Coach Ron Gartrell’s 10th ranked Stephenson Jaguars (10-1) play hosts to the 7th ranked Allatoona Buccaneers (8-2-1) in the Class 6A Sweet 16 round of the GHSA state high school football playoffs on Friday at Hallford Stadium in Clarkston at 7:30 pm.
Stephenson is coming off a 47-20 win over Bradwell Institute last Friday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in eight seasons and the first since 2016. It is the Jaguars 20th consecutive playoff appearance under the direction of Gartrell (239-120, 32 seasons overall).
Texas A&M commit Deondre Jackson scored three touchdowns on just eight carries (77 yards) in the win and Ryan Ingram went for 108 yards and touchdown on 10 carries. The pair of teamed up for 1,793 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns on the year as the Jaguars won their 10th region title.
Junior quarterback Joseph Jackson had thrown for 774 years and seven touchdowns on the season, including 105 yards and a 17-yard touchdown to Quashaun Johnson (74 carries, 493 yards, 6 TDs; 7 receptions, 137 yards, 1 TD) in last week’s victory. Sophomore receiver Trevon Ferrell (10 receptions, 196 yards, 3 TDs), who had a 99-yard kickoff return to open the second half against Bradwell, has been Jackson’s top target.
Allatoona’s defense held Gainesville to just one touchdown in the Buccaneers’ 49-7 win to open the playoffs last weekend. Senior outside linebacker Calvin Rucker leads the defense with 73 total tackles on the season, including 12 for a loss and 7 sacks. Defensive back Brett Blomquist scored two defensive touchdowns and set up a third with an interception in last week’s win.
Stephenson must slow down an Allatoona offense led by quarterback Dante Marshall (135-64-4, 1,521 yards, 20 TDs) and running back Alex Wilson (188 carries, 1,032 yards, 8 TDs). Wilson had 113 yards rushing to lead the Buccaneers’ ground attach that went for 248 yards and three touchdowns against Gainesville.
The Jaguar defense has allowed just 504 yards rushing this season and just 8.8 points per game. Junior defensive lineman Tommy smith leads the way with 107 total tackles for the Jaguars, including 14 (9 solo) tackles, 3 for a loss and an interception a week ago. Senior defensive lineman Malichi Bailey has 72 tackles (17 for loss, 7 sacks) on the season and had 8 (4 for loss, 2 sacks) against Bradwell.
Senior defensive back William Davis had 11 tackles (1 for loss, 1 sack), an interception and a pass breakup in the win to increase his totals to 68 tackles, 2 interceptions and 6 pass breakups.
Ron Gartrell is the only head coach the Jaguars have had in 24 seasons and he picked up his 200th victory at the school in a 28-6 win over Mundy’s Mill on October 18th. His record at Stephenson is 204-74.
It is the first meeting between the two perennial state playoff contending teams.