And then there were two. 80 teams set out a month ago with aspirations of being crowned champs in their respective classifications and now only two remain in each classification and after this weekend's state finals only five will have accomplished their ultimate goal. Last weekend's semifinal action in the Georgia Dome was full of excitement and we expect this weekend to be no different. There will be future college stars all over the gridiron in this weekend's finals and GAVarsity.com lets you in on what to look for.
CLASS AAAAA: North Gwinnett at Lowndes, Saturday 7:30 p.m.
The Michael Tamburo-led North Gwinnett Bulldogs seek the first ever state title in the school's 50-year history when they travel to South Georgia to face the Lowndes Vikings. Lowndes, on the other hand, is seeking its third title in four years. Lowndes, who has reeled off 13-0 consecutive victories after losing its opener to Harrison, is coming off a 10-0 shutout of rival Camden County. North Gwinnett handily defeated Walton 31-7, a team it beat to open the season. Tamburo may be the top player in this game, as the lefty signal caller figures to be one of the more highly recruited quarterbacks in the state next year. Tamburo's favorite target is freshman receiver Cordero Dixon. RB/WR Tyler Jarry has also come on strong for the Bulldogs. Lowndes has plenty of offensive weapons led by running backs Darriet Perry and Greg Reid.
My prediction: Lowndes 24, North Gwinnett 20
CLASS AAAA: Northside-Warner Robins at Ware County, Friday 7: 30 p.m.
Northside is coming off an improbable come-back victory against Tucker and Marques Ivory was the story. The senior quarterback came off the bench in the second half with his team staring a 28-7 deficit in the face to pass for 288 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Eagles a 31-28 victory, their 29th in a row. Next up for the Eagles as they continue their pursuit of perfection is the state title game against Ware County. Ware County has won ten in a row after a mediocre 2-2 start and is coming off an upset of Thomas County Central, the team who spent all year ranked second in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls behind Northside. Northside may have the edge offensively as Ivory, the 2006 Class 4A player of the year, leads an offense that has scored at least 30 points in all but two games. In the backfield behind Ivory is running back Tijuan Green, one of the state's best. Green is approaching the 2,000 yard mark for the season. Receiver Nick Bass is Ivory's favorite target. Ware County's offense is no slouch as speedster Victor Daniels leads the way for the Gators. LB Eric Fields and DL Abry Jones are two juniors on Northside's defense that are forces to be reckoned with and will try to slow the Daniels-led Gator attack. Ware County is one win away from its first ever state title.
My prediction: Northside-Warner Robins 30, Ware County 19
CLASS AAA: Carver-Columbus at Cairo, Saturday 3 p.m.
Northside's furious comeback on the epic scale may have been matched by Carver's comeback against Chamblee last week. Carver trailed 24-6 in the fourth quarter before the pass-catching combination of QB Deron Furr and WR Jarmon Fortson, both Auburn commits, proved to be too much for Chamblee. Cairo's offense looked just as explosive in the second half against North Hall as they scored five second-half touchdowns in the 42-21 rout. Cairo's offense is led by a trio of juniors in quarterback Angelo Pease and tailbacks Reginald Bryant and Ronnie Wooten. SPEED is the name of the game for all three as they are all threats to go the distance at any time. Heading up the Carver defense that has the unenviable task of trying to corral the speedy trio is junior linebacker Jarvis Jones, a member of the early Rivals 100 for 2009. Cairo is seeking its first state title since 1990, while Carver is in pursuit of its first ever state championship.
My prediction: Carver-Columbus 28, Cairo 26
Class AA: Lovett at Buford, Saturday 6 p.m.
Can anyone even come close to beating Buford? So far no one has, save Charlton County who has given Buford fits in recent years. Buford beat Charlton 21-14 in the quarterfinals. Buford's second closest win was over Lovett five weeks ago when they won a 21-0 contest in the regular season finale. Lovett running back Andre Hicks has come up big for the Lions but faces a tough Buford defense that hasn't allowed more than 14 points in any game this year and has six shutouts. Leading the way is Notre Dame-bound DT Omar Hunter who has caused all kinds of problems for opposing offenses all season and LB T.J. Pridemore, a Georgia Tech commit. Buford manhandled Dublin, last year's co-champs, in the semifinals 48-0, while Lovett outlasted Cook 29-16. After facing a dynamic back in Cook's Thad Williams, Lovett's defense faces yet another stiff task in trying to once again contain Buford's Demetrius Murray.
My prediction: Buford 42, Lovett 14
Class A: Emanuel County Institute at Wilcox County, Friday 8 p.m.
Georgia's smallest class has one of the biggest names playing this weekend in Emanuel County Institute's Washaun Ealey. The junior running back has burst on the scene this year and shattered the state's single-season touchdown record of 46 set by former Buford star Darius Walker, now of the Houston Texans, with 55, and has evoked memories of past great Peach State backs such as Garrison Hearst and Herschel Walker. Ealey is fresh off a 280-yard, four touchdown effort in the semifinal game against Clinch County which ECI won 35-14. Ealey is one of three highly touted Class of 2009 standouts for ECI, joined by linebacker Dexter Moody and lineman J.C. Lanier, a member of the Rivals 100 for 2009. Wilcox County has an explosive offense led by twin brothers Lorenzo and Alfonzo Dennard and Willie Gibson. Wilcox defeated Athens Academy in the semifinals 32-14.
My prediction: ECI 38, Wilcox County 31