There are now only four teams remaining in each of the classifications in Georgia high school football. Unfortunately for residents of the West Georgia area, all the local teams have now been eliminated with Carrollton’s 34-27 loss to Buford in the quarterfinals last Friday.
The last time I wrote, we had three teams still alive fighting for a birth in the quarterfinals. Bremen had just defeated Morgan County to move on to face Pierce County in the second round of the AAA playoffs. #5 Mt. Zion had a bye week in the first round of the single A playoffs and was going up against #21 Irwin County while Carrollton had just easily beaten Lithonia in the first round of the AAAAA playoffs.
Unfortunately, Carrollton was the only team able to get out of the second round as Mt. Zion fell to Irwin County 34-17 and Bremen fell to Pierce County 49-27. Carrollton went down to Thomas County Central and came away with a huge 41-14 victory advancing them to the quarterfinals to play Buford.
Mt. Zion’s season ends with a 9-2 overall record, the most wins since 1996. According to GHSFHA.org, this is only the second time a team at Mt. Zion has ever reached the 9 win mark in the school’s 60 year history. So, even though it may have ended not exactly the way the Mt. Zion community and seniors would have envisioned, they still have a lot to be proud of.
Mt. Zion started the season with 9 straight wins. During that span, they defeated cross-town rival Bowdon, defeated Darlington in triple-OT, and swept the rest of their region to give them a 6-0 record in region 6A-A.
However, the last two games did not go as smooth as the first nine did as Mt. Zion lost to Fellowship Christian 28-14 and then Irwin County in the first round of the playoffs by a score of 34-17.
The offense was not up to par these last two games. Heading into game 10 vs Fellowship Christian, Mt. Zion was averaging 38 points per game and had not scored less than 24 all year. They put up only 14 in that game while posting only 17 the following week.
Both of these totals were season lows for the Eagles and it definitely had an impact on the tempo of the game. The defense was on the field more than they were used to in the last two games and it forced Mt. Zion into unfamiliar territory. This proved to be too much for the Eagles and their season came to an end at the hands of Irwin County.
Mt. Zion went into halftime ahead 10-7 in this game after a couple of big plays allowed them to post a touchdown on the second drive. They were able to get all the way down to the FC 1 yard line on the first drive but could not punch it in, allowing FC to go 99 yards and score first.
The second half was a much different story as the Irwin County offense came alive. They scored 20 unanswered points to make the score 27-10 and put it out of reach for the Eagles.
This was the last game for Coach Holloway as he announced that this would be his last season coaching. He coached 5 years at Mt. Zion and achieved a 35-20 overall record. He made the playoffs in each of the last 3 years while posting two quarterfinal appearances.
Mt. Zion will have to rebuild on the offensive end for next year as they will lose their two leading rushers in Jace Jordan and Richard Farley as well as their quarterback, Jordan Akin.
Mt. Zion has not yet named a head coach to replace Keith Holloway for the coming years. Follow @Gradicksports on Twitter to receive any information regarding the search for a new head coach.
Bremen finished the year with a 7-5 overall record. After losing their first two games, the Blue Devils won 5 of the next 6 games to give them a 5-3 record late in the season. They defeated Murray County in the play-in game to reach the playoffs for the 21st time since 1990. So, the playoffs are something Bremen has become very familiar with in the last 30 years.
This year, Bremen fell in week 1 to their arch-rival Bowdon. This was one of the best games I have ever covered and it ended in a very controversial way. I will still say that I believe Bremen was robbed of this game (once again, sorry Bowdon fans).
With the score tied at 14, Bowdon was facing a 4th and 19 from the Bremen 20 yard line with less than a minute remaining in the game. The Bowdon QB threw up a prayer to the endzone that a Bowdon receiver came down with, but immediately dropped as he hit the ground.
However, the referees somehow deemed this a catch and it gave Bowdon the 20-14 lead with virtually no time left for Bremen. I heard that the GHSA reviewed this film and sent an apology to Bremen saying that the touchdown should not have been awarded, but this cannot be confirmed. Either way, it does not change the fact that this game was a loss for Bremen.
The Blue Devils went into the playoffs as a four seed. This means they would face a one seed from the region they match up with. That particular one seed happened to be Morgan County from region 8AAA. I knew that this game would be closer than what the seeds made it out to be.
Bremen ended up defeating the region 8 champs and advancing to the second round where they fell to Pierce County. This win was the only #4 vs #1 victory in all of AAA.
According to Maxpreps, Bremen has 17 seniors on their 68 man roster. So, this will definitely have an impact on them for next year. Star running back Kyle Bailey will be lost due to graduation as well as defensive standouts Wade O’Neal and Dylan Pearson.
On the other hand, Wade Cartwright got some valuable playing time at the quarterback position during his sophomore season. He will now have two years left and have already started in 12 games.
It is definitely worth mentioning that Bremen is the 10th smallest school in AA in terms of enrollment, and yet they play a AAA schedule on the gridiron. Having way less kids to even play on the team has a huge impact in terms of talent and depth for a head coach. Coach Davis Russell and his Bremen Blue Devils achieving seven wins in a classification they should not even be playing in is an enormous accomplishment.
Carrollton High School was the most dominant team in the local area in 2016. They achieved a 9-1 regular season record with their only loss coming to region-foe Rome High School. In the regular season, Carrollton averaged 37 points per game. The offense was perhaps the strongest unit for Carrollton as they had numerous guys (Jaylan Thomas & Mecose Todd) capable of carrying a workload.
Outside of their very young, deep backfield, Carrollton had some receivers out on the edge with some serious size. Xavier Hammett stands 6’3 and Jordan Bonner stands 6’2. These two guys held it down out on the edge for Carrollton this year.
Thomas Culwell and Dalton Benefield will both be returning for Mark Wright to throw to next year. These two guys played in the slot for Carrollton and were responsible for a number of big plays on the year.
The defense is very young as well as there are numerous freshman, sophomores, and juniors, that start or get serious playing time. Unfortunately, they will lose cornerback Ladamion Hunt, who is moving on to play at Indiana. They will retain star defensive tackle Josh Walker, who is uncommitted but has received offers from Michigan State and UCLA.
Carrollton absolutely dominated in nearly all of their wins this year. One of those wins came vs Kell in week 8 of the regular season. They beat Kell very convincingly by a score of 34-14. An interesting note is the fact that region 7AAAAA had three teams make the elite 8 (#1 Rome, #2 Carrollton, and #3 Kell). Two of those teams won and are now in the final four (Rome and Kell). Buford will face Kell while Rome will face Stockbridge.
It must hurt for the Carrollton fans to see Kell sitting in the final four after their team dismantled them earlier in the year. However, sometimes you just get hot at the right time and have a little bit of an easier road to get that far.
Carrollton played Buford a lot closer than I believe a lot of people though they would. The final score was 34-27, and Carrollton had a chance to tie it up on the last possession. Unfortunately, they were facing a fourth and very long, and it proved to be too much.
This was incredible year for 1st year head coach Sean Calhoun. The players, coaches, administration, and community all seem to be very fond of Coach Calhoun. It seems he has really made an impact in his short time in Carrollton.
Not only has it been a great year for these three teams, but it was a great year for the entire local area. Six of the nine local teams made the post-season and three of those teams made it to the second round. I have really enjoyed covering these schools in what is my last football season while still in college.
I have learned an enormous amount of information about the radio, social media, broadcast, writing, and reporting world. This would not be possible without the support I have had from all of my readers and the Carrollton community. Once again, thank you very much.