Class 3A blog: Not a big surprise, Region 5 fills the semifinal bracket

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

At the season’s onset in August, predicting a Region 5-dominated Class 3A high school football semifinal was almost automatic.

We’ve reached that point.

Top-ranked Cedar Grove, No. 3 Sandy Creek and No. 4 Carver-Atlanta each won quarterfinal games and will play Friday for opportunities to advance to the state championship game. Cedar Grove will play at home against Oconee County, and Carver will travel to Sandy Creek.

In what has become normal this time of the year, Cedar Grove is favored.

With its 30-0 victory against No. 2-ranked Calvary Day in the quarterfinals, Cedar Grove, which has won four titles in the past six seasons, looked every bit like it was going through the familiar motions of yet another title run.

Cedar Grove silenced Cavaliers’ star quarterback Jake Merklinger and an offense that was averaging more than 45 points a game.

E.J. Colson scored on a Saints’ first drive, which ate 7:16 off the clock and featured conversions on third and fourth downs. It was foreboding. The Saints meticulously ate up clock, scored when they needed to and kept the Cavaliers offense at bay.

Carver-Atlanta’s 28-23 victory against No. 6 Thomasville propelled the Panthers into the semis and set up a possible second consecutive state-championship appearance.

Carver trailed 13-0 early in the second quarter but took a 16-13 lead at the half before outlasting the Bulldogs in a second-half dogfight to secure the victory. Jay Randall put the Bulldogs ahead 6-0 on a 2-yard run late in the first quarter, then Thomasville went ahead 13-0 on an 89-yard touchdown run from Randall.

Carver scored on a 13-yard fumble return by Jamontez Hines, and a 2-point conversion run from Shoun Bilal to cut the lead to 13-8. Carver took the lead on a 35-yard pass from Bryce Bowens to Zyee’k Mender, and the 2-point conversion run from Jaquavious Bryant made the score 16-13.

Class 3A Semifinals schedule

R5 #3 Carver-Atlanta at R5 #2 Sandy Creek

R8 #3 Oconee Co. at R5 #1 Cedar Grove