Class 4A Blog: North Oconee scores classification’s only road win in opening round

Home teams compiled a 14-1 record on Saturday and the classification’s other game saw No. 1 seed Cedartown advance past Arabia Mountain following the Rams’ forfeiture earlier this week. North Oconee’s thrilling 41-35 victory over Fayette County proved to be the only road team that advanced to the Sweet 16. Here’s a look at some of the results from the first round action.

No. 2 ranked Jefferson overwhelmed visiting Mt. Zion-Jonesboro with a 56-point effort in the first half of its 1 p.m. kickoff and became Class 4A’s first team to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 65-0 victory. Bowman Horn took the Dragons’ first play for a 42-yard touchdown and Malaki Starks followed it with a 67-yard touchdown on Jefferson’s next offensive snap. Carter Stephenson tacked on a 49-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Perry and rushed for a 17-yard touchdown before the end of the first quarter to push the lead to 28-0. Starks connected with Dawson Crawley for a 27-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter and Jefferson also got rushing scores from Kam Robinson (49 yards) and Isaiah Copeland (3) before Perry’s interception return for a touchdown made it 56-0 heading into the half. The Dragons registered a safety in the third quarter and then capped the scoring with Tre Reece’s 5-yard touchdown run in the final frame.

Region 7 No. 2 Northwest Whitfield trailed visiting Stephenson 24-13 midway through the fourth following three straight third-quarter touchdowns by the Jaguars before the heroics of sophomore quarterback Owen Brooker propelled the Bruins to a 28-24 round-one comeback victory. The teams traded first-quarter field goals, and Adrian Reyes was first to the end zone with 1:50 left in the half on a 24-yard run. Jax Brooker then recovered a fumble at the Stephenson 32, and Yahir Zapata added his second made field goal as the clock expired — despite three consecutive timeouts burned by the Jaguars to ice his kick — for a 13-3 edge. Stephenson owned the third quarter, picking off Brooker to start the half before piling on 21 straight points that included back-to-back rushing scores by Terrance Guffie (4, 43 yards). Following two drives that ended in missed field goals by Zapata, Brooker broke through multiple tackles to convert on fourth down, then connected with Ray Morrison on a screen pass the latter took to the 1-yard line. Brooker scored on the keeper and again found Morrison for two to cut Stephenson’s lead to 24-21 at the 5:06 mark of the final frame. The Bruins forced Stephenson to punt, and after extending the drive with a 15-yard scramble on 4th-and-8, Brooker threw the game-winner to Preston Nealey with 0:10 on the clock.

Region 6 No. 1 Marist shut out Region 7 No. 4 Central-Carroll 49-0 at home. Five different War Eagles players rushed for touchdowns. Ian Otten rushed for a 20-yard score, and Champ Davis added a touchdown — set up by Chandler Heath’s punt return to the Central 1-yard line — in the first quarter to help Marist to a 28-0 halftime lead. Andrew Mannelly, Lincoln Parker and Joseph Patin all rushed for short touchdowns in the second half. Quarterback Hayden Richardson had a long touchdown pass to Derek McDonald in the second quarter, and Justin Hartwell scored Marist’s first points on a 41-yard interception return.

Third-ranked Carver-Columbus took care of business at home, riding strong performances by quarterback DJ Riles and WR/RB Jaiden Credle to a 26-3 victory over visiting Jenkins that sets up a round-two home matchup with Region 4 No. 2 Baldwin. The duo accounted for all of the Tigers’ scoring, starting with a screen pass from Riles to Credle for a touchdown on Carver’s opening drive. Riles added a 15-yard touchdown run in the second, and Credle found the end zone in the third and fourth quarters from 27 and 11 yards out, respectively, before Riles capped the scoring following the latter on a successful 2-point run. John Seidensticker provided the lone points for Jenkins on a 24-yard field goal in the second to cut the Tigers lead to 6-3.

Region 8 No. 2 Flowery Branch ended Region 5 No. 3 Luella’s season with an emphatic 40-7 round-one victory. All of the Falcons’ scoring came in the first half, including 12 points in the first 4:10 of the game on a safety on the opening snap, a 27-yard field goal and a 6-yard rushing score by Jaizen Ellingham. Ellingham (15 yards) and quarterback David Renard (10 yards) each added touchdown runs in the second, and Renard also contributed a pair of scoring strikes to Sal Sengson and Camo Campbell for 16 and 37 yards, respectively. The win sets up a second-round showdown with an undefeated Marist team that has sat atop the 4A rankings all season long.

Region 1 No. 2 Cairo came away with a decisive 37-0 victory over visiting West Laurens behind veteran performances by the Syrupmakers’ upperclassmen. UGA-commit Noah Jones was 4-4 on PATs and made field goals of 47, 27 and 30 yards, senior running back Tay Soloman had a pair of first-half touchdown runs that included a 43-yarder on Cairo’s opening drive, John Carter scored from 27 yards out, and junior quarterback Kevin Speed connected with senior Kilijah Thomas for a 75-yard touchdown. The lockdown defensive outing included junior Gary Davis’ sack to force a turnover on downs in the third quarter.

Region 5 No. 2 Fayette County knotted the score of its back-and-forth affair with visiting North Oconee early in the final frame, but the Titans got the game-winner with 3:23 remaining when Ashton Trenton Hefner recovered his team’s fumble at the goal line and walked it into the end zone for the 41-35 North Oconee victory. The Region 8 No. 3 Titans will travel to Cedartown for a second-round showdown next week.

Hardaway led 18-0 before host Islands rallied past the Hawks with 22 unanswered points for a 22-18 win. Josh Dickerson made it a two-point game (18-16) with 6:44 left after returning an interception for a touchdown and hauling in the successful two-point conversion. Islands went up 22-18 with 2:09 left to play on a Jadon Adams touchdown pass to Langston Lewis. Following the go-ahead touchdown, Dickerson iced the game with this third interception.

Senior running back Antavious Bradley scored on a 7-yard run at the 10:11 mark of the second quarter and Region 6 No. 2 Hapeville Charter held off Region 7 No. 3 Heritage-Catoosa at Banneker High School 6-0. Nicholas Price had two interceptions for the Hornets.

Quarterback Derrick Lewis for host Region 4 No. 2 Baldwin hit Kirtavious Hightower with 2:18 remaining for the game-winning touchdown (36-30) over Region 1 No. 3 Thomas County Central. The Braves got four touchdown passes from Lewis, who hit Shatavious Hogan for a score shortly before the break and found Javon Bullard twice in the second half. Jeramiyah Scott and Micah Welch also rushed for touchdowns for Baldwin.