Finals previews

PUBLIC

No. 1 Irwin County (13-0) vs. No. 6 Clinch County (12-1)

When: Tuesday, 10 a.m.

Last Meeting: Irwin County won, 21-3, back on September 14 at Clinch County.

All Time Series: Irwin County leads 22-21-1

This rivalry is the essence of small-town Georgia high school football. 

When the teams met earlier this season, Clinch led 3-0 at the half but Irwin County DB/WR Jamori Colson returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter. Then on Irwin County’s next possession, Colson caught a 65-yard touchdown pass from junior QB Zach Smith to push the lead to 14-3. Junior LB/RB DJ Lundy put the game away for good with a 48-yard touchdown run with three minutes left. 

This is the third time in four seasons that these Region 2-A rivals have met in the championship game. Irwin County has won the regular-season matchup the previous two times but lost to Clinch County in the final each year. 

Irwin County, which also lost to Hawkinsville in the 2014 final, is seeking its first state title since 1975. The Indians average 293.2 yards rushing, led by DJ Lundy (143 carries, 1,509 yards, 28 touchdowns), Paulk (112-837-9) and Jay Stanley (75-656-8). Zach Smith is 52-of-103 passing for 1,082 yards and 16 TDs. The Indians allow just 8.38 points per game, second-best in Class A.

Clinch County, seeking its third championship in four years and eighth overall, remains a run-based team, averaging 296.8 yards rushing while attempt only about six passes per game. The key offensive players are Tyler Morehead (1,094 yards rushing, 379 yards passing) and Trezmen Marshall (796 rushing, 188 passing). They have combined for 31 touchdowns rushing and five passing. Marshall (committed to Georgia) also leads the team in tackles with 59.

PRIVATE 

No. 1 Athens Academy (13-0) vs. No. 3 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (12-1)

When: Wednesday, 10 a.m.

Last Meeting: ELCA won 41-3 in the 2017 Class A private-school championship game.

All Time Series: ELCA leads 2-0

Athens Academy is 26-1 the past two seasons, its only loss was to ELCA, in last season’s private title game. ELCA is 42-0 against Class A opponents since 2015. 

The teams' offenses are similar. Athens Academy's Palmer Bush is 91-of-130 passing for 1,478 yards and 15 touchdowns. ELCA's Brayden Rush is 74-of-132 for 1,477 yards and 21 touchdowns. Rush is more of a run threat. He had a career-high 220 yards against Savannah Christian in a 70-21 win in the semifinals. ELCA's Keaton Mitchell has rushed for 2,336 yards and 47 touchdowns, while Athens Academy's Len'Neth Whitehead has run for 1,377, but also plays significantly as a linebacker on defense.

Also prominent for the Spartans will be LB William McLanahan (leading tackler) and RB/DB Payton Bowles and WR/DB Deion Colzie, both two-way starters. ELCA's most notable defenders are LB Johnathan Youngblood (region player of the year, 16 tackles for losses, four interceptions), WR/CB Justin Menard (committed to Central Florida) and WR/CB Justin Robinson (SEC/ACC offers). ELCA is trying to become the third school in history to win four straight state titles, joining West Rome (1982-85) and Buford (2007-10). Athens Academy has won nine region titles since 2001, tied with ELCA for the most in the GHSA among all private schools, but never won a state title.

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