A too early rematch of the thrilling 14-13 Class 3A state championship game a year ago is set as the No. 2 ranked and defending state champions Cedar Grove Saints host the No. 1 ranked Peach County Trojans on Friday night at 7:30 pm on the turf at Godfrey Stadium.
It is just the second meeting between the two perennial playoff teams after Cedar Grove scored in the final 10 seconds to upend Peach County 14-13 in last year’s state title game at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Cedar Grove (10-2) has won eight consecutive games since a 29-7 loss to Class 7A McEachern back on September 13 including last week’s 49-13 victory over the Benedictine Cadets.
Junior quarterback Austin Smith rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown and threw two touchdown passes in the win to advance the Saints to the Elite Eight for fifth consecutive season. Smith’s passes covered 11 yards to Rashod Dubinion and 22 yards to Sam Pittman as the Saints jumped out to an early 21-0 lead.
Smith has some dangerous targets to throw to in sophomore Janiran Bonner (29 receptions, 499 yards, 9 TDs), senior Coreyon Cone (16 receptions, 306 yards, 3 TDs) and freshman Bernard Mack (14 catches, 183 yards, 3 TDs).
Senior running back Chavon Wright rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries as his season total climbed to 1,486 yards (123.8 ypg) and 19 touchdowns on 178 carries. The Saints also have other threats at running back in sophomores Langston white (59 carries, 334 yards, 4 TDs) and Rashod Dubinion (51 carries, 289 yards, 3 TDs)
Peach County’s defense has shutout both playoff opponents in Brantley County (19-0) and Calhoun (35-0) to advance to the matchup with Cedar Grove. The Trojans (11-1) have allowed just 12 points per game over the season and their only loss came in a 32-31 overtime loss to Houston County.
The Trojans defense is led by linebacker Sergio Allen (74 tackles, 14 for loss, 3 sacks), defensive end Jaqualin McGhee (65 tackles, 19 for loss, 8 sacks) and defensive tackle Quentel James (59 tackles, 19 for loss, 4 sacks).
Peach County returns quarterback Jaydon Gibson (145-96-3, 1,762 yards passing, 20 TDs) and running back Noah Whittington (80 carries, 824 yards, 18 TDs) from last year’s state finals squad. The offense is scoring at a 46 point clip this season.
Gibson has six rushing touchdowns as well and Tijah Woolfolk has rushed for 586 yards and 8 TDs for the Trojans.
The top targets in the passing game are Dorrian Smith (21 receptions, 522 yards, 7 TDs) and Justin Harris (36 receptions, 460 yards, 3 TDs).
The Saints defense has allowed 11.1 points per game this season and has held teams to under 100 yards rushing per game as well.
Senior linebacker Isaiah Ratcliff has 129 tackles (54 solo, 75 assists) including 18 for a loss and 7 sacks while teaming with senior defensive end Alvin Williams (90 tackles, 27 for loss, 13 sacks) and junior defensive lineman Demarius Jackson (56 tackles, 24 for loss, 3 sacks). Defensive backs Tee Denson (4), Antonio Taylor (5) and Latrelvin Blackemore (3) have teamed up for 12 interceptions on the season. Denson has two returns for touchdowns and Blackemore had a 52-yard interception return for a TD against Benedictine.
The winner advances to the Class 3A semifinals to face the winner of Greater Atlanta Christian (11-1) and Hart County (10-2).