Class A Blog: Semifinals preview

Prince Avenue Christian-Wesleyan, Calvary Day-Trinity, Irwin County-Metter and Clinch County-Brooks County are the semifinal matchups


Left Bracket

Prince Avenue Christian (11-1) at Wesleyan (11-2). This will be the seventh meeting overall and the fifth in three seasons between the two schools. Prince Avenue has won three of the last four, including a 52-26 blowout on October 2. The Wolverines are coming off of a 38-0 beat down of defending champion Eagle’s Landing Christian in the quarterfinals, ending the Chargers’ five-year run of titles. Senior QB Brock Vandagriff (who signed with UGA on Wednesday) was the offensive star completing 15-of-20 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for two short scores. Defensively, the recruiting stock of senior DL B.J. Green, who elected to delay his signing until February, has shot through the roof after he picked up five tackles for loss and a sack in the game to lead his teammates in holding ELCA to just 143 yards while grabbing two interceptions. Prince Avenue is in the semifinals for the seventh time overall, the fifth time in the last six seasons.

Meanwhile Wesleyan improved to 5-0 this season in games decided by seven points or less after rallying to knock off Savannah Christian, 21-17. The Wolves led 14-3 at halftime before surrendering 14 unanswered points to the Pirates, and trailed 17-14 with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. But, just as they have done all season, the Wolves scored a late touchdown to advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive season. Wesleyan marched 80 yards in three minutes and scored the game winner on an 8-yard touchdown pass from senior QB Ryan Rose to senior WR Andrew Van Wie with 1:40 left. The drive was saved when the Wolves converted a third-and-eight from their 22-yard line on a 68-yard pass from Rose to junior RB/LB Griffin Caldwell.

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Calvary Day (9-4) at Trinity Christian (11-2). This will be the first meeting between the two schools. Calvary Day is in the state semifinals for the third time overall and the first time since 2014. They began the season 4-4, but have won their last five games, including last week’s 26-14 win over George Walton Academy, largely on the performance of freshman QB Jake Merklinger, who completed 12-of-15 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for a 1-yard score. Cavalier senior RB Greg Daniel (Army signee) finished with 201 yards on 30 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run.

Trinity is in the semis in just the program’s third season in the GHSA. Led by head coach Kenny Dallas, former defensive coordinator at ELCA and the architect of the program at Landmark Christian, the Lions dominated previously unbeaten Fellowship Christian, 41-26, last week. Dallas’ son, junior QB David Dallas, and junior RB Tyson Wall led the way offensively. Dallas tossed three touchdown passes, one an 80-yarder to his twin brother Josh, while Wall ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns.


Left Bracket

Irwin County (10-3) at Metter (13-0). This will be the first meeting between the two schools. Metter is in the semifinals for the first time since the Tigers did it in back to back seasons in 2001 and 2002. The Tigers have had as dominating a season as any team in the state, outscoring their opponents 502-56. Metter led 14-6 at halftime on touchdown runs by senior QB Taj Hobbs and junior RB Josh Kelly, and went on the defeat Warren County 28-6.

Defending state champion Irwin County is back in the semifinals for the fourth straight season and the 15th time in the history of the program, which dates back to 1952. Last week, Irwin County outlasted Commerce in the quarterfinals, 25-21. Sophomore QB Cody Soliday threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to senior RB/DB Gabe Benyard on the first play from scrimmage.

Right Bracket

Clinch County (9-3) at Brooks County (12-1). This will be the 23rd meeting between the two schools. Brooks County leads the series 13-9 and has won six of the last nine games, including a 45-3 blowout on November 6. The Trojans are in the semis for the 10th time in program history and the third time in the past four seasons. Last year’s Class 2A runners-up defeated Washington-Wilkes, 47-7, with junior RB Omari Arnold leading the way. Arnold, also a standout guard on the basketball team, scored six touchdowns, five of them rushing, as he carried the ball 21 times for 236 yards. One of his touchdown runs was 82 yards. He also scored on a 45-yard reception, one of three for 72 yards.

Clinch County is in the semifinals for the sixth consecutive season and the 19th time in program history. The Panthers won three state titles (2015, 2017, 2018) in four seasons, from 2015-2018. They advanced by scoring 27-unanswered points to roll past Lincoln County, 27-7. Clinch County blew open a 7-7 game at halftime with two touchdowns in the third quarter.