Championship game previews

Eight Georgia high school football championship games will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Friday and Saturday. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Eight Georgia high school football championship games will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Friday and Saturday. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)


Colquitt County vs. North Gwinnett

When, where: 8 p.m. Saturday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Records, rankings: Colquitt County is 11-3, the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAAAAAA and No. 8; North Gwinnett is 13-1, the No. 1 seed from 6-AAAAAAA and No. 5.

Last meeting: Colquitt County won 45-14 in a 2015 regular-season game.

Things to know: North Gwinnett is playing for its first state title. The school opened in 1961. Colquitt County is seeking to become the fourth school to win three titles in four years in the highest classification, the first since Lowndes in 2007. The starting quarterbacks have similar statistics. North Gwinnett's Jimmy Urzua has thrown for 2,298 yards and 21 touchdowns, completing 64.1 percent of his passes. Colquitt's Steven Krajewski has thrown for 2,226 yards with 22 touchdowns, hitting on 65.4 percent. North Gwinnett RB Tyler Goodson has rushed for more than 100 yards each of the past three games and has 1,318 yards rushing on the season. Ty Leggett is Colquitt's leading rusher with 1,231 yards, but Daijun Edwards has run for more than 100 in three of the past five games, including 179 in the semifinals against Brookwood. North Gwinnett's secondary starts four Division I recruits. Warren Burrell and D.J. Turner have offers from Alabama, among others. Colquitt LB J.J. Peterson is a four-star recruit. Junior LB Rashad Revels is the leading tackler. He has more than 20 tackles for losses. Colquitt PK Ryan Fitzgerald puts 75 percent of his kickoffs in the end zone and averages 40.8 yards per punt. He has made 17 field goals, one a 60-yarder.

Maxwell Ratings' projection: North Gwinnett by 4


Coffee vs. Lee County

When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Records, rankings: Coffee is 10-3, the No. 2 seed from Region 1-AAAAAA and No. 4; Lee County is 13-1, the No. 1 seed from 1-AAAAAA and No. 3.

Last meeting: Lee County won 23-7 on Nov. 3.

Things to know: Coffee (opened in 1970) and Lee County (1971) are both playing in the championship game for the first time. The winner will become the third Region 1 team in four seasons to win the title in the second-highest classification, joining Northside of Warner Robins in 2014 and Valdosta last year. In Lee County's regular-season victory against Coffee a month ago, Elijah Carnes broke open a 13-7 game with a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Coffee averages 210.8 yards rushing and 162.8 passing. Leading rusher Jameon Gaskin has 1,242 yards and 17 touchdowns on 201 carries but was limited to 30 yards on 11 carries in a 14-3 victory over Tucker last week because of an injury. QB Wade Sumner has passed for 2,106 yards, rushed for 413 and had a hand in 30 touchdowns. Lee County has held 11 of 14 opponents to 17 points or less but had to survive a 42-38 game against Glynn Academy last week. QB Jase Orndorff (3,099 passing yards) and WR Ty Terrell (1,221 receiving yards) lead a passing game that averages 230.5 yards per game. The running game averages 127.4 yards and is led by Nikko Cruz (872 yards) and Shaundarious Kimbrough (621).

Maxwell Ratings' projection: Lee County by 1


Rome vs. Warner Robins

When, where: 4:30 p.m. Friday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Records, rankings: Rome is 14-0, the No. 1 seed from Region 7-AAAAA and No. 1; Warner Robins is 14-0, the No. 1 seed from 1-AAAAA and No. 4.

Last meeting: Warner Robins won 35-32 in the 2004 Class AAAA quarterfinals.

Things to know: Rome and Warner Robins are the only 14-0 state finalists pitted against each other. Rome is the defending champion. Warner Robins, which won its last title in 2004, can become the seventh team in history to win a state title after having a losing record the previous season. The Demons were 3-8 in 2016. Rome has a wealth of major Division I talent that includes DE Adam Anderson (Georgia commit), DT Quon Griffin (recently decommitted from LSU), DE Jamarcus Chatman (Tennessee commit) and backs Jamious Griffin (1,220 yards rushing, 27 touchdowns) and Jalynn Sykes (971, 14). And the most valuable player might be junior QB Knox Kadum, who rushed for 143 yards in the semifinal victory over Buford. He's 106-of-148 passing (.716) for 1,956 yards and 22 touchdowns while rarely playing a fourth quarter because of blowouts. Warner Robins QB Dylan Fromm was recently named his region's player of the year. The transfer from Houston County is 277-of-443 passing for 3,437 yards and 35 touchdowns. Julius Cobbs has caught 68 passes for 1,123 yards and 12 touchdowns. The leading rusher is Jarius Burnett with 1,248 yards. OL Christian Armstrong, a Florida State commit, is Warner Robins' top college prospect. He's 6 feet, 5 inches and 335 pounds, and likely to do battle with Anderson, a five-star recruit.

Maxwell Ratings' projection: Rome by 17

Class AAAA

Marist vs. Blessed Trinity

When, where: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Records, rankings: Marist is 14-0, the No. 1 seed from Region 7-AAAA and No. 2; Blessed Trinity is 12-2, the No. 2 seed from 7-AAAA and No. 5.

Last meeting: Marist won 25-24 on Oct. 20.

Things to know: Marist is in the championship game for the first time since 2008 and trying to win its first title since 2003 and third overall. Blessed Trinity, which began football in 2001, is in the final for the second time in three years and searching for its first championship. Both teams lean on the running game but also have capable passing attacks. Marist averages 228.5 yards per game rushing and 118.3 passing. QB Chase Abshier has passed for 1,577 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for a team-best 959 yards and 16 TDs. Abshier's 2-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion pass with 53 seconds remaining gave the War Eagles a one-point victory over Blessed Trinity in the teams' regular-season matchup. Ellis Pearson and Charlie Addicks have combined for 842 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing on 147 carries. Blessed Trinity rushes for 216.7 yards per game and passes for 158.4. The Titans have a 2,000-yard passer (Jake Smith, 2,020 yards), two 1,000-yard rushers (Steele Chambers, 1,250, and Elijah Green, 1,231) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Ryan Davis, 1,213). Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin can become the 15th head coach in GHSA history to win state titles at two schools. He won a AAAAA championship at Roswell in 2006.

Maxwell Ratings' projection: Marist by 4

Class AAA

Peach County vs. Calhoun

When, where: 1 p.m. Friday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Records, rankings: Peach County is 13-1, the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AAA and No. 2; Calhoun is 13-1, the No. 1 seed from 6-AAA and No. 4.

Last meeting: Calhoun won 20-14 in overtime in the second round of the 2015 Class AAA playoffs.

Things to know: Calhoun won state titles in 2011 and 2014. Peach County last won in 2009.Both teams are familiar with championship games. Calhoun gets about twice as many yards passing per game (246.3) as rushing (126.6). QB Gavin Gray is 221-of-342 for 3,263 yards and 32 touchdowns. Zack Fuller has rushed for 1,219 yards. The best all-around player is probably DB/WR Brannon Spector. He has 39 catches for 652 yards, and his 60-yard TD reception from Gray put Calhoun in control of its 14-6 upset of defending champion Cedar Grove in the semifinals. Spector is committed to Clemson. Peach County QB Antonio Gilbert had a big game in the semifinals against Greater Atlanta Christian. He was 27-of-36 passing for 309 yards. He has thrown for 3,031 yards with 23 touchdowns and only one interception. Trevon Woolfolk has rushed for 1,152 yards. WR Kearis Jackson, a Georgia commit, is unlikely to play because of a wrist injury. He was a deadly return man as well as the team's punter. LB Jaquez Jackson, a Georgia Tech commit, has 25 tackles for losses. PK Mitchell Fineran has 84 touchbacks and career-long field goal of 54 yards.

Maxwell Ratings' projection: Peach County by 9

Class AA

Rabun County vs. Hapeville Charter

When, where: 1 p.m. Saturday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Records, rankings: Rabun County is 14-0, the No. 1 seed from Region 8-AA and No. 5; Hapeville Charter is 13-1, the No. 1 seed from 6-AA and No. 2.

Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.

Things to know: Rabun County, which began playing football in 1949, had just two state-playoff appearances in its history before coach Lee Shaw's arrival in 2012 but has reached the postseason every year since. This is first time the Wildcats have advanced beyond the quarterfinals. Hapeville Charter, in its seventh season, also is in the championship game for the first time. The Hornets lost in the semifinals last year in their first playoff appearance. These are the top two defenses in Class AA. Hapeville is giving up 7.8 points per game (12.0 in the playoffs), and Rabun County is allowing 9.8 per game overall and 8.5 in the playoffs. Rabun County has scored 661 points this season, the most of any team in any class and the 14th-best total in state history. The key on offense for the Wildcats is QB Bailey Fisher, the 8-AA player of the year. He has passed for 3,145 yards, rushed for a team-high 1,175 and had a hand in 67 touchdowns. His top targets are Cole Keener (52 catches, 1,000 yards, 13 TDs) and Braxton Hicks (40-775-11). Hapeville's defense is led by DE Kingsley Enagbare (South Carolina commit), the 6-AA defensive player of the year, and all-region players CB Chris Smith (Georgia), DL Caleb Kelley, LB Zyon Bagley and DB Malik Fleming.

Maxwell Ratings' projection: Rabun County by 3

Class A (private)

Eagle's Landing Christian vs. Athens Academy

When, where: 10 a.m. Friday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Records, rankings: Eagle's Landing Christian is 13-0, the No. 1 seed and No. 1; Athens Academy is 13-0, the No. 2 seed and No. 2.

Last meeting: Eagle's Landing Christian won 23-18 in the first round of the 2009 Class A playoffs.

Things to know: Eagle's Landing Christian is seeking its third consecutive Class A title and 36th straight victory. Athens Academy is playing in its first final and would become the first state champion from Athens since Clarke Central in 1985. Both are run-oriented teams. ELCA rushed for 458 yards on 44 carries in a 55-0 semifinal victory over Prince Avenue Christian. Josh Mays, one of five ELCA backs with more than 500 yards rushing, leads with 1,287 yards and 19 touchdowns. Brayden Rush is 78-of-129 passing for 1,425 yards with 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions. DE Harrison Taylor was the Region 5-A defensive player of the year. DB Khaleb Hood has returned two kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns. Athens Academy's strength is its backfield of Payton Bowles (1,003 yards rushing, 264 receiving), Len'Neth Whitehead (965 rushing) and Henry Trapnell (597 rushing, 379 returning). Jack Thomas has thrown for 958 yards. DE Jackson Reynolds was the Region 8-A defensive player of the year. Athens Academy starts five sophomores and four juniors on a defense that is allowing only 8.2 points per game.

Maxwell Ratings' projection: Eagle's Landing Christian by 16

Class A (public)

Clinch County vs. Irwin County

When, where: 10 a.m. Saturday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Records, rankings: Clinch County is 11-2, the No. 5 seed and No. 3; Irwin County is 12-1, the No. 2 seed and No. 2.

Last meeting: Irwin County won 21-7 on Sept. 15.

Things to know: Irwin County is seeking its first state title since 1975 and second overall. Clinch County is going for its third state title in eight seasons and seventh overall. The Region 2 rivals are meeting in the state final for the second time in three seasons. In 2015, Irwin County won the regular-season game 28-12 but lost in the championship game 24-7. Irwin County won the regular-season game again this season, taking advantage of four Clinch County turnovers. Steven Thomas ran for 113 yards on 13 carries in that game. He is Irwin's second-leading rusher with 716 yards on 107 carries. D.J. Lundy has run for 1,170 yards and 22 touchdowns on 195 carries. The Indians average 353 yards rushing per game. Clinch County's offense centers on Charles McClelland and Trezmen Marshall. McClelland has 931 passing yards, a team-high 1,221 rushing yards and 63 receiving yards. He scored on runs of 11 and 2 yards in a 23-20 victory over Mount Zion last week. Marshall has 154 yards passing, 841 yards rushing and one reception for 5 yards this season. Both teams average less than 100 yards per game passing (Clinch County 84.5, Irwin County 77.7).

Maxwell Ratings' projection: Irwin County by 2

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