Round 2 roundup: Toombs County ends Thomson’s title defense

Callaway, Fitzgerald meet in ‘20 title game rematch

It’s a narrative for Class 2A that just won’t die. There hasn’t been a repeat champion in this class in nearly 15 years. No. 4 Toombs County beat top-ranked Thomson 41-30 on the road Friday to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008, and end Thomson’s title defense in the second round.

(For the most updated Class 2A bracket, go here.)

For perspective, 7A has never had a repeat champion, though that class was created in 2016 and will be gone after this season, when the GHSA goes back to six classifications. Mill Creek, last year’s 7A winner, won Friday and is in the quarterfinals. Both Buford (6A) and Warner Robins (5A) repeated in 2020-21. In 3A, Blessed Trinity three-peated from 2017-2019. ELCA won five A Private titles in a row from 2015-2019, and Irwin County won back-to-back A Public titles in 2019-20.

The last time 2A had a repeat champion was when Buford won four in a row from 2007-2010. That would make 2A the toughest classification by far to repeat in, and it’s always a class where a lot of parity exists, seemingly more so than any other class.

However, that’s all fodder for the teams still playing. For Toombs County, the win means another game.

“This is a big win verses a very tough opponent,” Toombs County first-year coach Buddy Martin said. “But at this point in the season, they are all that way.”

Martin said there wasn’t any special scheming for the defending champs, and that Toombs County just stuck to what got it this far. That especially paid off on special teams, where Toombs County made the kind of plays that suck the crowd out of the game and all but eliminate home field advantage.

“We didn’t change a whole lot,” Martin said. “At this point in the season you know what your guys can do, so you play into the strengths of your team. We are always looking at how we can get the run game going offensively, each week, and that makes getting the ball to our playmakers on the perimeter and downfield that much easier and more effective. Defensively, we knew we would have to try and match their personnel. Our staff did a great job identifying it and getting in the right looks.”

“We thought we could have an edge in the special teams game. We were able to block a punt and recover it in the end zone for a touchdown. We had another punt downed inside the 5. Those are game-changing plays in games like this.”

Up next is another road game for Toombs County, more than four hours away against No. 6 Rockmart.

“Rockmart is a very good football team,” Martin said. “They have all the right pieces in all the right places. They have great quarterback play, speed on the perimeter, and big backs that can run and are difficult to tackle. And they have good size up front. They play physical on defense and get to the football. We will have to regroup, refocus and be at our best. It will be a four-quarter, physical football game. We are excited for the challenge.”

Fitzgerald, Callaway meet again

The Callaway Cavaliers and Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane last played in the 2020 2A title game, with Callaway winning 22-17. On Friday, the Cavs will host the Cane in the quarterfinals.

The Cane beat Spencer 37-20, jumping to a 15-0 lead, with Spencer never getting closer than eight. Bill Boone led the Cane with 150 yards on 12 carries, and he, along with Diondre Paschal and Justin Williams, all had two rushing touchdowns each. Paschal had 93 yards on 13 carries and Williams had 71 yards on 14 carries.

“The difference Friday was our offensive line and running backs,” Cane coach Tucker Pruitt said. “They played very well, and we are going to need them to continue to do that if we are going to keep playing (beyond the quarterfinals).”

No current player on the Cane or Cavs saw the field in the 2020 championship, but the coaches are the same, winning in their same ways.

“They are still the same Callaway,” Pruitt said. (Callaway coach Pete) Wiggins has done a great job of building a great program. They have tradition. They are very well coached and prepared, and always extremely talented.”

The Cane appear to be the same old Cane as well, winning with rushing and defense. Against Spencer Friday, they rushed for 377 yards to Spencer’s 75, and won the turnover battle 1-0.

The Cavs last reached the semifinals in 2021. The Cane have played in the last three championships, winning in 2021, and they’d like to play in The Benz this year.

“We are healthy and playing well and hopefully clicking at the right time, but this will be a huge challenge for us,” Pruitt said.