With 15 seconds left on the clock and the state championship in his grasp, Prince Avenue Christian quarterback Aaron Philo ran to the sidelines, pointed to the stands and shouted “Happy birthday” to his girlfriend.
That completed a near perfect night for the junior, who guided the No. 1-ranked Wolverines to a 52-34 win over No. 2 Swainsboro in the Class A Division I football championship game on Thursday at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium.
“I thought it would be a pretty good present,” Philo said.
Philo completed 22 of 32 passes for 477 yards and six touchdowns. He had three different receivers surpass 100 yards, including six catches for 201 yards by Josh Britt, who also led the team with 10 total tackles. Bailey Stockton caught nine passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns and Ethan Christian caught five passes for 108 yards and one touchdown.
“I can’t think of any other team I’d rather do it with,” Philo said “I’m kind of speechless right now.”
Prince Avenue Christian (14-0) won its second state championship in the last three years, the other coming in 2020. Swainsboro (14-1) came up short of winning its first title since 2000 and its first unbeaten season since 1940.
Swainsboro was led by Ty Adams, a North Carolina commit, who ran 16 times for 259 yards and four touchdowns and threw for 65 yards. He also had three tackles. Qin Brown ran 14 times for 95 yards and one touchdown.
“We knew at any minute they could take it to the house,” Prince Avenue coach Greg Vandagriff said. “They did several times, but we kept responding offensively and not panicking.”
Philo said, “We played in a lot of tough games this year and that prepared us for moments like this.”
Adams and Philo both shined in the first half.
Adams ran 10 times for 181 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 34, 27 and 66 yards and completed 5 of 6 passes for 65 yards. He was intercepted on a desperation toss at the end of the first half.
Philo completed 11 of 19 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception, but it did not lead to points for Swainsboro. He threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Stockton and a 26-yard touchdown pass to Britt. The Wolverines also got a 25-yard field goal from Cameron Owens.
After Qin Brown scored on a 40-yard run, Prince Avenue answered with a 51-yard pass from Philo to Britt and a 65-yard pass from Philo to Christian.
Swainsboro regained the lead on a 46-yard touchdown run by Adams, but Prince Avenue scored three unanswered touchdown in the fourth quarter to put it away.
Swainsboro was also unable to score points on either of Prince Avenue’s turnovers, while the Wolverines were able to turn a fourth-quarter fumble recovery into a touchdown.
Vandagriff said, “I get to enjoy this one. The one happened so fast that you don’t even know what’s happened. This time out I got to enjoy the show. I’m very thankful.”
Swainsboro – 13 – 7 – 7- 7-- 34
Prince Avenue Christian – 7 – 10 –14-21--52
S – Ty Adams 45 run (Landen Scott)
PAC – Bailey Stockton 69 pass from Aaron Philo
S – Adams 27 run (Scott kick)
S – Adams 66 run (kick failed)
PAC – FG Owens 25
PAC – Josh Britt 26 pass from Philo (Owens kick)
S – Qin Brown 40 run (Scott kick)
PAC – Britt 51 pass from Philo (Owens kick)
PAC – Ethan Christian 65 pass from Phil (Owens kick)
S – Adams 46 run (Scott kick)
PAC - Stockton 27 pass from Philo (Owens kick)
PAC – Britt 58 pass from Philo (Owens kick)
PAC – Payton Talmadge 66 run (Owens kick)
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