Class 3A blog: This weekend’s appetizers might be better than Dec. 10′s main meal

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

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

The schedule suggests that the Class 3A state championship game’s main menu will be served at noon, Dec. 10 at Georgia State Stadium.

But the appetizer hits the table Friday at Buck Godfrey Stadium in Decatur, when No. 2 Calvary Day visits top-ranked Cedar Grove in a quarterfinal matchup.

And it might be the highlight of the state playoff meal.

Cedar Grove has been the dominant force in Class 3A since 2016. when it won its first state title. Since then, the Saints won in 2018, 2019 and last season. Calvary Day – a team that has been playing since 1977 – has never won a title. In its first season in Class 3A, the Cavaliers are poised for the program’s first.

Calvary Day enters the game after victories against Salem (49-0) and Dougherty (54-41). Quarterback Jake Merklinger leads the balanced Cavaliers offense, which averages 180 passing and 180 rushing yards per game. Merklinger, a junior, is 88-of-131 passing for 1,921 yards and 32 touchdowns – 15 to Antonio Butts Jr. Michael Smith has 23 carries for 595 yards and 12 touchdowns; Caden Arnold has 21 carries for 526 yards and nine touchdowns and Edward Coleman has 26 carries for 536 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the run game.

Cedar Grove defeated Bremen 48-7 and Hebron Christian 70-33 in the first two rounds. Its two losses came against to Mill Creek (52-36) and Colquitt County (39-17), both 7A ranked powerhouses and each making quarterfinals appearances.

Quarterback Elliott Colson leads a Saints offense that has outscored opponents 418-220. Four-star Ohio State-commitment cornerback Kaylin Lee, an AJC Super 11 selection, anchors the Saints defensive secondary.

In the other matchups:

R5 #3 Carver-Atlanta at R1 #1 Thomasville

Carver’s senior quarterback Bryce Bowens is 150-of-249 passing for 2,042 yards and 20 touchdowns, while rushing for seven touchdowns. Senior Shoun Bilal adds five rushing touchdowns.

Seniors Zyee’k Mender (nine touchdown receptions) and Deandre Buchannon (7) lead the receivers for Carver.

Thomasville’s freshman quarterback Camren Hill is 96-of-176 passing for 1,529 yards and 16 touchdowns. Cole Shaw (six TDs), DJ Thurman (six TDs) and Jay Randall (four TDs) anchor receivers. Freshman Levonte Cole has rushed for eight touchdowns, and junior Jay Randall has seven touchdown runs.

The winner will face the Sandy Creek/Savannah Christian winner.

R5 #2 Sandy Creek at R3 #2 Savannah Christian

Sandy Creek should win, but don’t tell that to the newcomer Savannah Christian, a week removed from upending then-No. 6 Peach County 23-7.

Savannah Christian enters the game averaging 270 rushing to 150 passing yards per game, while Sandy Creek averages 188 passing to 133 rushing yards per game. Savannah Christian quarterback Paulus Zittrauer is 101-of-158 passing for 1,722 yards and 15 touchdowns. Zo Smalls leads the backfield with 190 carries for 1,389 yards and 19 touchdowns. David Bucey has 36 receptions for 721 yards and six touchdown catches.

Sandy Creek quarterback Geimere Latimer is 136-of-245 passing for 2,231 yards and 28 touchdowns – 11 to Cameron Watts. Latimer leads the run game with 99 carries for 571 yards and 10 touchdowns. His little brother, Amari, has 103 carries for 607 yards and seven touchdowns. The winner will face the Carver-Atlanta/Thomasville winner.

R8 #3 Oconee Co. at R1 #2 Carver-Columbus

Can Carver-Columbus find a way to stop Oconee’s CJ Jones? Last week in a 49-21 victory against Lumpkin County, the senior back had eight carries for 65 yards and five touchdowns. On the flip side, can Oconee County stop Carver’s senior back Jamari Riley, who has 169 carries for 1,297 yards and 17 touchdowns? The winner will face the Cedar Grove/Calvary Day winner.