first quarter ended 0-0. After a few adjustments in the second quarter, both teams were tied 7-7 going into halftime. The Aggies went on top 14-7 in the third quarter thanks to Marquell Cartwright 29-yard touchdown run. The Tigers answered early in the fourth quarter with a 29-yard touchdown of their own. It was a pass from DeVante Kincade to Martez Carter. Kincade finished the game going 19-of-36 passing, with one interception, 225 yards and two touchdowns. He was also the leading rusher for the team with 93 yards on 16 carries. Calief Samon had four catches for 53 yards to lead the Tiger receiver corps.
Raynard completed 23-of-43 passing attempts, with two interceptions, 225 yards and a touchdown for the Aggies. Cartwright, was the Offensive MVP of the game, rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Elijah Bell had 10 catches for 95 yards for the Aggies. Franklin “Mac” McCain III, had four solo tackles and an interception, which got him Defensive MVP of the game honors. The Aggies victory gives them two wins in the bowl game and the MEAC has a 2-1 lead over the SWAC.
The Georgia High School Association decided to move six of their postponed games (due to weather conditions) from the neutral Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the home field of the team with the higher seed. If they had identical seeds, then a coin toss decided home field. What?! That put Colquitt County at North Gwinnett (Class AAAAAAA), Coffee at Lee County (AAAAAA), Blessed Trinity at Marist (AAAA) and Clinch County at Irwin County (A). The two games involving No. 1 seeds, sent Rome to Warner Robins (AAAAA) and Hapeville Charter to Rabun County (AA). It would have been better to play the games on Sunday, December 10 at the Stadium. Maybe even play the games at a neutral site like Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech, or Georgia State. GHSA said they were following their contingency plan that they outlined to all the teams. Ok, but how about trying to be fair? What about the 6,000 fans that bought tickets from Blessed Trinity that now have to figure out how to sit in a 4,000-seat Marist field? What about Rome having to travel 175 miles for their game, after its initial trip to Atlanta? What about Hapeville traveling 120 miles for their game, instead of 10 miles, if the games were played in Atlanta? Moreover, poor Colquitt County. They have to travel 225 miles for their game. That means chartering buses for all those teams. Some schools had to bring in portable seats to accommodate the 6,000-seat requirement for 5A and above, and 4,000 seats for 4A and lower. I hope that there will be a new contingency plan in place for next season. Here are the winners:
A Private Eagles Landing Christian Academy (14-0) 41, Athens Academy (13-1) 3
A Public Clinch County (12-2) 21, Irwin County (12-2) 12
Class 2A Hapeville Charter (14-1) 35, Rabun County (14-1) 23
Class 3A Calhoun County (14-1) 10, Peach County (13-2) 6
Class 4A Blessed Trinity (13-2) 16, Marist (14-1) 7
Class 5A Rome (15-0) 38, Warner Robins (14-1) 0
Class 6A Lee County (14-1) 28, Coffee (10-4) 21 (OT)
Class 7A North Gwinnett (14-1) 19, Colquitt County (11-4) 17
Congratulations to all the Champions!