The Indians won a coin flip against North Gwinnett on Sunday morning at the Georgia High School Association headquarters in Thomaston and will be hosting the Bulldogs in the Class AAAAAA state semifinals Friday night. It’s the first time McEachern will play at Walter Cantrell Stadium since beating South Cobb 40-0 on Oct. 11.
When the coaches and athletic directors met with a GHSA official, North Gwinnett won the opportunity to make the call, but ultimately lost the toss.
Kell also took part in a coin flip but ended up losing to Creekside and will be away from home for the first time in the postseason. The two undefeated squads will play their Class AAAAA semifinal in Fairburn on Friday night.
It’s not often that a region’s No. 3 seed gets to come home this deep into the state playoffs.
McEachern (11-2) lost two of its last three regular season games to fall behind North Cobb and Hillgrove in the Region 4AAAAAA standings. The Indians won all three of their playoff games on the road, the latest being a 35-32 win at Collins Hill. North Gwinnett (12-1), a No. 3 seed from Region 7AAAAAA, rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Hillgrove 35-31.
“We were kind of hoping to lose the coin flip so we can continue that trend,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “We have our blue jerseys pressed and ready to play. We were looking at it as a win-win situation. We could be road warriors and if not, we get to host a game, which would be a cool thing for the whole community.”
This will be the latest in the playoffs the Indians have hosted a game since the 1996 quarterfinals when Clarke Central came to Cantrell Stadium. The last time McEachern played in the semifinals, it played Colquitt County at the Georgia Dome in 1998.
Hockman said if there is an advantage the Indians have playing at home, it would be playing on artificial turf. North Gwinnett still plays on a natural turf field.
After Kell (13-0) beat Warner Robins 52-28 in the quarterfinals to set up its meeting with Creekside (13-0), both teams faced the possibility of playing at a neutral site.
Neither Kell nor Creekside met GHSA’s requirements of having a 4,000-seat stadium. However, that requirement can be waived with an agreement by both coaches. Once Kell coach Derek Cook and Creekside coach Olten Downs agreed, the game site reverted to being selected by a coin flip. Downs ended up calling the toss and winning home field advantage.
“I would have loved for it to be at Kell but it didn’t work out that way,” Cook said. “All the luck was on them. We’ll have to go down there and play a good football team.”
Cook has had success with coin flips up until Sunday. He won a coin flip against Statesboro in 2010 for the right to host that state quarterfinal game, and he won last month for the right to host Warner Robins last Friday.