The Georgia High School Association football state playoffs have reached the championship round with one local team still in title contention.
Following a 56-20 road win against Fellowship Christian in the semifinals Dec. 6, Wesleyan is in the Class A Private championship game for the first time since 2010 and seeking its first state crown since 2008.
The Wolves jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a two-yard quarterback sneak by J.C. French. He finished the night with three TDs on the ground. The drive was set up by Cooper Blauser’s interception of Fellowship quarterback Eli Hildebrandt’s pass on the first offensive play of the contest.
Wesleyan extended its lead to 14-0 later in the quarter when Griffin Caldwell took a handoff two yards for a touchdown. He had a team-high 124 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the victory.
Fellowship was able to cut the deficit to 14-7 late in the first quarter when Josh Cole found the end zone on a six-yard run. The Wolves responded on their next possession with Caldwell’s two-yard TD run to make the score 21-7. French’s second TD run of the night gave the Wolves a 28-7 lead heading into halftime.
French’s three touchdown passes in the second half pushed Wesleyan’s offense through the final two quarters. He finished the game with 272 passing yards. Blauser had two touchdown catches and 86 receiving yards, while teammate Micah Smith had a team-high 162 yards receiving in the win. Andrew Van Wie caught a 24-yard TD pass from French in the second half as well.
Defensively, Vance Nicklaus posted a team-high 13 tackles while Jackson Turner, Josh Aspinwall and Tanner Bivins each had nine tackles for the Wolves.
“We dominated the game from start to finish with smothering defense and a high-powered offense,” Wesleyan coach Franklin Pridgen said. “We have earned our way to the finals, and I am so proud of the way our kids have responded to every challenge so far.”
Next up for Wesleyan, the ninth overall seed, is a game against fellow Region 5A program and four-time defending state champion Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (ELCA). Results were not available at the Neighbor’s print deadline.
The Chargers, the sixth overall seed, reached the final with a 21-7 win over Holy Innocents’ in the semis Dec. 6. ELCA won the regular-season contest against the Wolves 54-17 Oct. 4.
“We need to play our best game of the season so far to win, but that is what we plan to do,” Pridgen said.
Holy Innocents’ was the second overall seed in the playoffs and concluded its season with a program-record 12 victories and the Region 5A title.
Blessed Trinity is also in the state finals and seeking its third consecutive Class 4A championship. The Titans reached the title game with a 46-21 win over Woodward in the semis Dec. 6.
Blessed Trinity got on the board on Aaron Werkheiser’s 27-yard field goal late in the first quarter. Elijah Green’s 47-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter increased the Titans lead to 10-0. Green finished the night with a team-high 180 rushing yards and three touchdowns. James Bryant’s 77-yard touchdown catch from Duncan Reavis gave Blessed Trinity a 23-7 lead into halftime.
Green’s 15-yard and 10-yard TD runs along with Justice Haynes‘ 16-yard touchdown on the ground were the Titans’ scores in the second half to take control of the contest. Haynes posted 148 rushing yards and a touchdown in the victory.
Michael Mitchler had a team-high seven tackles, while teammates David Coltrane, Ryan Dupont and Grayson Gilder each had five stops for Blessed Trinity’s defense. Mitchler and Gilder also each had two sacks and Bryant intercepted two passes.
The Titans, who are the top seed from Region 7AAAA, will face Oconee County in the championship game. The Warriors are the top seed from Region 8AAAA and defeated Sandy Creek 35-28 in the semifinals Dec. 6.
The All-Region 4AAAA was announced with several Woodward players selected. War Eagles quarterback Mike Wright was the Player of the Year, linebacker Aaron Washington earned the Defensive Player of the Year honor and tight end/linebacker Jacorrei Turner was selected as an Ironman of the Year. Woodward head coach John Hunt was the region’s Coach of the Year.
War Eagles had four players on the first-team offense in running back Damari Alston, wide receiver Ambe Caldwell, lineman Cab Bennett and placekicker James Mayfield. The first-team defense included two War Eagles backs in Allen Wright and Hunter Sellers, linebacker Errington Truesdell and lineman Ozzie Hoffler. The second-team defense featured lineman Adam Thrasher, back Khari Gee and punter Davis Golick.
North Atlanta also saw several of its athletes named to the All-Region 7AAAAAA team. Warriors running back T.K. Mack was selected as the region’s Player of the Year. The first-team offense included quarterback Wiley Hartley and lineman Dylan Cook. Warriors linemen Davis Bell and Wesley Horton as well as linebacker Sterling Fleury were on the first-team defense. The second-team offense featured lineman Kolton Lambert, while backs Malcolm Woods and Jamie Hare along with utility player Tre Mason were on the second-team defense.
Game of the Week
Game: Wesleyan Wolves (12-2) vs. Eagle’s Landing Christian Chargers (12-1)
Date: Dec. 13
Last meeting: Eagle’s Landing Christian 54, Wesleyan 17 (Oct. 4, 2019)
All-time series: Eagle’s Landing Christian leads 6-0