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Class AAAAAA blog: Harrison’s title contributes to Cobb’s banner season

Harrison head coach Matt Dickmann and player Mason Bollin (44) hold their championship trophy after the AAAAAA state championship game at Georgia State Stadium on Friday, December 13, 2019. Harrison won 20-7 over Allatoona. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Harrison head coach Matt Dickmann and player Mason Bollin (44) hold their championship trophy after the AAAAAA state championship game at Georgia State Stadium on Friday, December 13, 2019. Harrison won 20-7 over Allatoona. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The 2019 high school football season was a historic one for Cobb County.

Harrison became the fourth Cobb-based team to win a state championship when it knocked off Region 6 and county rival Allatoona 20-7 in the Class AAAAAA championship game Friday night at Georgia State Stadium. Marietta became the fifth member of the Cobb champions club when it beat Lowndes 17-9 in the Class AAAAAAA final the next night.

Marietta became the first two-time Cobb County winner, adding this year’s trophy to a 1967 Class AAA title. Other champions from the county include Mount Paran Christian in 2014 and Allatoona in 2015.

Harrison made some history of its own, becoming the first Cobb team in history to complete a 15-0 season. The Hoyas had been to the championship game one time previously, a 19-7 loss in 2000 against Parkview, which won its first of three consecutive championships in Class AAAAA, the highest at the time.

Harrison led Allatoona 10-7 at halftime but created some breathing room with a 10-point third quarter.

Hoyas quarterback Gavin Hall threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Jay Ziglor and scored on a 2-yard run, and Christian Lowery kicked two 40-yard field goals.

Allatoona (11-3-1), playing in the state finals for the first time since its 2015 championship season, finished with a 206-205 advantage in total offense. Alex Wilson ran for 120 yards on 31 carries in a driving rain.

The game was a rematch of their Oct. 11 meeting, which Harrison won 21-17 in a game that ultimately determined the Region 6 championship. Harrison’s games against Allatoona (11-3-1) were its closest of the year, as no other contest was decided by fewer than 18 points.

“It’s been one of the most unbelievable runs because of the way the guys focused this year,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said after the championship game. “We talked about that last year we came up short [a second-round loss]. We had to do all the little things. We had to be disciplined, and I’m very proud of the way they handled it this year.”

Here are some of the other top stories from Class AAAAAA this year.

*Reign ends: Region 1's streak of state championships ended at three (Valdosta in 2016, Lee County in 2017 and 2018), but the five-team region remained the top threat in Class AAAAAA, putting all four of its playoff teams in the quarterfinals. Lee County, Valdosta, Coffee and Houston County combined to go 8-0 in the first two rounds before all losing in the quarters. Region 1 had had six semifinalists the past three years. Reclassification will send Coffee to AAAAA next season, but the other teams (including Northside-Warner Robins) will remain to form a four-team region. No other region in the class will have fewer than six teams.

*Breakout season: Richmond Hill, which began playing football in 1986, made it to the semifinals for the first time before being knocked out by Allatoona 17-14 in overtime and finishing 9-4. RB Jalen Rouse became a star for the Wildcats, rushing for more than 1,700 yards for the season and 500 in the playoffs. The Wildcats have made four consecutive playoff berths for the first time in program history. … Dacula has made back-to-back semifinals and won four consecutive region titles, but its season was notable because the Falcons won a school-record 13 games and had a No. 1 ranking for the first time in program history. The Falcons lost to Harrison in the semifinals.

*Players of the year: Jalen Rouse, who was such a big part of Richmond Hill's success, was selected as the Region 2 player of the year. The eight all-region teams, selected by the coaches, have been released. Other players of the year include Valdosta QB Tate Rodemaker (Region1), Grovetown DE/LB Simeon Barrow (Region 3), South Paulding WR Parker Self and Creekside LB Khatavian Franks (Region 5), North Atlanta RB T.K. Mack (Region 7) and Dacula QB Jarrett Jenkins (Region 8). The other two regions didn't name an overall player of the year but gave their top awards to: Morrow ATH Jimmy Calloway (offense) and Morrow LB Owein Blas (defense) in Region 4 and Dalton RB Jahmyr Gibbs (offense) and Harrison LB Ryan Smith (defense) in Region 6.

*Reclassification: Nineteen teams that played in Class AAAAAA this season won't be back in 2020. Harrison is one of four teams that will move to the highest classification, joining Alpharetta, Dunwoody and Gainesville in AAAAAAA. Region champions Mays and Stephenson will drop to AAAA along with Mount Zion-Jonesboro, and 12 more teams will move to AAAAA. Seventeen teams – eight from AAAAAAA and nine from AAAAA – will move into Class AAAAAA. Those moving up include some of the best teams in AAAAA this year – champion Buford, quarterfinalist Carrollton, region champ Riverwood, and perennial powers Kell and Rome.

*Coaching changes: At least four schools that played in Class AAAAAA this season will have new head football coaches next year. Most notable among them is Northside-Warner Robins, where Kevin Kinsler resigned after 10 seasons. Kinsler was 100-28 with one state championship (2014), four region titles and one state runner-up finish. Other coaches who won't be returning include Jacob Nichols, who stepped down after leading Alpharetta to a 46-22 record and two region titles in six seasons; Kevin "Bull" Jones, who stepped down after seven seasons at Mount Zion-Jonesboro; and Gerren Griffin, whose team went 2-8 in his only season at Forest Park.

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