St. Pius X football Jason Jones

St. Pius X Jason Jones (9) carries ball against Woodward Academy in contest earlier this season. / Special – Ansley Reese (St. Pius X Athletics)

The prep football season entered the state semifinals with four local program still in the hunt for a state title.

Tucker advanced the Class AAAAAA semifinals with a 20-12 home win over Allatoona in the quarterfinals on Nov. 24. Trailing 6-0 at halftime, the Tigers began their comeback attempt on the opening kickoff of the second half which was returned 96 yards for a touchdown by Tyler Hughey. Kyle Wright’s 32-yard field goal in the third quarter increased Tucker’s lead to 10-6.

Isaiah Dunson’s 14-yard touchdown catch from Travon Ford in the back of the end zone early in the fourth quarter pushed the Tigers’ margin to 17-6. Wright’s second field goal of the game on Tucker’s next possession concluded the scoring for the home team. Allatoona rushed for only 17 yards and had 121 total yards of offense in the loss. Tauren Taylor rushed for a game-high 72 yards in the win while David Davis had 60 yards on the ground. Tucker has reached the semifinals for the second-consecutive year.

“We have to do a better job of blocking up front,” Tigers’ coach Bryan Lamar said. “Defensively, we knew we had a chance to shut down their offense. We won the special teams’ battle. You can’t underestimate any opponent and come out to play your best.”

Next up for Tucker, the top seed from Region 4AAAAAA, was a home game against Coffee, the second seed from Region 1AAAAAA. Wade Sumner threw two touchdown passes and Marquavious Jefferson had a TD run and intercepted a pass on defense for the Trojans in their 28-14 road win over Alpharetta in the quarterfinals on Nov. 24. Tucker dropped the contest 14-3 and won 12 contests this season.

Marist hosted St. Pius X in the Class AAAA state semifinals. The Golden Lions, who were the top seed from Region 8AAAA, won their quarterfinals’ contest at Woodward Academy 35-31 on Nov. 24. St. Pius X led the majority of the contest with Jacob Pajer’s 56-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter gave the road team the 35-25 lead. He finished the night with 186 rushing yards and two touchdown on offense along with eight solo tackles and three pass breakups on defense. Jason Jones also had a big night on the ground for the Golden Lions with 177 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Mike Wright passed for a game-high 274 yards and two touchdowns for Woodward in the loss. Tahj Gary had 185 total yards and three touchdowns, two receiving and one rushing, for the War Eagles who won 11 contests this season.

Marist stayed undefeated on the season with a 28-6 road win at Burke County in its quarterfinals’ game on Nov. 24. The War Eagles, who are the top seed from Region 7AAAA, rushed for 253 yards in the win. Chase Abshier had 149 total yards and a rushing touchdown while Ellis Pearson rushed for 67 yards and a TD on the ground. Charlie Addicks, Kyle Hamilton and Chris Zowine also had rushing TDs.

St. Pius X was in the state semifinals despite starting the season with a 0-5 record. The Golden Lions last semifinals’ appearance was in 2014. Marist returned to the semis for the first time since 2013. The War Eagles defeated St. Pius X 17-14 on Sept. 8 earlier in the regular season. This was the first time in 53 meetings that the two teams had faced each other in the state playoffs.

Marist won the contest 35-14 to advance to the state finals where it will face Blessed Trinity on Saturday. The Golden Lions finished the season with eight wins.

Cedar Grove, the defending Class AAA state champions and the top seed from Region 5AAA, hosted Pike County, the third seed from Region 4AAA, for its quarterfinals’ contest on Nov. 24. The Saints took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 20-yard touchdown run by Darrell Neal, who finished the night with a team-high 124 rushing yards. Jadon Haselwood’s eight-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter increased Cedar Grove’s lead to 14-0 heading into halftime. Xavier Dennis’ eight-yard TD run and Neal’s second touchdown on the ground in the second half made the final score 28-0. Haselwood intercepted two passes on defense which was also led by Isaiah Ratcliff’s 17 tackles. The win also increased the Saints’ winning streak to 23 games.

Cedar Grove hosted Calhoun, the top seed from Region 6AAA, in its semifinals’ contest on Dec. 1. The Saints dropped the game and finished the year with 13 wins.

Arabia Mountain saw its season conclude in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs with a 44-0 home loss to Carrollton on Nov. 17. The Rams won nine contests this season.

Southwest DeKalb’s 2017 campaign also concluded on Nov. 17 with a 56-0 second-round road loss to Class AAAAA defending state champions Rome. The Panthers won eight games this season.

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