Semifinals highlights: Stockbridge, Perry reach first finals; it’s Milton-Walton in 7A

Walton’s Makari Bediford (3) celebrates the Raiders' 41-25 win over Camden County in a GHSA semifinal game Friday, December 1, 2023. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Walton’s Makari Bediford (3) celebrates the Raiders' 41-25 win over Camden County in a GHSA semifinal game Friday, December 1, 2023. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Stockbridge, Cedar Grove and Bowdon eliminated No. 1-ranked football teams Friday night; Perry joined Stockbridge in reaching a championship game for the first time, and Walton and Milton advanced to play for the big prize in the highest classification.

Stockbridge, ranked No. 6 in Class 4A, defeated two-time defending champion Benedictine 45-31 for the Tigers’ 12th consecutive victory after an 0-2 start. It was their first victory in history against a No. 1-ranked team from the same classification. Stockbridge will play No. 7 Perry, which beat No. 8 Starr’s Mill 28-24, for the title.

Stockbridge and Perry (both 12-2) will be the only first-time state finalists in the Dec. 11-13 championship games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Stockbridge has been playing football since 1964, Perry since 1954.

Cedar Grove of Class 3A defeated No. 1 Calvary Day 49-42. Cedar Grove, ranked No. 2 despite five losses against bigger schools, has won four state titles in eight seasons, while Calvary (13-1) was chasing its first championship.

Cedar Grove moves on to face No. 4 Savannah Christian, a 51-26 winner over No. 9 Carver-Columbus.

Bowdon, the defending Class A Division II champion, beat No. 1 and previously unbeaten Schley County 35-28 in a rematch of the 2022 title game, this one on Bowdon’s home field. Bowdon, ranked No. 5 with two losses, will play No. 2 Manchester (11-2), a 35-13 winner over Telfair County. Manchester beat Bowdon 21-20 in the opener.

Walton (14-0) and Milton (12-2) will meet in the Class 7A final after Walton, ranked No. 2, beat unranked Camden County 41-25, and No. 10 Milton beat No. 6 Grayson 45-35. Walton has never won a state title. Milton won 7A in 2018.

In Class 6A, No. 10 Woodward Academy beat No. 3 Douglas County 24-21 to advance to its first final since the school’s Class 3A championship in 1980. Woodward (12-2) will play No. 2 Thomas County Central (14-0), a 13-7 winner over No. 7 Marist. Thomas Central last played in or won a state title in 1997.

No. 1 Coffee (14-0) will play No. 2 Creekside (13-1) in the 5A final. Coffee beat Cartersville 33-18 in a game between undefeated teams while Creekside beat No. 3 Jefferson 28-17.

No. 2 Pierce County (13-1) and No. 6 Rockmart (12-2) are the 2A finalists. Pierce County beat No. 10 Fitzgerald 35-7 while Rockmart beat No. 9 Cook 34-24. Pierce County won a state title in 2020. Rockmart’s last title came in 1950.

In Class A Division I, defending champion and No. 1 Prince Avenue Christian (13-1) defeated No. 10 Bryan County 49-14 and will play Swainsboro (12-2) in a rematch of the 2022 final. No. 8 Swainsboro beat unranked Brooks County 24-17.

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