Some of the other classifications may have had some surprises in the state championship games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this week, but not Class AAAAAA.
Lee County, the top-ranked team from start to finish, completed its domination of the second-highest class with a 14-0 victory over Region 1 rival Northside-Warner Robins on Tuesday to win its second consecutive state championship.
The victory made Lee County the first team to win back-to-back championships in the second-highest classification since Northside did it in 2006 and 2007 and the first to finish 15-0 in a season since Creekside in 2013. The Trojans also are the third consecutive state champions from Region 1-AAAAAA (Valdosta won in 2016) and the fourth in five seasons (Northside won in 2014).
Even though Lee County had the highest-scoring team in Class AAAAAA with 41.6 points per game, the story of the 2018 Trojans was all about the defense. That was the case again in the victory over Northside, which became the Trojans’ sixth shutout victim of the season. Lee County ended the season with a state-best points-against average of 5.13.
Northside had just 33 yards of total offense midway through the fourth quarter, although the Eagles finished with 164 total yards after two late drives that almost netted points. Jammie Robinson, a three-star cornerback prospect with reported offers from Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and 23 other Division I schools, led the way with 5.5 total tackles (4 unassisted).
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Shaun Kimbrough rushed for 56 yards and both Lee County touchdowns. Quarterback Kyle Toole was 6-of-14 passing for 128 yards.
Lee County will get to play one more game this year. The Trojans have been chosen to participate in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series and will host St. Frances Academy of Baltimore on Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
Here are some of the other top stories from Class AAAAAA this year.
*Creekside’s revival: No team in the state had a bigger turnaround than Creekside, which won the Region 5 championship a year after finishing 0-10. No team in any classification had done that since Adairsville in 2000. After losing their first two games this season to extend their losing streak to a school-record 12 games, the Seminoles won eight of their next nine to reach the second round, where they were knocked out by Sequoyah 50-49 to finish 8-4. The eight wins were the most for Creekside since 2014, when they went 9-3 a year after winning the state championship. Maurice Dixon just completed his second season as the school’s head coach.
Gwinnett’s breakthrough: The success Gwinnett County has had in the postseason over the past two decades had not carried over into the second-highest class. That’s understandable, considering that Gwinnett has only two schools in AAAAAA. But Dacula and Lanier changed that this season when both advanced to the semifinals. Dacula, which won Region 8 the past two seasons but got knocked out in the second round, won it again this year and reached the semifinals for the first time since 1990. Lanier, which began its program in 2010 but did not play a full season until 2012, made its first trip to the semifinals, where it lost to Lee County 42-7.
Cherokee’s breakthrough: No Cherokee County school had reached the quarterfinals since Etowah got to the semifinals in 2014, and the county had not had two quarterfinalists in the same season since Cherokee and Sequoyah did it in 2004. Those droughts ended this year when Creekview and Sequoyah both made it to the final eight. Sequoyah, the No. 2 seed from Region 6, beat Alpharetta (34-30) and Creekside (50-49) in the first two rounds before losing to Northside and finishing 10-3. Creekview, which began its program in 2006, claimed its first region title with a 10-0 in the regular season, then beat Pope (38-14) and Habersham Central (65-48) in the playoffs. The Grizzlies finished 12-1 after losing to Lee County 42-20. The 20 points were the most allowed by Lee County all season.
*Coaching changes: At least six schools will have new head football coaches next season. Perhaps the most notable change will be at Hughes, where Willie Cannon stepped down after 10 seasons on the job. Cannon started the program in 2009 and compiled a 60-49 record, won two region titles and reached the playoffs six consecutive seasons. Hughes was 4-6 this year. Other coaches that have stepped down include Centennial’s Michael Perry, who left for East Hall after two seasons; Alcovy’s Chris Edgar (three seasons); Drew’s Dorwyn Lyles (five seasons);, New Manchester’s Myron Terry (three seasons); and River Ridge’s Tyler Wynn (four seasons).
Players of the year: Northside QB Jadin Daniels, who passed for 1,676 yards, rushed for 1,571 yards and led his team to a runner-up finish, was named the Region 1 player of the year. The eight all-region teams, selected by the coaches, have been released. Other players of the year include Bradwell Institute RB Kevin Harris (Region 2), Heritage-Conyers WR Devron Harper (Region 3), Douglas County DE Mataio Soli (Region 5) and Habersham Central QB Tre Luttrell (Region 8). The other three regions didn’t name an overall player of the year but gave their top awards to: Lovejoy WR Dayton Wade (offense) and Forest Park DE Justin Eboigbe (defense) in Region 4; Creekview RB Cade Radam (offense) and Creekview FS Andy Davis (defense) in Region 6; and Centennial QB Max Brosmer (offense) and Johns Creek DE Miles Younger (defense) in Region 7.