The second round of the Class AAA playoffs is in the books, and the top 4 teams – No. 1 Cedar Grove, No. 2 Peach County, No. 3 Greater Atlanta Christian and No. 4 Calhoun -- sailed to the quarterfinals.
Outside of those teams, things got very interesting.
The highlight of the second round for Class AAA? A decimated Westminster Wildcats team, the Region 5 third-seed, surviving a thriller against Region 7 No. 4-seed East Hall at home, 59-57.
“I was up until three in the morning,” Westminster head coach Gerry Romberg said Saturday after riding the adrenaline high from winning one of the highest scoring games of his career.
This victory marked the third-highest game in school history for points scored. The last time Westminster scored at least 59 points? Nov. 4, 1994 in a 69-27 victory over Eagle's Landing. The most-ever points scored by the Wildcats was a 72-20 victory over Woodward Academy on Oct. 2, 1959.
“All I kept saying all night was “PAT block, PAT block,” because (East Hall) was scoring so much," he said, laughing.
The Wildcats, who set a school record for most points allowed in a game, clung to a 38-28 halftime lead. In the first 24 minutes, the two teams combined for 66 points and 663 yards of offense.
“I’ll tell you what, their quarterback is the real deal and someone needs to recruit that kid,” Romberg said of East Hall’s Austin Parker, the state’s leading passer. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Parker finished the game with 537 yards and five touchdowns with one 12-yard rushing touchdown. The Vikings senior ended his season with 4,563 yards and became East Hall’s first-ever 4,000-yard passer.
“At the end, coach (Bryan) Gray was saying that everyone looks at (Parker’s) size and that he’s too small,” Romberg said. “I just hate when kids get diminished like that, you know. Coach said he was a better kid than he is a player, which is pretty amazing.”
As high-scoring as the game was, Westminster’s defense could have, arguably, saved the game. Defensive back Luke Janetta had three interceptions with one returned 40 yards for a touchdown. Joe Egan (205 yards, five TDs) and Miles Davis (144 yards, 1 TD) led the Wildcats’ rushing attack.
“Give them credit,” Romberg said. “They were making the plays when they had to. We got an interception with about 5:30 left and then just milked the clock down. We got down to the 10- or 12-yard line, and they were just going to let us score (so they could get the ball back and score) and we kind of knew that. So we told the running back to get down because one was tackling him. So we were able to take a knee, get in victory formation and run the clock out.”
After the game, Romberg said he was stunned at what had taken place.
“I have been coaching 34 years in both college and high school, and I have never been a part of a game like that, ever,” Romberg said. “I have never see scoring so fast. The problem we had was that we had so many guys going both ways, that you can’t make adjustments during the game. You have to talk to one kid here and one kid there, and you can’t sit your guys down there. To their credit, East Hall exploited some of our weaknesses, but I can see why they score as many points as they score. It’s amazing. It’s crazy. It is like a video game.”
The Wildcats seem to be showing similarities to the 2015 Class AAA season, when Westminster entered the playoffs as a No. 3 seed with four losses and won it all. It will play Peach County in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. The Wildcats lost at home last season against Trojans. On Friday, they will travel to Anderson Field in Fort Valley.
How did the other teams fare?
-- Top-ranked Cedar Grove, the No. 1 seed from Region 5, outclassed Dawson County in all phases of the game to win 58-13. The Saints got the scoring started early on a 64-yard pass from Xavier Dennis to Jadon Haselwood. An interception on the first Dawson County drive set the tone, and the Saints did not let up. Cedar Grove will face Pike County in the quarterfinals Friday.
-- No. 2 Peach County scored two late touchdowns to give the Trojans breathing room in the 34-14 victory against Pierce County. Peach‘s Trevon Woolfolk scored on runs of 28, 10 and 10 yards. Mitchell Fineran kicked field goals of 53 and 37 yards and was 3-for-3 on extra points.
-- No. 3 Greater Atlanta Christian outlasted Lovett, 38-21, to make it to the quarterfinals. The Spartans were led by Alex Boglin, who had 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Clemson commitment Kyler McMichael had 90 yards rushing with one touchdown. Josh Rose was 5-of-11 passing for 37 yards. The Spartans will face Jenkins in the quarterfinals.
-- No. 4 Calhoun moved past Monroe Area, 28-20, to earn its quarterfinal berth. The Yellow Jackets were led by Gavin Gray, who passed for 155 yards on 15-of-21 passing. Zach Fuller ran for 100-plus yards in his second consecutive game. The junior ran for 147 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns.
-- No. 5 Jenkins survived a Cook 2-point conversion attempt with 40 seconds remaining to earn its quarterfinal berth. The Warriors took a 14-7 lead after the first quarter on Ameen Stevens' run and a 33-yard pass from Javonte Middleton to Tyrone Scott. Cook tied the game at 21 at halftime after runs by Darius Cleveland and Bobby Griffin. Jenkins’ Stevens led scorers with four touchdowns, two in the fourth quarter, to give Jenkins the edge. Stevens scored on runs of 49 yards, 34 yards and two short runs.
-- No. 6 Crisp County lost 26-25 to Pike County in one of the most surprising results of the second round. The Cougars were attempting to make their second consecutive quarterfinal appearance. As one of two teams (Liberty County) left in the bracket that was unranked at the end of the regular season, Pike will face Cedar Grove in the quarterfinals.
-- Unranked Liberty County defeated Westside-Macon, 21-0, to earn its quarterfinal berth. The Panthers were led by Dionte Bowens, who passed for 86 yards and a touchdown on 3-of-8 passing. Kris Coleman caught two passes for 74 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 125 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown. Liberty, the top seed from Region 2, will face Calhoun in the quarterfinals.
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