We’re down to the semifinals in AA and, as I mentioned in the Friday night recap, only one of the teams I predicted to reach the semifinals actually made it, and that’s the team I picked to win it all — the Callaway Cavaliers.
Here’s a look at what’s left of my bracket:
I’ll lead with the Cavs. I like what I saw from them in their 41-20 win over Douglass, which propelled them into the semis for the second year in a row and third time in four seasons. If you only look at the score, it appears to be just another blowout win by Callaway — all but two of their wins came by double-digits, and they’ve outscored the competition 551-140 in their victories — but that’s not how it went down.
The Cavs actually trailed Douglass 14-0 to start the game, so they answered the question of whether they could respond to adversity after coasting through much of the regular season and first two rounds of the playoffs. Talent alone won’t win a title — though Callaway has perhaps more of that than any team remaining, at least in terms of next-level prospects. To win it all, you need the will to fight and claw, especially when things aren’t going your way.
On Friday, the Cavs proved they have what it takes to win the first title in a program history that dates back to 1996.
However, they still need two wins starting with Brooks County. The Trojans are the lone team remaining that isn’t a No. 1 seed, coming from Region 1 as a No. 2. The Trojans have dominated their opponents this postseason, outscoring them 118-34. After beating top-ranked, undefeated Rockmart 41-3 — the Jackets were missing Region 7-AA player of the year in dual-threat quarterback Javin Whatley — they suffocated Metter 35-6 to advance to the semis for the second time in three seasons.
The Trojans are locked in after starting the season 1-3. They didn’t climb to above .500 until the next-to-last game of the season, though all four of their losses came to ranked teams.
Like the Trojans, their rivals from Region 1 — the Thomasville Bulldogs — have also risen from an abysmal start to find themselves one with from the title game. An all 1-AA championship game is a very real possibility and would serve as a rematch to their game played on Oct. 11, which the Bulldogs won 31-20.
I’ll be honest: after the Bulldogs started 0-3, which was later 2-4, I’d written this season off as a rebuilding year — even knowing how good of a coach they have in Zach Grage. I figured losing the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback for the class of ‘22, Chad Mascoe, to national powerhouse IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) via transfer would be too much for the team to overcome. I was wrong!
After their fourth loss, they’ve done nothing but win, with four of those victories coming to ranked teams. Last week, they beat a Rabun County team I picked to reach the championship by double digits. It’s hard to believe, but this Bulldogs team has already advanced further than the 2017 one that won its first 12 games and set a number of program records along the way. They’re in the semis for the first time since 1993 — the last year they reached the title game.
Now they’ll face a Dublin Fighting Irish that just knocked off former No. 1-ranked Hapeville Charter in dominating fashion, 35-12. In fact, all of their playoff wins have come by three scores. Perhaps the regular season-ending loss to Washington County — which cost them their first undefeated regular season since 2006 — was exactly what they needed to head into the playoffs focused.
Of course I’m standing by my prediction for Callaway, so if I had to guess which team will meet the Cavs in the championship, I’ll go with Thomasville winning at home against Dublin.
- Former Bleckley County standout Zach Lassiter — son of Royals coach Von Lassiter — was named a SoCon All Conference All Freshman Special Teams member recently.
- Here’s former Washington County and NFL standout Takeo Spikes posing in front of a bunch of hardware with brothers and former Georgia and NFL standouts Robert Edwards and Terrence Edwards.
- Former Rabun County standout and current Tennessee Tech sophomore quarterback Bailey Fisher was named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference Second Team offense.
- Former Hapeville Charter standout and current Campbell quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams was named Big South Offensive Freshman of the Year.
- Rabun County junior tackle/defensive end Bear Old has been invited to play in the Georgia Elite Classic.
- WRBL’s Jack Patterson recently profiled Callaway ahead of its quarterfinals matchup.
- Practicing on Thanksgiving was routine for Callaway seniors. Here’s some of what that senior class has accomplished.
- Former Hapeville Charter standout and current Penn receiver Rory Starkey was named offensive player of the week for his effort in a 24-20 win over Harvard.
- Region 1 rivals Brooks County and Thomasville have become temporary allies until they meet again, possibly in the championship.
- Check out the send-off fans gave Rabun County ahead of their five-plus-hour bus ride to Thomasville.
- Here’s former Callaway standout and current Ole Miss junior receiver Braylon Sanders making a big play.
- Highlights from Callaway’s win over Douglass include a Jalin Shephard 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an 88-yard touchdown pass from Demetrius Coleman to Jacob Freeman. Here’s WLTZ’s highlight reel.
- WTXL has Rabun County-Thomasville highlights beginning at the 5:30 mark of the first segment.
- Here’s Dublin’s Jaques Evans with a 3-yard touchdown to bring the score to its final margin in the Fighting Irish’s win over Hapeville Charter.
- Ricky Fulton had two big-play touchdowns in Thomasville’s win over Rabun County.
- Here’s a breakdown of Callaway’s win with Cavs assistant Dialleo Burks on the West Georgia Podcast.
- Here’s former Bremen standout and current Western Kentucky junior linebacker Kyle Bailey delivering a punishing hit.
- Dublin is planning on bringing a crowd to Thomasville for the semis.
- Here’s former Callaway standout and current Auburn true freshman tackle Keiondre Jones reflecting on his first Iron Bowl on WRBL.
- Here’s WLTZ talking with Callaway senior running back and AJC Super 11 selection Tank Bigsby about this year’s Iron Bowl. Bigsby is committed to Auburn.
- Thomasville’s Zach Grage was recently featured in GHSF Daily’s feature “Four questions with...”
- Rabun County sophomore Gunner Stockton was recently named football player of the year by Blitz.
Follow the AJC’s Class AA coverage on Twitter.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.
Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.