The Columbus (Ga.) Carver-Chamblee game will likely end up being remembered as the game of the weekend in the Georgia state playoff games at the Georgia Dome. There may only be a handful of games all year that can match it. With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Carver looked dead in the water beneath a 24-6 deficit, but a furious finish gave the Tigers an improbable two-point win.
Wide receiver Jarmon Fortson made play after play for the Bulldogs in the comeback win. But he was just one of the many stars in the Dome.
Wilcox County 32, Athens Academy 7
Wilcox County made an impressive opening statement in the kickoff game to the semifinal round of the Georgia state playoffs. The Patriots stormed into the Georgia Dome and left with a 32-7 win behind the play of seniors Alfonzo Dennard and Willie Gibson along with a stellar effort by 2009 prospect Antonio Marshall.
The Patriots fell behind 7-6 in the first quarter after Athens Academy converted on a short field with a four-yard pass from Carter Gunn to Mickey Matthews. The lead wouldn't last long as Dennard quickly went to work.
On the ensuing kickoff, the three-star cornerback prospect broke free for a big gain, putting the Patriots right back in Spartan territory. Dennard then helped spring his running back, Antonio Marshall, for a big gain with a big block. He topped the sequence off with a 30-yard touchdown grab from his brother and quarterback Lorenzo Dennard.
Defensively, Athens Academy stayed away from Alfonzo Dennard for the majority of the game but Dennard still found a way to make his presence felt by providing some big blocks in the run game and some big plays on offense and special teams.
However, Athens Academy couldn't stay away from 2009 prospect Antonio Marshall. Lined up at weakside linebacker, Marshall was all over the ball throughout the morning. The 5-foot-11 185-pound prospect set the tone for the Patriot defense and was a big part of the offense as well. Marshall scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion on the day.
Offensively, Wilcox County distanced itself from Athens Academy with the help of some big plays by senior wide receiver, Willie Gibson. Just before halftime, Gibson caught a 35-yard gain down to the 13 yardline setting the Patriots up for a good position to take a big lead into halftime. Two penalties later, the patriots were looking at a 1st and 32 from the 35-yardline. One jailbreak screen to Gibson put the Patriots right back in business at the two-yardline. Marshall then punched in a run to give Wilcox County a 20-6 lead heading into halftime.
In the second half, Gibson essentially shut the door on any hopes of a comeback by Athens Academy when he caught a dig route and took it 76-yards for a score.
Emanuel County Institute 35, Clinch Co. 14
The first play from scrimmage in the ECI-Clinch County matchup served as a great indicator of what was to come: A hand-off to junior tailback Washaun Ealey went for a first down behind the blocking of 6-3, 325-pound lineman J.C. Lanier. The Bulldogs would ride Ealey to the tune of 280 yards and four touchdowns and take a 35-14 win over the Clinch County Panthers.
In the first half Ealey displayed some shifty moves and good feet in tight spaces and grinded out some tough yardage. In the second half, the junior showed that he could break the long run as well. After Clinch County pulled to within seven points late in the game, Ealey broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run with 3:46 remaining in the game. Finally, any hopes that Clinch County still harbored about a comeback came to a close on the next ECI play from scrimmage when Ealey raced for 80 yards and a game-sealing touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, ECI was paced by two juniors as well. Lanier, a four-star 2009 prospect, played on both sides of the ball and, though he never registered a sack, spent most of the afternoon in the Clinch County backfield, never allowing its quarterback to get set. He played a ton of snaps on both sides of the ball, a tough task in the trenches, but he never let up.
While Lanier was holding down the line, fellow junior Dexter Moody was all over the rest of the field. Whether he was getting after the quarterback or stuffing the run game on the edge, Moody was always putting a hat on the ball. One promising Clinch County drive in the first half was ended by a Moody hit that caused a fumble. Between Ealey, Lanier, Moody and sophomore quarterback Michael Robertson, the Bulldogs have plenty to look forward to in the future.
Though the final score doesn't reflect it, the second half gave ECI fans plenty of reason for concern. In the third quarter, the Bulldogs began to stray from the run game that was so effective for them and Clinch County junior Dominique Ellis made them pay for testing the air. The 5-11 defensive back picked off one third quarter pass in the end zone with a text-book highest point grab. He added a second interception later in the fourth quarter.
Ellis also made some tough grabs and had one catch go for 70 yards and a touchdown before being called back for offensive pass interference. He was also part of a punt rush that blocked an ECI kick in the third quarter, setting up Clinch County's second score.
Another area where Clinch County showed some promise was at quarterback. Sophomore Vintavious Cooper was forced to use his legs all morning because of the pressure from Lanier and Moody but made ECI pay on several occasions. He had a 37-yard touchdown run in the first half and was extremely creative throughout the game avoiding pressure and making plays out bad situations. In fact, his mobility was one of the few things that tempered the ECI pass rush.
Columbus-Carver 26, Chamblee 24
The third game of the day on Friday afternoon will likely end up being remembered as the game of the weekend. There may only be a handful of games all year that can match it. With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Carver looked dead in the water beneath a 24-6 deficit, but a furious finish gave the Tigers an improbable two-point win.
The Bulldogs can thank wide receiver Jarmon Fortson for the one-game season that remains.
The Carver comeback began when three-star quarterback and Auburn commit, Deron Furr scored leaping three-yard touchdown with just under six minutes left to cut the Chamblee lead to 24-12. That is when Fortson went to work.
First, Fortson recovered a beautiful ensuing onside kick. The next play, Furr threw up a jump ball 40-yards downfield and trusted Fortson to make a play. He did. Inside the ten yardline, Furr went to Fortson again on the next two consecutive plays, both catches, the second one for a touchdown.
When the Carver defense found a way to get the ball back to the offense with just over two minutes remaining, Furr didn't take long to go back to Fortson. After throwing a strike to senior wide receiver Carlos Ross, Furr threw another deep ball up to Fortson who narrowly missed pulling in a second spectacular catch. However, plays later he made a diving grab that would set up a dramatic game-winning run by Furr.
Beyond the late-game dramatics from Furr and Fortson, there was some tremendous play on both sides of the ball.
Carver junior linebacker Jarvis Jones lived up to his recent four-star, Rivals100 rating by playing an outstanding game. The 6-foot-4 inside linebacker has all-conference collegiate linebacker written all over him. He played sideline-to-sideline had some of the biggest hits in a hard-hitting game, and led an admirable performance by the Carver defense, which spent a lot of time on the field.
Jones' linebacking partner Leron Furr also had a big afternoon. The younger brother of quarterback Deron was just as active as Jones and the two traded big hits all afternoon. There won't be too many linebacking duos in the nation better than Jones and Furr next season.
On the Chamblee side, one of the few counters that the Bulldogs had for the Carver linebacking play was offensive tackle Omoregie Uzzi. Uzzi showed great strength and mobility in the Chamblee run-oriented offense. On at least one occasion, he put Jones on his back, no small feat.
Chamblee also got productive play from two of its athletes in the backfield. Malcolm Beyah had a good night running the ball and junior Warren Norman showed great speed and acceleration with the ball in his hands.
The older Furr, while erratic at times throwing the ball, showed tremendous athleticism and elusiveness. He had one 93-yard run called back and had some spectacular scrambles. He certainly has the ability to play other positions at the next level and would be well-suited for a move.
But the night belonged to Fortson. The senior willed Carver the win and the only thing more impressive than his athletic ability was his fight in the closing minutes. There was no doubt he was going to find a way to keep the bulldogs alive.
Northside Warner Robins 31, Tucker 28
One classic game was followed up by another on Friday night. Northside edged Tucker in the tale of two halves that ended with a game-winning field goal. Tucker took a 28-7 lead into halftime but, sparked by the return of senior quarterback Marques Ivory, the Eagles outscored the Tigers 24-0 in the second session to steal a win.
2009 looks to be a special year in Georgia for linebackers. Two more good ones were on display for Tucker and Northside. Jonathan Davis stands at only 5-foot-9, but try telling him that he's too small. He wasn't as productive as usual due to a dominating defensive line in the first half and a pass-heavy gameplan by Northside in the second. However he did open up the scoring on the night with a long touchdown run early. He is an emotional leader for Tucker and a full-speed two-way player.
For Northside, junior linebacker Eric Fields was seemingly in on every tackle. Because of the run-heavy offensive philosophy of Tucker, Fields was only asked to come downhill and play the run for the most part, but that looks to be a mentality he feels very comfortable with. He had countless jarring hits and has great speed in pursuit.
Another productive junior for the Eagles was defensive lineman Abry Jones. He set the tone in the second half for the Northside defense to bottle up the compact, fast and physical Tucker backs.
Despite the play of the two Northside juniors, Tucker put together a dominating first half and found the most success in the run game from junior Drayton Calhoun. Calhoun is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball and he showed it with a 68-yard first half touchdown run.
Calhoun is slender but with good size and frame. He has elite speed and great change-of-direction. When he adds some weight to his frame to allow him to bounce off some hits more easily, he will be scary. He is already one of the more intriguing 2009 running backs.
Offensively, the difference between the first half and the second for Northside was the appearance of senior quarterback Marques Ivory. Ivory saw his first game action since breaking his fibula seven weeks ago and he put on a second half show. Ivory and a talented Northside receiving corps found something they liked in the Tucker secondary and picked away at it.
Northside wide receivers Nick Bass and Kevyn Cooper exposed Tucker's highly-touted safety tandem of Neiko Lipscomb and Jamoris Slaughter. The safeties struggled keeping up with a barrage of post-corner routes and the vertical passing game.
Though Ivory lacks the size of a prototypical college prospect, he made a very talented secondary look very average on Friday night and conducted a comeback that will be the talk of Northside High School for a long time.