Semifinals Preview: Class AAAAAA

Photo by Sonny Kennedy

Once again, coach Rush Propst has Colquitt County in the semifinals, the program’s fifth straight appearance. However, the Packers have yet to win a state title under their ultra-successful coach.


Colquitt started the season with an impressive win over Grayson before losing to Propst’s former school, Hoover (Ala.), 24-17 in Week 2. A loss to Camden County on Nov. 8 cost the Packers a Region 1 title, which would’ve been their first under Propst. But, like the other semifinalists in Class AAAAAA, Colquitt came to life in the playoffs. The Packers took care of Newnan 41-10 in the first round, then dominated Region 4-champion North Cobb 52-6 in Round 2.


In the quarterfinals, Colquitt County again travelled to metro Atlanta. This time, the Packers defeated Dacula 42-17 in another one-sided performance. Running back Sihiem King leads the Packers, while quarterback Daniel Mobley calls the signals of Propst’s spread offense. Ole Miss-commitment Jamiyus Pittman anchors the Packers’ stout defensive line.


Norcross won the Class AAAAAA title last season with an undefeated season. This year, however, it has not been quite as easy for coach Keith Malooof’s Blue Devils. Norcross lost to Washington (Fla.) on ESPN in the season-opener 55-0. After that forgettable performance, the Blue Devils lost to North Gwinnett 36-17 two games later.


But since then, Norcross has been untouchable. Defensive end Lorenzo Charles, generally considered the top recruit in the state for 2014, Tennessee-commitment Kevin Mouhon and Maryland-commit Jordan Noil have led a smothering Norcross defense that has not allowed more than 20 points since the North Gwinnett defeat in Game 3. Milton-transfer A.J. Bush, meanwhile, has guided the Norcross offense to 28 points or more in all but one game since its last defeat.



McEachern vs. North Gwinnett


Both teams impressed the state right off the bat with victories in the Metro PCS Corky Kell Classic which kicked the season off in August. McEachern handled a good Brookwood team 31-10 and North Gwinnett spanked eventual Region 1-champion Camden County 34-14.


Since, each team has suffered ups and downs. North Gwinnett won its first seven before losing to Collins Hill 53-28. The Bulldogs, however, recovered in time for the playoffs in which they have won two close games.


In its win over Archer in Round 2 coach Bob Sphire’s squad trailed 20-7, but came back and kicked a game-winning field goal with seven seconds left to win 34-32. The Bulldogs then had to rally from a 31-21 deficit in the fourth quarter last week in the quarterfinals against Hillgrove. Quarterback Hayden Sphire hit wide receiver Daniel Imatorbhebhe on a 10-yard pass with 1:10 left to give North Gwinnett the win.


The Indians started off the season with a bang, winning their first seven games. But coach Kyle Hockman’s team lost twice in three games in the midseason, once to North Cobb on Oct. 18, then on Nov. 8 to Hillgrove. Once in the playoffs, however, McEachern has been running on all cylinders. The Indians beat Newton convincingly in the first round 36-21, then narrowly escaped a trip to Langston Hughes in the second round 22-21.


Like the Sphires at North Gwinnett, the head coach’s son plays quarterback at McEachern. And freshman Bailey Hockman delivered for his father against Hughes, leading the Indians to two late fourth-quarter drives to beat their hosts after trailing 21-9 with six minutes left. In the quarterfinals, McEachern needed Hockman and junior running back Taj Griffin to overcome Collins Hill, which led the Indians with one minute to go before Griffin returned a punt 85 yards for the game-winning score.

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