Lee County, Northside to play in another all-Region 1 final

The football state championship game in Class AAAAAA will be an all-Region 1 affair for the second consecutive season.

Defending state champion Lee County, the No. 1 seed from Region 1 and the No. 1-ranked team in the classification, and No. 3 seed Northside-Warner Robins beat teams from Region 8 Friday night to reach the championship game, which will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. Last year, Lee County beat fellow Region 1 member Coffee in overtime to win its first state championship.

Lee County got two big plays on special teams to build a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 42-7 victory over Lanier, the No. 2 seed from Region 8. A bad snap on Lanier’s first punt gave Lee County the ball at the 1-yard line, and Shandarious Kimbrough followed with his first of four touchdowns. Lee County blocked Lanier’s next punt, and Zach Mason returned it 24 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. Kimbrough had three 1-yard touchdown runs in the first half and an 18-yarder early in the third quarter that made it 35-7.

Northside had two short touchdown drives in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead and held on for a 14-7 victory over Region 8 champion Dacula. Eric Smith capped a 44-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 5:58 to play in the first quarter, and quarterback Jadin Daniels scored on a 4-yard run on the Eagles’ next possession after a Mason Ford interception gave them the ball at the Dacula 18. Daniels finished with 48 yards rushing and was 5-of-7 passing for 60 yards.

Here are some historical stories that will play out at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

*Lee County is trying to become the first team to win back-to-back championships in the second-highest class since Northside did it in 2006 and 2007 with consecutive 15-0 seasons. Lee County won’t be able to match the 30-0 mark, thanks to a 31-28 loss to Valdosta last year in the next-to-last game of the regular season, but the Trojans have won a school-record 20 consecutive games since that loss.

*Northside and Bainbridge (AAAAA), became the eighth and ninth teams in state history to reach the state finals after finishing the regular season with records of .500 or worse. Both were 5-5. Only two of the previous seven won the championship. Of Northside’s five losses, three came against teams that reached the finals – Peach County (AAA), Warner Robins (AAAAA) and Lee County.

*Lee County or Northside will become the fourth team in five seasons from south of the metro Atlanta area to win the title in the classification, joining 2017 Lee County, 2016 Valdosta and 2014 Northside. Before that stretch, six consecutive champions hailed from northern Georgia – 2013 Creekside, 2012 Gainesville, 2011 Tucker, 2010 Chattahoochee, 2009 Sandy Creek and 2008 Tucker.