De facto region title games highlight final weekend

Perry McIntyre

-Class AA No. 1 Lovett completed its remarkable regular season with a 17-14 win over No. 2 GAC in what was the AA game of the year so far. The Lions defense intercepted prolific Spartans’ QB Rafe Chapple four times and star two-way player Grant Haley (a Vandy commit) rushed for 108 yards and two scores while intercepting Chapple once and batting away a potential go-ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.


The Lions played five ranked teams this season and beat four of them, including wins over AAA teams St. Pius, Blessed Trinity and Woodward Academy as well as AAAA-power Marist. Coach Mike Muschamp’s team lost its only game in overtime to Class AAA No. 2 Washington County. Lovett won its lone state title in 1970 and this may be its best team since. The Lions can probably be considered the best “pound-for-pound” team in the state when strength of schedule, success against quality teams from higher classifications and overall resume are taken into account.


-Camden County just keeps winning. Now No. 1 in Class AAAAAA, the Wildcats jumped on Colquitt County early and would not give up its lead Friday. Since a season-opening loss to North Gwinnett in the Metro PCS Corky Kell Classic, Camden County has won nine straight games. Coach Welton Coffey’s squad dominated non-region foes after its loss to the Bulldogs, then edged Region 1 rivals Valdosta, Coffee, Brunswick and Colquitt by seven points or less.


Coach Rush Propst’s Packers fumbled the opening kickoff and fell behind 7-0 almost immediately.


A 22-play, 99-yard scoring drive gave Coffey’s Cats a 15-0 first-quarter lead. Camden withered a Packers’ comeback and won its 13th consecutive region title.


-Collins Hill and North Gwinnett each proved one more time that they are for real on Friday night after earning quality wins.


The Eagles clinched a tie for the Region 7 title by overcoming a two-touchdown deficit at Mill Creek against a motivated group of Hawks, who may be the best team in AAAAAA not to make the playoffs. Collins Hill scored 31 second-half points to pull out its ninth win of the season. QB Tyler Herman threw for three scores and Tyler Henderson rushed for three touchdowns for Collins Hill, which faces Walton in the first round.


North Gwinnett, meanwhile, dominated Peachtree Ridge to clinch a tie for the Region 7 title with Norcross and Collins Hill. The Bulldogs sprinted to a 30-0 first-half lead behind nearly flawless efforts by their offense, which started backup QB John Urzua, and their much-maligned defense. In fact, a fumble return for a score by Carter Cross punctuated coach Bob Sphire’s club’s early domination.


North Gwinnett, however, got the short end of the tiebreaking coin flips and will travel to Milton as the Region 7 No. 3 seed.


-North Paulding won the Region 5-AAAAA title in coach Scott Jones’ second year after a 9-1 season that was ignited by a 41-30 loss to New Manchester in Week 2. The Wolfpack won its last eight games, including a 31-28 nail-biter over South Paulding, a 62-46 waxing of Allatoona and Friday’s 42-0 blowout of Villa Rica.


North Paulding has scored more than 40 points six times since its lone loss on the way to winning its first region title in program history. QB Chase Noonan leads a high-powered offense that simply does not punt often.


-In case you’ve given up on Gainesville’s chances of repeating last year’s state championship success, you may want to reconsider. QB Deshaun Watson and the Red Elephants will again be tough to slow down in the playoffs. Gainesville beat a good Flowery Branch team 55-45 Friday in what was a rematch of Gainesville’s final loss of the 2012 season.


The Red Elephants clinched the Region 8-AAAAA title in the process. The visiting Falcons came in having won seven straight region games to set up the title showdown. However, Watson passed for 245 yards and rushed for another 201 yards. The Clemson commit accounted for six touchdowns.

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