The No. 2 ranked Cedar Grove Saints host the No. 5 ranked Greater Atlanta Christian (GAC) Spartans in the Class 3A high school football state semifinals at Godfrey Stadium on Friday night in a rematch of the 2016 state title game.
Cedar Grove (11-2) and GAC (12-1) are meeting for just the second time but the stakes are high again as the winner advances to the Class 3A State Championship at Georgia State Stadium on Saturday, December 14 at 1:00 pm.
The Saints came out on top 30-19 in their state title meeting in 2016 at the Georgia Dome as they knocked off the No. 1 ranked Spartans after jumping out to a 23-3 lead.
Cedar Grove has won nine consecutive games to reach the semifinals for the fifth consecutive season including last week’s dominating 36-3 win over then No. 1 ranked Peach County. The Saints jumped out to a 20-3 halftime lead on the back of defensive back Jordan Grier’s 70-yard fumble return and defensive lineman Damarius Jackson’s 34-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Saints then shut down the Trojans (11-2) in the second half holding them to minus-seven yards rushing and seven yards passing on just 11 plays in the second half.
Senior running back Chavon Wright (2,709 career rushing yards) ran for almost all of his 130 yards in the game during the second half as Cedar Grove controlled the game and the clock in wearing down the No. 1 ranked Trojans. Wright has 1,616 yards rushing this season on 194 carries and 19 touchdowns.
Sophomores Langston White (66 carries, 357 yards, 5 TDs) and Rashod Dubinion (63 carries, 339 yards, 4 TDs) have provided almost 700 yards and nine touchdowns while giving Wright breathers during the season. Dubinion had two touchdowns (1 rushing, 1 receiving) in the win over Peach County and White added another rushing touchdown.
Quarterback Austin Smith has passed for 1,321 yards (209-102-5) and 17 touchdowns on the season while adding 258 yards rushing and five touchdowns. His top two targets in the passing game are sophomore Janiran Bonner (29 receptions, 499 yards, 9 TDs) and senior Coreyon Cone (16 receptions, 306 yards, 3 TDs).
Greater Atlanta Christian enters the game on a 11-game win streak after rallying to dispatch Hart County 17-16 last week to advance to the Spartans’ fifth semifinal in six seasons. The season includes a sixth consecutive region title for the Spartans.
Middle linebacker Choe Bryant Strother (93 tackles, 5 sacks) leads a trio of linebackers that have played a big role in the Spartans reaching the state semifinals. Outside linebackers Spencer Helms (79 tackles) and Hudson Higgins (67 tackles) join Strother in making a formidable group on the defensive side for the Spartans.
Quarterback Jackson Hardy (241-151-7, 2,519 yards, 27 TDs) runs the Spartan offense and was 9 of 20 for two TDs as Greater Atlanta rallied for the 17-16 win over Hart County last weekend. His top targets are Christian Thomas (29 receptions, 448 yards, 9 TDs) and Brooks Miller (33 receptions, 507 yards, 3 TDs). Miller had two catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in the win.
Tyler McBride leads the ground game for the Spartans with 1,150 yards on 141 carries and 15 touchdowns.
The Saints defense which shut down the potent Peach County offense last week is led by senior linebacker Isaiah Ratcliff (148 tackles, 24 for loss, 9 sacks, 2 safeties) who had 19 total tackles (14 solo, 5 assists) with six tackles for a loss and two sacks including a second half safety in last week’s win.
Senior defensive end Alvin Williams (95 tackles, 29 for loss, 14.5 sacks) and junior defensive lineman Demarius Jackson (58 tackles, 24 for loss, 3 sacks) who had a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown last week join Ratcliff in disrupting offenses in the backfield.
Defensive back Jordan Grier (53 tackles, 1 INT, 5 fumbles caused) has two fumble returns for touchdowns this season including his steal of the ball and 70-yard return against Peach County. Fellow defensive backs Antonio Tayler (51 tackles, 5 INTs), Tee Denson (44 tackles, 4 INTs) and Latrelvin Blakemore (44 tackles, 3 INTs) make it tough on opposing pass offenses.