8 high school football teams crowned state champs

8 high school football teams crowned state champs
Cedar Grove's Isaiah Ratcliff celebrates with the trophy after the AAA state title football game win over Crisp County on Saturday Dec.14, 2019. (John Amis)

A class-by-class look at how the 2019 Georgia high school football champions were crowned:


» Marietta 17, Lowndes 9Recap: Marietta had scoring drives of 79, 69 and 81 yards in the first half and broke out to a 17-0 lead as Harrison Bailey was 18-of-24 passing for 235 yards in the first two quarters and Arik Gilbert had eight catches for 112 yards by halftime. But Lowndes held Marietta to 34 total yards in the second half and got back in the game with the help of two Marietta special-teams mistakes. A mishandled punt snap on the Blue Devils' first possession of the third quarter was recovered by Jacques Hunter at the Marietta 49, leading to a 27-yard field goal by Jose Palacios that cut the lead to 17-3. On Marietta's next possession, Ramecia Burgman blocked a punt, giving Lowndes the ball at the Marietta 14 with 12 seconds left in the third quarter. Jacurri Brown threw a 16-yard TD pass on to Ferringhetti Brown on fourth-and-12 to pull Lowndes within 17-9. Marietta blocked the extra point. Lowndes got one more possession and had a first-and-10 at the Marietta 30 midway in the fourth quarter, but a false-start penalty, a sack by Rashad Torrence and a fourth-and-13 interception by Peter Warrick ended the threat. Marietta ran off the final 4:42 of the game with seven runs by Troy-committed RB Kimani Vidal. • History: Marietta (13-2) wins its first state title since 1967, becoming the first Cobb County-based team to win the highest classification in that time, and lives up to the hype of its preseason No. 1 ranking. Marietta becomes the first team in the highest classification since Lowndes in 1999 to lose a game in October and win out. Bailey finishes with 11,716 career passing yards, fourth all-time in Georgia, while Gilbert finishes with 1,760 yards receiving for the season, No. 2 all-time and most in the highest classification. Coach Richard Morgan wins his third state title, first in Georgia following two in Virginia. Lowndes finishes 14-1, its deepest playoff run and most victories since its 2007 state championship.

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» Harrison 20, Allatoona 7Recap: Harrison scored 17 points on drives after blocked field goals and an interception in an otherwise tight game. The Hoyas’ Micaiah Bell blocked the first one, a 42-yard attempt from all-state kicker Jude Kelley, early in the second quarter. Malakai Taft returned the loose ball to the Allatoona 49-yard line. Gavin Hall threw a TD pass on the next play for a 10-0 lead. Harrison got its second block, credited to the team, on a 34-yard attempt on a low snap early in the second half. Recovering the ball at their 16, the Hoyas drove 61 yards in 11 plays and kicked a field goal for a 13-7 lead. On Allatoona’s next possession, Brandon Carter intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 31 yards to the Allatoona 2, setting up Hall's 2-yard run for a 20-7 lead. Allatoona had three more possession but never got in scoring position. • History: Harrison (15-0) wins its first state title in a game against its Region 6 and Cobb County rival. The two victories over Allatoona (the first by a score of 21-17) are the Hoyas’ two closest of the season. Allatoona finishes 11-3-1, its best season since its 2015 AAAAA championship.


» Buford 17, Warner Robins 14Recap: Jamarius Isaac caught a 22-yard game-tying touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in regulation, then intercepted a pass on Warner Robins’ overtime possession. Hayden Olsen followed with a 24-yard field goal to win it. Isaac also recovered a Warner Robins fumble at the Buford 22 with 4:50 left. Another Buford hero was backup QB Ashton Daniels, who entered in the third quarter and later drove the Wolves 78 yards on 14 plays for the tying score and threw the clutch strike to Isaac in the end zone for the tie. • History: Buford (14-1) wins its first title since 2014 and 12th overall, second-most in GHSA history behind Valdosta and one ahead of Lincoln County. Buford is the first team to win state championships in five classifications — A, AA, AAA, AAAA and AAAAA. (The Wolves move up to AAAAAA next season.) Bryant Appling wins a state title in his first season as a head coach. Warner Robins finishes 13-2 and becomes the third school in GHSA history to lose in three straight finals, first since Calhoun (2008-10).

Class AAAA

» Blessed Trinity 17, Oconee County 14Recap: Elijah Green’s 203 rushing yards were the most of any finalist, and his two long touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half helped put Blessed Trinity up 17-7 at halftime. Oconee County got within 17-14 in the final minute of the third quarter but got only one more possession, which was stopped at midfield. The Warriors elected to punt, pinning Blessed Trinity at its 10, but the Titans ran off the final 8:57 of the game on a 17-play, 86-yard drive, ending at the Oconee 4.• History: Blessed Trinity (14-1) becomes the 12th school in GHSA history to win three consecutive state titles. Tim McFarlin becomes the 14th coach to win four state championships. Oconee County finishes 13-2, its deepest playoff run and most victories since its 1999 state championship.

Class AAA

» Cedar Grove 21, Crisp County 14Recap: Crisp County blocked a punt that Latravious Walker returned 27 for a touchdown with 1:18 left to get within 21-14, but Cedar Grove recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock. Cedar Grove allowed just 161 total yards and eight first downs, the lowest totals of the finals. Isaiah Ratcliff and Jordan Grier had two tackles for losses apiece. Crisp had first downs at the Cedar Grove 8 in the first quarter and the12 in the fourth, but the Saints denied fourth-down tries on each drive. • History: Cedar Grove (13-2) repeats as champion and wins its third state title in four seasons. Cedar Grove is the first DeKalb County school to win three championships (Marist, Lakeside, Tucker, Decatur have two each.) Miguel Patrick wins a state title in his first season as a head coach. Crisp Count finishes 11-4 after its first state finals appearance.

Class AA

» Dublin 42, Brooks County 32Recap: With FB JaQues Evans taking 40 carries for 185 yards, Dublin won without completing a pass for the second straight round. After Brooks got within 35-32 with 7:30 left, Dublin drove 62 yards on nine runs to rebuild the lead. J.T. Wright then intercepted a pass, effectively clinching the victory. Dublin recovered from a disastrous third-quarter play when Brooks returned a questionable fumble 96 yards for a touchdown and a 20-15 lead. Dublin answered with touchdowns on its next four possessions. • History: Dublin (14-1) wins its first football state title since 2006 and first championship in any sport since 2009 (boys basketball). Dublin becomes the 17th school to win five GHSA championships. Brooks County finishes 10-5 after its deepest playoff run since its 1994 state championship.

Class A (Private)

» Eagle’s Landing Christian 33, Wesleyan 13Recap: Similar to the 2018 finals, when ELCA trailed Athens Academy 10-0 early but won 44-17, the Chargers survived another slow start by scoring on their first four second-half possessions after trailing 6-0. Those scoring drives covered 284 yards on just 11 plays. Keaton Mitchell scored three of the touchdowns, four in the game, giving him 49 rushing touchdowns on the season and 118 for his career, marks that rank second all-time in Georgia. • History: Eagle’s Landing Christian (13-1) becomes the first school in GHSA history to win five consecutive state titles, surpassing Buford (2007-10) and West Rome (1982-85). Jonathan Gess becomes the fifth coach in GHSA history to win six state titles. Wesleyan finishes 12-2, its most wins since 2010 and deepest playoff run since its 2008 state championship.

Class A (Public)

» Irwin County 56, Marion County 14Recap: Marion County lingered for a half, but long scoring plays by Jamorri Colson in the third quarter brought on a rout, and the fourth quarter was played under a running clock. Gabriel Benyard had 200 all-purpose yards. Colson had 179. Benyard and D.J. Lundy tied for the team lead with five solo tackles. Lundy, a 225-pound linebacker/running back, had three tackles for losses, one a sack, forced a fumble and rushed for 174 yards. • History: Irwin County (13-0) wins its first state title since 1975 and ends a five-game losing streak (1977, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018) in championship games. The state title is the first for coach Buddy Nobles, who has battled cancer since a late-summer diagnosis and coached Saturday’s game from a platform as defensive coordinator Casey Soliday took on interim head coaching duties. “This is a team of destiny,” Nobles said of his squad that had no game closer than 14 points. “If there is a better Class A team in the history of Georgia high school football, I want to see them.” Marion County finishes 11-3, its best playoff run since the 2013 state championship.

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This story was written by Todd Holcomb with The Atlanta Journal Constitution.