Class 3A Blog: A story of steady growth for Myles, Carver-Atlanta

2020 GHSA football championships at Centre Park. (Adam Krohn/special)

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2020 GHSA football championships at Centre Park. (Adam Krohn/special)

Carver-Atlanta and Cedar Grove will play for the Class 3A state championship Saturday, and the coaching backgrounds of the two programs couldn’t be more different.

John Adams took over the Cedar Grove program during the offseason and advanced to state finals in his first season after the Saints beat Appling County 27-6.

Darren Myles has been at Carver-Atlanta since 2005 and is finally playing for a state championship after the Panthers’ 19-17 road-trip victory against defending champion Pierce County.

When Carver-Atlanta’s seniors were freshmen in 2018, the Panthers finished the regular season 5-5 and lost to Kell in the first round of the 5A playoffs. The youthful class steadily improved. Under Myles’ guidance, the group learned valuable lessons while getting varsity playing time as freshmen. Entering this season, Myles knew his team was special and a state championship was on his mind.

“We were talking about a state championship with this group,” he said. “We have 22 seniors right now. In 2018, six played as freshmen. But we knew that with this group of guys, the way they kept working and pushing each other in the weight room and maturing and embracing the work, we felt like that this group would give us a state-championship appearance.”

In the semifinals, Pierce County held the Panthers scoreless in the second half, but the Bears could not overcome the 19-3 Carver-Atlanta halftime lead. Quintavious Lockett scored all three of Carver’s touchdowns on runs of 5, 2 and 1 yard.

Carver will face Region 5 rival Cedar Grove and will try for its first victory against the Saints in nine tries. (Carver was awarded a forfeit victory against Cedar Grove last season but has never outscored them.)

In the semis, Cedar Grove sophomore quarterback Jamar Graham passed to Trevon Ferrell (23 and 35 yards) and Janiran Bonner (40) for touchdowns, and Rashad Dubinion scored on a 5-yard run to move past Appling.

“Jamar Graham is really talented,” Cedar Grove coach John Adams told Najeh Wilkins, who covered the game for the AJC. “He has a really big arm. It’s really impressive because he hadn’t been starting. Just to come in the fourth round of the playoffs and do what he did tonight was excellent.”

Momentum played a large role in the Saints’ semifinal victory, and it shifted early in the second quarter when Appling County, leading 3-0, fumbled on the goal line, which resulted in a touchback after Dawson Griffis reached for the pylon and lost control of the ball.

“I told them when it happened it was an opportunity that we didn’t plan for, but we are going to make the best of it,” Adams said. “I think that is what we did.”

Cedar Grove won 3A titles in 2016, 2018 and 2019. Since the 2015 season, it has been to at least the semifinals each year, other than a quarterfinal exit last season.

That history would seem to give Cedar Grove an edge.

We’ll find out Saturday at noon at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium.