Wednesday, April 14

The Elite 8 of Regional High School Football Review/Preview

Today is Thanksgiving, a day where we pause to give thanks for the many blessings we receive each year, a day to enjoy family and friends. For some, it’s a day to set back and watch a multitude of college and professional football games from across the nation on one of the final weekends of the season. For the lucky, for those teams who have survived to week 13, this is a week to prepare for Friday night and the quarterfinal round of the State Football Playoffs.
In our area, there are five teams; Hart County and Jefferson in Class AAA, Madison County and Oconee County in Class AAAA, along with Rabun County from Class AA, that will spend a part of their Thanksgiving Day preparing for their next opponents, the next step in the journey to Atlanta and the State Championships, which are now  only 2 weeks away.
In Class AAAA, the magical season for the Red Raiders of Madison County continued, as they defeated Mary Person High School by the score of 38 to 14, in a game played at Forsyth. Martavian Cooper and Dayton Gresham combined for 4 touchdowns, as the Raiders advance to the quarter final round of the playoffs, where they will face Sandy Creek on Friday. Max Johnson was part of five touchdown passes, as Oconee County runs its record to 11-1 with a 39-7 win over Perry in a game played at Watkinsville. Johnson, the son of former Florida State quarterback Brad Johnson, connected on touchdown passes of 29 yards, 4 yards, 15 yards, 10 yards, and 16 yards. Oconee County will face Marist in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
Up in Clayton, the Rabun County Wildcats advanced to the third round with a 34-14 win over Toombs County. Gunner Stockman was 18 of 26 through the air with 2 touchdowns for Rabun, who produced 250 yards through the air and 234 yards on the ground. Rabun will travel to Thomasville on Friday to face the Bulldogs of Thomasville High School.
In arguably the game of the night, the Bulldogs of Hart County used three rushing touchdowns from Malaki Thomas, and a hot passing game from senior Luke Lee to upset the #2 ranked Bears of Pierce County in two overtimes, by the score of 32-29. The margin of victory was a 25 yard Tucker Kim field goal, which was set up by a Pierce County fumble on the Hart County 2 yard line, the only turnover of the game. This was the first home loss for Pierce County since the 2017 season, and places Hart County into the third round for the first time since 2014. The Bulldogs will travel this weekend to face Greater Atlanta Christian on Friday in Atlanta.
After the game, Hart County’s Rance Gillespie said “This was as fine a high school game as I have ever been part of, and I could not be any prouder of my team. They were part of an amazing high school play off game where both teams left it all on the field.” He added,” a special thanks goes to our 12th man, our fans who made the journey to Blackshear. You made a real difference in the game tonight.” Speaking of Hart County’s third round opponent, Greater Atlanta Christian, he said,” GAC is one of the quality teams in the state of Georgia. They are very well coached and you expect nothing less than that at this point. There are no weak teams left playing.”
Colby White had four touchdowns, as the Dragons of Jefferson defeated Appling County 28 – 7 in a game at Jefferson. The Dragons will travel to Cordele Georgia to take on Crisp County on Friday. Clark carried the ball 21 times for 126 yards against Appling and scored on runs of 2 yards, 33 yards, 1 yard, and 3 yards. “It took us a little while to get adjusted to the size of Appling County up front, but our defense did a great job getting our offense possessions in the second half of the game” said Gene Cathcart of Jefferson. “Once we made some adjustments with our offense, Colby White did a great job executing the option”.
Asked about the third round opponent, Crisp County, Cathcart said “they are a really good football team that is extremely athletic on both offense and defense. They have one of the best sophomore running backs in the state, and their quarterback can make plays with his legs or his arm. They will be a great challenge, but at this point in the bracket everybody is good, there are no weak teams left”. 

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