Class 7A-5A Championship Previews

North Gwinnett High School

The powerhouse programs in the state’s biggest three classifications are ready to clash on Friday and Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Here are the state championship previews for Class AAAAAAA, AAAAAA and AAAAA.

This is just the second season that Georgia has featured a Class AAAAAAA, composed of the state’s 48 largest schools. Though the classification saw only two teams ranked No. 1 during the course of the season, the parity among the top teams was evident. Defending champ Grayson was tops in the class until a loss to Archer dropped the preseason favorite Rams to 6-1, and Lowndes held the No. 1 spot heading into the playoffs. North Gwinnett knocked out Grayson 35-28 in the second round, and previously undefeated Lowndes lost to semifinalist McEachern 36-31 in a dramatic quarterfinals game. Colquitt County was No. 2 in the state before falling on the road to Brookwood, but the Packers avenged that loss with a 31-14 road semifinals win over the Broncos last week.

Colquitt County
The Packers are going for their fourth state title and third in four years after winning back-to-back championships in 2014-15. Head coach Rush Propst, in his 10th season, is 105-33 and has reached at least the state quarterfinals in all but his first year in Moultrie. Colquitt County is led by quarterback Steven Krajewski, who has thrown for 2,211 yards and 22 touchdowns and completed 184 of 282 passes, 65 percent. Wide receivers Cam Singletary and Marvion McDonald are his main weapons in the passing game. The run game, however, carried the Packers in their semifinal win over Brookwood. Colquitt County rushed for 285 yards in the game, with 183 from Daijun Edwards and 67 from Ty Leggett, each scoring a touchdown. Ryan Fitzgerald is one of the top junior kickers in the country. Colquitt has had an amazing run in the postseason, defeating three Atlanta-area No. 1 seeds on the road.

North Gwinnett
North Gwinnett defied expectations to reach the title game in head coach Bill Stewart’s first season. The Bulldogs had not reached double-digit wins since 2013, when they lost in the state title game under previous head coach Bob Sphire. North Gwinnett is seeking its first state title in program history. The Bulldogs’ lone loss came in their opener at the Corky Kell Classic, as Walton blocked a last-second field-goal attempt to secure a 31-28 win. Quarterback Jimmy Urzua has led the Bulldogs to a 12-0 mark after starter Cade Fortin went down with injury, and the senior has been outstanding. He threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for a score as well, in the team’s semifinal victory over McEachern. Running back Tyler Goodson has had an outstanding playoffs, rushing for nine touchdowns, and receiver L.J. Fisher is a playmaker. The defense came up big in the semis, forcing four turnovers and getting a defensive touchdown from linebacker Jayden McDonald.

There will be a first-time state champion in Class AAAAAA, and it will come from Region 1. Tucker and finalist Lee County were No. 1 and No. 2 in the class, respectively, until Lee County fell to defending champion Valdosta to drop to 8-1. Tucker continued into the playoffs as the top team in the class with only a 14-point road loss to Class AAAAAAA Colquitt County, but Coffee took down Tucker 14-3 on the road in the semifinals. Both Lee County and Coffee spent the entirety of the fall in the Top 10, but Lee County’s 23-7 on Coffee win in the final regular-season game gave it the region’s top seed. Coffee is 4-2 against Lee County all-time, but Lee’s wins have come in the past two regular seasons and by double digits.

Coffee has made at least the quarterfinals five times in its history, but this is the team’s first trip to the state title game. The Trojans have tied a program best under head coach Robby Pruitt, in his sixth year, with their fourth-straight trip to the postseason. Running back Jameon Gaskin has rushed for 1,256 yards this season but was limited in the semifinals victory due to an injury he suffered in the quarterfinals. Quarterback Wade Sumner was efficient in the 14-3 victory over Tucker at Adams Stadium in DeKalb County. The senior was 10-of-14 passing for 118 yards and a 27-yard touchdown pass to running back Antonio Dawson, who featured for the Trojans because of injuries. Sumner also added 72 yards rushing on 18 carries. The Coffee defense came up big in the semifinals win; star defensive back Jarquavious Jefferson intercepted Tucker in the red zone late in the game.

Lee County
Lee County has made the playoffs six times out of Dean Fabrizio’s nine years there, the best stretch in school history. This season is also the first that the team has advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs and sets a school record for wins, three more than the previous mark. The Trojans feature a top quarterback in Jase Orndorff, who threw for over 2,100 yards in just the regular season. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns in Lee County’s dramatic 42-38 comeback victory against Glynn Academy in the semifinals. In that game, the Trojans came back from a 31-14 halftime deficit and the defense picked up four Glynn turnovers in the second half. Star defensive back Otis Reese leads a unit that had only given up 11.5 points per game before the semifinals shootout. Running back Nikko Cruz and wide receiver Ty Terrell also star for Lee County.

Rome already knows what it takes to win a title. The Wolves wrote the script just a year ago and have only looked better in each of the 14 games since. Warner Robins is going to need to discover its own championship formula. Rome’s offense is a well-oiled machine that has scored more points than any school in the state this season. No team in the classification rivals the season-long consistency and success that Rome’s offense has shown. Warner Robins has plenty of playmakers, however, and if the Demons can spark their signature brand of explosive passing plays they could disrupt the tempo and potentially seize control of this football game. Regardless, both programs return a wealth of talent next season and this game will steer the Class AAAAA conversation next fall.

This year’s Rome team looks more like the product of a football dynasty than a team looking to defend the only state title in its program’s history. But whatever the mission may be, Rome has been unstoppable in 2017. The Wolves’ obliteration of the competition this season has engraved an average margin of victory of 41.3 points into a flawless 14-0 record, and the run includes last week’s 45-7 semifinal win over 11-time state champion Buford. Head coach John Reid’s defense has a relentless pass rush spearheaded by Georgia-commit Adam Anderson that can make any passing play seem like a gamble. Offensively, junior quarterback Knox Kadum already led the team to a state title as a sophomore and is back making even better decisions and plays this season. Junior Jamious Griffin has run in 27 of the team’s 66 rushing touchdowns this season, and this offensive depth and balance transformed Rome into the state’s highest scoring attack this season.

Warner Robins
While Rome campaigns for back-to-back state titles, Warner Robins looks to complete the state’s most dramatic turnaround in head coach Mike Chastain’s second season at the school. The Demons were just a 3-8 team that was ousted by Griffin in the first round a year ago. Now they are riding a perfect 14-0 run to the state championship. The difference maker has been junior quarterback Dylan Fromm. In last week’s 31-7 win over Carver-Atlanta in the semis, Fromm threw for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This marked Fromm’s 34th and 35th touchdown passes of the season and resulted in his 11th multi-touchdown game of season. Nine different Demons receivers have caught touchdown passes this year and Rome could find trouble if the pass rush is unable to disrupt the rhythm between Fromm and his array of targets. Senior running back Jarius Burnett is a physical runner who will need to cash in on short-yardage opportunities to keep the Rome offense on the field.

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