Friday night recap: Semifinals

On Friday, it was determined which teams will play for the Class AA championship, which will take place at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The game will be a rematch from early in the season: the Heard County Braves vs. the Rockmart Yellow Jackets. In the semifinals, the No. 3 Braves — a No. 1 seed from Region 5 — defeated unranked Fitzgerald 38-30 in overtime at home. At Rockmart, the No. 2 Yellow Jackets (No. 1, Region 7) edged No. 4 Callaway 28-22.

The Heard Citizen has details from the Braves' win, which was clinched when two-way starter and Tennessee commit Aaron Beasley came down with an interception in overtime, which followed his go-ahead touchdown run on the Braves' overtime possession.

In the other game, the Jackets slugged it out with Callaway in a back-and-forth contest. Both The LaGrange Daily News and Rome News-Tribune have game stories. It came down to a defensive stop by Rockmart, which forced a Cavs turnover on the Jackets' 5 as they were attempting to score a touchdown, according to the Tribune. The Daily News reports Callaway only made it to the Rockmart 15 before being intercepted, however.

It’s the first trip to the championship game for a Braves program that dates back to 1972. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe they’ve made it this far. After losing one of the country’s top dual-threat quarterbacks in Emory Jones — the four-star graduated after last season’s trip to the semifinals and signed with Florida — the Braves opened the season 1-2, with brutal back-to-back losses to Hapeville Charter and Rockmart in which they were outscored 66-3.

The Rockmart game, played on Sept. 7, represents the low point in the Braves' season. They had just come off a 33-0 loss to then-No. 1 Hapeville Charter and were trailing the then-No. 8 Jackets 33-3 when they quit at halftime. The Rome News-Tribune reported that the game would go down as a forfeit, but the Georgia High School Football Historians Association is honoring the Jackets win as a 33-0 shutout.

The Braves (12-2) haven’t been the same team since that game, however, winning 11 straight, including over No. 2 Callaway and No. 5 Bremen to win 5-AA, the toughest region in AA. They had a rather fortunate path to the championship game in comparison to other teams, facing just one ranked opponent — No. 6 Dublin in the quarterfinals — in the playoffs.

The Jackets (14-0) on the other hand, have been rolling all season. Though they came from a much weaker 7-AA  — they outscored region opponents 371-40 with three shutouts — they beat two ranked teams in regular season non-league play (AAAA’s No. 10 Cedartown; No. 3 Heard County), and two ranked teams in the playoffs (No. 7 Bremen; No. 4 Callaway).

The Jackets are in the championship game for the first time since 1957 and are seeking their first title since 1950, when they finished 12-0 and won Class AA.

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