GHSA Football State Championships Saturday roundups: First Round

Photo/Jenn Finch

After starting the season 1-6, three-seed Harrison out of Region 3 has now won three of its last four games and is advancing to the second round of the playoffs following a 21-17 victory over host Brookwood. Junior quarterback Braylen Ford accounted for two touchdowns for the Hoyas — including the game-winner — to hand the Broncos their fourth first-round exit in the past five years.

The matchup was the first between the two programs since 2003, and backup Brookwood quarterback Matt Peavy’s second-straight start in place of injured senior QB (and Alabama commit) Dylan Lonergan. Peavy and the offense were unable to capitalize on the Harrison three-and-out forced by the Broncos defense on the opening drive, and Hoya quarterback Braylen Ford connected with fellow junior Brady Kluse for a 34-yard touchdown for the early Harrison lead. Brookwood responded with a 13-yard score from Peavy to Jumal Prothro, quickly followed by a 7-yard Prothro touchdown on the direct snap for a 14-7 advantage heading into the second quarter. The teams traded punts for the bulk of the frame before Ford found Reggie Brigman for a 54-yard gain to set up an 8-yard touchdown run by sophomore Collin O’Hara to knot the game at 14-14.

The Broncos reclaimed the lead on the opening drive of the second half, settling for a 38-yard Danny Elrod field goal after marching deep into Harrison territory. Both defenses held strong through the rest of the third quarter and much of the fourth until the Hoyas drove down to the Brookwood 2-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal, Ford rolled out to the left, then made a dash to the right pylon to give Harrison its first lead since the first quarter with 4:37 left on the clock. The Hoyas recovered a fumble in Broncos territory on the ensuing Brookwood drive and tried to put the game away on 4th-and-1 from the 3-yard line, but the QB sneak failed and the Broncos got the ball back with 1:33 remaining. The Harrison defense forced a turnover on downs, however, securing the Hoyas’ third second-round appearance in four years.

The first round of the GHSA State Football Championships was split between Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday, The AJC had writers at Columbia at North Cobb Christian, Mundy’s Mill at St. Pius X and Lanier at Roswell. On Saturday, writers are covering South Forsyth at Walton and Harrison at Brookwood. Follow the links to Todd Holcomb’s Friday Night Wrap and Saturday Wrap or the full Prep Scoreboard and Brackets powered by Score Atlanta.

See the Saturday roundups below.

Class 7A

North Cobb 42, Denmark 10

North Cobb dominated Denmark 42-10 to advance to the second round for the third straight year. Denmark held an early 3-0 lead in the game, but North Cobb rattled off 42 consecutive points and took over the game with their defense and running game. North Cobb’s defense has been stifling lately, allowing only five points in the past two games and forcing two turnovers (a fumble and an interception) in the win against Denmark. North Cobb had four rushing touchdowns on Saturday, leaning heavily on David Mbadinga on the ground, and Nick Grimstead added two passing touchdowns in the win.

Lambert 45, Wheeler 14 

Host Lambert took an early 7-0 lead on a Cameron Bland 22-yard touchdown run and a blocked punt set up a 1-yard Carson Knowles rushing touchdown to give the Longhorns a 14-0 edge at the end of the first quarter. Quarterback James Tyre found Brandon Jones on a 16-yard screen that went for a touchdown that put Lambert up 21-0. Wheeler’s Marcus Romain found Javen Broussard for a 35-yard Wildcats touchdown with three minutes before the break and the Longhorns’ lead held at 21-7. Lambert added a 50-yard Bland touchdown run, a 35-yard Ryan Degansky rushing score, a 50-yard Tommy LaFayette rushing score and a late Tyre touchdown run to mark the final tally.

Camden County 44, East Coweta 33

East Coweta’s 21-17 halftime lead evaporated with a 21-0 scoring burst by Camden County that put the Wildcats up 38-21 with 8:35 left. Mason Robinson’s 1-yard touchdown run gave the Wildcats a 24-21 lead heading into the fourth quarter and then Shamar Thomas ran in his second and third touchdowns of the game to push the lead to 38-21. Christian Langford tried to keep the Indians’ in striking distance with his third touchdown pass in the game and brought his team within 10 points (38-28) with six minutes left, but Thomas padded the lead with his fourth touchdown run and Camden County closed out the victory.

Parkview 34, North Paulding 28

No. 3 seeded Parkview built a 34-14 halftime lead and held on for the road victory. Colin Houck put Parkview up 13-7 with a touchdown pass to Bryce Coulson, but North Paulding responded to take a 14-13 lead before the Panthers closed out the half with 21 unanswered points. Khyair Spain ran for a touchdown to reclaim the lead and Houck added touchdown passes to Carson Wilson and Mike Matthews before the break.

Carrollton 38, Lowndes 14

No. 4-ranked Carrollton is advancing to the second round for the 15th time in 16 seasons with a comfortable win over visiting Lowndes. The Trojans got a pair of rushing scores from Bryce Hicks and Jamun Evans for an early 14-0 lead before Lowndes got on the board with a 99-yard kick return touchdown. Carrollton added a Jacob Russell field goal in the second and Hicks hauled in a 31-yard catch for another score, and the home team led 24-7 at the break. Omarion Whitlock made in a ten-point game with a rushing score in the third, but a Julian Lewis-to-Dylan Bishop touchdown later in the frame and Quin Ackey’s 98-yard pick six in the fourth kept Carrollton in control.

Westlake 28, Valdosta 13

Host Westlake scored in each quarter and took a 21-7 lead into the final frame. Quarterback RJ Johnson found Jabari Jones for his second touchdown pass of the first half to put Westlake up 14-0 and Valdosta answered just before the break to make it 14-7. Jai’den Thomas ran in a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter and Tomir Bransford pushed the lead to 28-7 with three minutes left in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard plunge before a late Valdosta touchdown and failed onside kick closed out the victory.

Colquitt County 56, Pebblebrook 16

No. 2 ranked Colquitt County (11-0) scored a season-high 56 points over visiting Pebblebrook before a scoreless running-clock fourth quarter . Two of the Packers’ eight touchdowns came on the defensive side of the ball with interception returns by Pearce Hightower and Will Robbins. Offensively, quarterback Neko Fann connected with Jean Garcia (2 yards) and Landen Thomas (22) for passing touchdowns. Day’shawn Brown ran in a pair of touchdowns, Steven Garcia ran in a 7-yard touchdown and I’marius Bussie capped the scoring with his 1-yard plunge in the third quarter.

Norcross 37, Mountain View 13

Norcross is moving on to the second round for the fifth year in a row following a 37-13 win over visiting Mountain View out of Region 8. The Blue Devils are now 8-0 all-time against the Bears, whom they led 13-7 at the break and 20-13 after the third quarter before putting up 17 unanswered points in the final frame to pull away. Norcross will travel to No. 10-ranked Milton next week.

Milton 28, Cherokee 14

Milton won 28-14 to advance to the second round for the sixth straight year. Milton held a 21-0 lead at halftime, with Luke Nickel striking first on a rushing touchdown. Nickel finished the game with 244 yards passing and three total touchdowns (two passing and one rushing). Four-star receiver Debron Gatling was on the receiving end of one of Nickel’s touchdowns and finished the game with 104 yards. Scott Moskowitz also had a big game rushing for 167 yards and a 16-yard rushing TD that put the game away in the fourth quarter.

Marietta 35, Newton 0

Two-seeded Marietta got its fifth win of the season, advancing to the second round for the third time in four years with a 35-0 victory over visiting Newton. The Blue Devils found the bulk of their success on the ground, with Jaylen Frazier scoring on runs of 84, 9 and 9 yards and fellow junior Russell Bey taking a 76-yard trip to the end zone. Ryshawn Perry had a first-quarter interception for Newton, which has now lost in the first round six of the last seven seasons.

North Gwinnett 37, Dacula 7

North Gwinnett cruised to a 37-7 victory and head coach Bill Stewart got his 100th career win with the Bulldogs as they advanced to the second round. North Gwinnett held a 23-7 lead at halftime thanks to a 10-yard rushing touchdown from Ohio State-commit Kayden McDonald, two passing touchdowns from quarterback Ryan Hall and a safety from the defense. Hall also added a rushing score in the second half, and star linebacker and Kentucky-commit Grant Godfrey recovered a fumble and hauled in a 19-yard receiving touchdown

Mill Creek 59, Meadowcreek 22

Mill Creek dominated Meadowcreek and won 59-22 to advance to the second round. Nic Denick blocked a Meadowcreek field goal early in the game to set the tone for Mill Creek, which held a 45-8 lead at halftime. Much of the Hawks’ success came on the ground; Cam Robinson had 118 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the first half (moving him to sixth all-time in school history for rushing yards in a season with 1,098), and Kevin Mitchell rushed for two touchdowns. Quarterback Hayden Clark added a touchdown pass to Mikhail Wood.

Grayson 30, Hillgrove 3

Grayson cruised to a 30-3 victory at home against Hilgrove. The Grayson defense has been dominant all season and continued the trend with a first-half shutout while the offense build a double-digit lead. Dylan Elder struck first for Grayson with a 12-yard touchdown. Special teams also contributed to the scoring with a blocked punt that resulted in a safety in the second quarter, and sophomore Amari Alston then returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Jeff Davis connected with Caden High on a 53-yard bomb to give Grayson a commanding 23-0 edge at the break. The defense also got involved in the scoring early in the second half with a pick-six.

Buford 63, Peachtree Ridge 7

No. 1 ranked Buford dominated in all three phases and improved to 11-0 on the year with a 63-7 win. The Wolves outgained Peachtree Ridge 503-80 in total yards and had 382 yards on the ground. The offense scored touchdowns in each of its first four possessions and also had Justice Haynes kickoff return and Devin Williams interception returned for a touchdown to go up 42-6 at the half. Buford’s first half offensive touchdowns came on a Haynes 54 yard rushing score, a 3-yard Jordan Baker touchdown run, a 5-yard Dylan Wittke touchdown run and a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wittke to Sam Harkness right before the break. Peachtree Ridge got on the board with a 34 and 46-yard Ahmed Mohamed field goal in the second quarter. Haynes returned to the endzone in the third quarter on a 10-yard carry and Buford also added 4-yard touchdown runs by Christian Butler and Ethan Ervin for the final tally.

Class 5A

Calhoun 23, Eastside 21

Emaree WInston scored on a 3-yard run to put Calhoun up 7-0 and a three-yard run from Caden Williams gave the Yellow Jackets a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Yellow Jackets then weathered a deficit in the second half to secure the win. Trailing 21-14, Trey Townshend scored on a short run with 30 seconds left in the third quarter, but a failed point-after try left Calhoun trailing 21-20. Kicker Carlos Orozco kicked the 18-yard game-winning field goal with 5:17 left in the game. Eastside opened scoring on a 29-yard run from Kenai Grier. The Eagles tied the game on a 27-yard run from Grier with 5:38 left in the third quarter. Grier gave Eastside the 21-14 lead on a 59-yard run but the Eagles could muster no more offensive production.

Cass 27, Jefferson 17

The fourth-seeded Colonels seized control early against No. 6-ranked Jefferson, building a 27-0 second-quarter lead behind a stellar performance from freshman quarterback Brodie McWhorter, then hanging on to complete the stunning upset and advance to the second round for the first time since 1983. The first team all-region QB first connected with junior Georgia-commit Sacovie White for a 61-yard touchdown, then found Jashaun Brown-Whatley on a 9-yarder for a 13-0 lead. On the following Jefferson drive, Kevin Henderson returned an interception 31-yards for another first-quarter touchdown for Cass, and following back-to-back Dragons turnovers in the second quarter, McWhorter and Brown-Whatley teamed up again for a second score. Jefferson finally got on the board late in the first half with a touchdown, then put up the only points of the third quarter with a safety. Sammy Brown’s 8-yard rushing score and a successful two-point conversion brought the Dragons within ten points early in the final frame, but Jefferson failed to find the end zone the rest of the game. Cass will travel to two-seeded Mays next week.

Ware County 51  Jones County 13

No. 1 ranked Ware County cruised to 10-0 with a 55-13 win over Jones County. DJ Dennis put the Gators up 7-0 with a 1-yard touchdown and teammate RJ Boyd answered a Greyhounds touchdown with a 13-yard RJ Boyd touchdown run that was set up by a big kickoff return by KJ Baker. Dennis returned to the endzone on a 9-yard score and then William Bates tacked on a 28-yard field goal to extend the lead to 24-7 at the break. Jones County received the ball in the second half and was forced to punt to Alex Justice, who returned it for a 91-yard Gators touchdown. A CJ Johnson interception and sizable return set up a 34-yard Bates field goal to push the lead to 34-7. Jones County cut the lead to 34-13 with 6:15 left in the third and then failed an onside kick that was quacking turned into a 35-yard touchdown pass from Niko Smith to Jarvis Hayes. LJ Hall intercepted Jones County late in the third quarter to preserve the 41-13 lead and then Niko found DJ Loriston for a 5-yard touchdown to pad the lead to 48-13 before Dennis iced the game with a 54-yard touchdown run—his third of the night.

Cambridge 27, Jackson-Atlanta 20

Cambridge defeated Jackson-Atlanta 27-20 to advance to the second round for the third straight year. The first half was a defensive battle, and the game was knotted at 6-6 at the break. Preston Clemmer rushed for a 5-yard touchdown early in the first quarter, and Jackson-Atlanta answered back in the second quarter. Chrisitan Isibor found a groove in the second half, and the senior running back netted a hat trick scoring twice in the third quarter (3 and 6 yards) and adding his final touchdown early in the fourth. Cambridge will look to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history with a win next week.

Chamblee 61, McIntosh 13

Chamblee hosted its first playoff game since 2007 and stormed out to a 41-7 halftime lead. Fabian Walker cashed in a 4-yard touchdown run that put the Bulldogs’ up 21-0 early in the second quarter and added Walker touchdown passes to Larry Harris and Levi Bradham. Chamblee’s Daniel Chavez recovered a fumble for a touchdown to grow the lead to 48-7 and a Larry Harris goal-line touchdown pushed the lead to 55-7 with 4:50 left in the third quarter. A Jeffery Thornton interception set up Matthew Neff’s 6-yard touchdown run with 7:30 left that pushed the lead to 61-7.

Creekside 54, Greater Atlanta Christian 16

Creekside took a 28-0 lead after the first quarter and a 48-0 lead at the half in a romp of Greater Atlanta Christian. Roderick McCrary rushed for three touchdowns to lead Creekside. Jaylen Marsh caught a 45-yard touchdown pass and Travis Terrell rushed for one touchdown and caught another. Shane Kelley scored on a 50-yard run to bring the score to its final tally for Creekside.

Kell 38, Lithia Springs 22

Kell built a 14-0 lead off a Nelson Woghiren interception returned for a touchdown and a Bryce Clavon touchdown run. Lithia Springs tied it up 14-14 with a pair of touchdown passes from Jai’que Hart, but Kell answered and took a 24-14 lead into the half. Clavon’s second rushing score put the Longhorns up 21-14 and then Cedric Franklin recovered the ensuing kickoff and Michael Muhoto booted a 33-yard field goal to build the 10-point lead. Clavon found Peyton Zachary for a 29-yard touchdown on Kell’s opening drive of the second half to push the lead to 31-14 and Lithia Springs scored to cut the deficit to 31-22. Clavon faked a scramble and found Zachary for the game-clinching touchdown with 4:13 left from 29 yards out. Lithia Springs fumbled on the next possession and Kell closed out the victory. The Longhorns also ran the ball well as Elijah Washington racked up 143 of the team’s 290 rushing yards off 18 carries. Lithia Springs rushed for just 20 yards off 11 carries and Hart tallied 319 passing yards. Zackary led Kell in receiving with six receptions for 128 yards to go with his two second-half touchdowns.

Dalton 7, Loganville 3

The third-seeded Dalton Catamounts got their first playoff win since 2016 on the road against Loganville. The host Red Devils were first on the board in the first-ever matchup between the programs with a field goal midway through the second quarter, and the 3-0 Loganville lead stood until Tyson Greenwade took a 10-yard trip to the end zone with four minutes remaining for the game-winner. The Catamounts will travel to No. 2-ranked Creekside next week.

In other 5A games – Mays outscored Centennial 20-0 in the fourth quarter to score a 44-16 victory and will host No. 4 seed Cass after the Colonels victory over top-seeded Jefferson. … Northgate earned its first playoff win since 2016 with a 38-14 victory over Arabia Mountain and will take on No. 1 seed Dutchtown after the Bulldogs’ 45-0 win over Statesboro. … Warner Robins handled business in a 31-13 win over Jenkins and will visit Northside-Columbus next week. Northside-Columbus (10-1) achieved a school-record for wins in a season on Saturday with its 35-27 triumph over visiting Tucker. … Coffee cruised past Ola 34-6 and will travel to Decatur next week after the top-seeded Bulldogs scored a 33-20 win over Harris County.

Class 4A

Burke County 23, LaGrange 20

Burke County’s 6-foot-3 senior Kohen Rogers intercepted LaGrange with 11 seconds left to seal a thrilling road victory in the lone Class 4A game that was played on Saturday.  LaGrange’s Jaylan Brown found Jaylon Jordan for a 95-yard touchdown in the first half that helped the Grangers go into the break 13-13. The Grangers fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and Burke County took advantage of the short field to go up 20-13. Burke County increased the lead to 23-13, but Brown cut the deficit to 23-20 with a goal-line touchdown with 3:51 left before Rogers eventually sealed the win with his late interception. Burke County will visit Bainbridge in the second round after the Bearcats’ 58-20 win over Baldwin.

Class 3A 

Peach County 23, Crisp County 0

Peach has advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs every season since 2014 after beating the Cougars in the first round. Peach built a 16-0 halftime lead on a run from Chris McMillian and a touchdown pass from Colter Ginn to Skylar Mann. McMillian scored again in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Sandy Creek 70, Coahulla Creek 14

Sandy Creek scored 49 unanswered points in the first quarter to overwhelm Coahulla Creek and advance to the second round of the playoffs. Geimere Latimer passed to Keyshon Kenny for touchdowns of 39 and 11 yards. Dorian Graham scored on runs of 43, 5 and 1 yard and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass. Travis Franklin scored on a 47-yard run and Payton Gordon rushed in from three yards for a touchdown. Sandy Creek’s defense was anchored by Cameron Watts and Arlington Burney, who each returned an interception for a touchdown for Sandy Creek.

Savannah Christian 41, Hephzibah 26

Savannah Christian jumped out to a 34-12 halftime lead that was fueled by quarterback Paulus Zittrauer’s 8-of-9 passing for 169 yards and a touchdown pass to David Bucey. Zittrauer also rushed for a touchdown and Bucey had five catches for 122 yards at the break. The Raiders were also paced by sophomore running back Zo Smalls, who racked up 143 yards off 16 carries and a touchdown. Jaden Miles tacked on an 8-yard touchdown run that gave Savannah Christian a 41-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Calvary Day 49, Salem 0

No. 2 ranked Calvary Day opened up a 49-0 halftime lead and ran out the second half to improve to 10-0 on the season. Quarterback Jake Merklinger threw four touchdown passes to Michael Smith and also tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Caden Arnold.

Oconee County 49, Lumpkin County 21

CJ Jones scored on a 12-yard run with 10:55 left in the first quarter to give Oconee County a lead it would not relinquish. Jones scored again with 7 minutes left in the first quarter to push the lead. Jones scored on a 21-yard run to push the lead and his fifth rushing touchdown with 1:40 left in the first quarter gave Oconee a 35-0 advantage. Jack Ward scored to put the Warriors up 42-0 and Braxton Carrasco gave Oconee a 49-0 lead before Lumpkin found the end zone.

In other 3A games – Stephens County returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and led 48-7 at the half in its 51-14 win over Wesleyan. No. 1 ranked Cedar Grove cruised past visiting Bremen 48-7 and will take on Hebron Christian after the Lions’ impressive 63-14 win over Pickens. Carver-Atlanta advanced to the second round with a 44-28 road win over Ringgold and will host No. 4 seed Monroe Area after the Hurricanes’ 35-13 win over top-seeded Dawson County. No. 1 seed Harlem shutout Long County 28-0 and will host Carver-Columbus after the Tigers’ 39-0 shutout win over Upson-Lee. No. 1 seed Thomasville advanced with a 42-21 win over Jackson and will host Liberty County after the Panthers’ 19-14 road win over Morgan County. Adairsville improved to 10-1 and notched its first playoff win since 2015 with a 55-26 win over Douglass. No. 3 seed Dougherty jumped out to a 20-3 halftime lead and defeated host Mary Persons 39-23 to set up a trip to undefeated Calvary Day in the second round.


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