Class 3A blog: Appling-Pierce highlights final week of regular season

Oct. 23, 2020 - Norcross, Ga: A GHSA football is shown before the Georgia high school football game between Cedar Grove and GAC at Greater Atlanta Christian, Friday, October 23, 2020 in Norcross, Ga.. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Oct. 23, 2020 - Norcross, Ga: A GHSA football is shown before the Georgia high school football game between Cedar Grove and GAC at Greater Atlanta Christian, Friday, October 23, 2020 in Norcross, Ga.. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Six of the eight regions in the class – Regions 3-through-8 – decided their respective champions last week, and Region 2′s pecking order was all but determined when No. 3 Peach County and Central-Macon cancelled their game this week after positive COVID-19 tests sidelined Peach a week before the playoffs.

In fact, four of the top 5 programs had games cancelled this week because of COVID-19: Top-ranked Cedar Grove (1-4) vs. Sandy Creek. No. 2. Oconee County (8-0) vs. Franklin County, No. 3. Peach County (7-1) vs. Central-Macon and No. 4. Crisp County (8-1) vs. Pike County.

The last region left undetermined is Region 1 where two ranked programs – No. 5 Appling County and No. 8 Pierce will play to decide the front-runner. Appling County is 7-0, 2-0; Pierce County is 7-1, 3-0, and the rivalry, dating to 1992, will re-ignite Friday.

“I think it’s a natural rivalry,” said Appling head coach Rick Tomberlin. “We border Pierce County, and it’s about a half-hour drive there. Same size school, basically. And so it’s a natural rivalry.”

Aside from the region title, Tomberlin enters the game against Pierce County with something on the line that brings back fond memories. If Appling wins, Tomberlin (268 victories) will surpass Wright Bazemore, the legendary Valdosta head coach, in career victories.

“We were good friends,” Tomberlin said of Bazemore. “When I was the head coach at Lowndes, he was retired at Valdosta and he would come over and get his chair and sit out there and watch us practice.”

He will also be trying for his 11th region title, first since 2016 at Calvary Day and his first region crown in three seasons at Appling County. The programs have met 24 times and each season since 2004. Pierce County won the past two games – 27-26 in 2018 and 23-14 last season.

“Last year they were 11-0 and got beaten by Hart County in the playoffs,” Tomberlin said. “But they are better this year. They have a better team and a good group of athletes.”

Several years ago, Tomberlin was visiting coaches at Pierce County, and then-coach (Jason) Strickland asked Tomberlin to speak to his young freshman quarterback about leadership and other intangibles. That quarterback was Jermaine Brewton, who will lead Pierce onto the field to face Tomberlin’s Pirates.

“I didn’t know I’d be coaching against him three years in a row,” Tomberlin laughed. “He is a winner and a really good player, and they have a whole team of good players. Their defense ... their offensive line is probably as good of a fundamental group as we’ve seen. So we have a heck of a challenge ahead of us.”

Below is the preview compiled by Georgia High School Football Daily.

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jimmy Swain Stadium, Baxley

Records, rankings: Pierce County is 7-1 overall, 3-0 in Region 1-3A and No. 8; Appling County is 7-0, 2-0 and No. 5.

Last meeting: Pierce County won 23-14 in 2019.

Things to know: Pierce County is aiming for its third consecutive region title and 14th straight region victory. Appling County can win its first region title since 2013. These teams have split their past 14 meetings, with half of them decided by seven points or less. The 2019 game turned when Pierce County’s Quevien Bell returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Bell is graduated, but another Bell, sophomore D.J., has rushed for 850 yards in only seven games. QB Jermaine Brewton is a four-year starter who has thrown for 5,305 yards and rushed for 1,190 in his career. Pierce has been even better on defense, though. The Bears are allowing only 7.9 points per game, fourth fewest in Class 3A. They will be tested by Appling’s offense. The Pirates average a class-best 44.4 points. They are a heavy-run team, averaging 293 yards per game rushing. Sharode Roberts has a team-leading 521 yards in a shared-load backfield. Appling has completed only 25 passes, but eight went for touchdowns.

Top 10 schedule for Week 12

1. Cedar Grove (1-4) canceled vs. Sandy Creek.

2. Oconee County (8-0) canceled vs. Franklin County

3. Peach County (7-1) canceled vs. Central (Macon)

4. Crisp County (8-1) canceled vs. Pike County

5. Appling County (7-0) vs. #8 Pierce County

6. Greater Atlanta Christian (8-0) vs. Redan

7. Rockmart (7-1) at Ringgold

8. Pierce County (7-1) at #5 Appling County

9. Cherokee Bluff (9-0) vs. White County

10. Richmond Academy (8-1) vs Burke County

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