Blessed Trinity avenges loss, will play for 3rd straight state title

What a run, stiff-arm! Justice Haynes busts TD run for Blessed Trinity

Blessed Trinity used a suffocating defense and its reliable running tandem of Elijah Green and Justice Haynes to dominate Woodward Academy in a 46-21 victory in the Class AAAA semifinals Friday night in College Park.

The victory put third-ranked Blessed Trinity (13-1) in position to win its third consecutive Class AAAA championship. The Titans will face sixth-ranked Oconee County (13-1) in the state final at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 14 at Georgia State Stadium. Oconee County reached its first championship game since 1999 with a 35-28 victory over Sandy Creek on Friday.

Blessed Trinity's win also avenged a 13-10 loss to Woodward Academy on Sept. 6, a game the War Eagles won on a 43-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining. That's Blessed Trinity's only loss since the start of last season.

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Green didn't play in the regular-season meeting because of an injury that kept him out for four games, but he had a huge impact in the rematch. The senior, who has committed to North Carolina, ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries Friday. Haynes, a freshman, had 158 yards rushing on 20 carries and scored on a 53-yard run on the final play of the game. They have combined for more than 3,000 yards rushing this season.

"Of course it makes a difference," Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin said of having Green in the lineup. "It's not just not having him on the field. When he was out, we were missing his presence in the locker room, in the weight room, all that stuff. It was a real adjustment time for our kids, but I actually think that we got better during that time because we had to rally without him."

Blessed Trinity and Woodward Academy went through a frantic, back-and-forth six minutes of the second quarter in which the teams combined for 34 points and each got a touchdown from its defense. But the game was all Blessed Trinity before and after that stretch.

The TItans built a 17-0 lead in the first half. Aaron Werkheiser kicked a 24-yard field goal on the Titans' second possession, and Green scored his first touchdown on a 44-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play midway through the second quarter.

On the second play of Woodward Academy's next drive, the Titans' James Bryant intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 12 yards to make it 17-0 with 6:35 to play in the half.

Woodward's Hunter Sellers recovered a fumble and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 17-7, but Blessed Trinity answered with a 77-yard touchdown pass from Duncan Reavis to Bryant. Woodward quarterback Mike Wright scored ran 83 yards for a touchdown on the War Eagles' next play to cut the deficit to 23-14 heading into halftime.

That play was the highlight of the night for Wright, a Central Florida commitment who was the Region 4 player of the year. Wright finished the night with 60 yards rushing and was 17-of-25 passing but for just 133 yards. Blessed Trinity also forced him into three turnovers and sacked him four times.

Woodward Academy finished with 202 yards of total offense, but 174 of that came on Wright's touchdown run and his 91 yards passing on the War Eagles' final drive of the game.

Green had touchdown runs of 14 and 10 yards as the Titans pulled away in the second half.

"The offensive line played well for us again, and we've got a couple of pretty good running backs," McFarlin said. "With Woodward, they're just so good on the back half, I was really afraid of the ball in the air against them. We gave them a little too much as it was, but they're a great football team. Our guys have just gotten better every week, and they played hard."