ATLANTA – The second day of the Georgia state playoff action in the Georgia Dome didn't quite have the theatrics of the first day of action as every game was decided by more than two scores. However, though the drama was limited, the talent pool was still deep.
One of the top defensive tackles in the country lived up to the hype, another defensive standout disappeared and several juniors emerged on Saturday in the dome.
Buford 48, Dublin 0
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Buford bullied its way into the Georgia AA state championship game on Saturday morning by running right over Dublin High School, invoking the Georgia high school mercy rule in the process. Dublin physically dominated Buford from the first snap to the last rumbling to a 48-0 win.
The No. 4 rated defensive tackle in the nation, Omar Hunter, is the foundation for Buford's hard-nosed defense. Hunter was a force early and often. He makes quick reads and quick decisions and disrupted the Dublin blocking scheme throughout the game. At 6-foot-1 295-pounds, Hunter is stocky but sturdy and moves exceptionally well and when he gets penetration, he is a legitimate threat to run down the quarterback. He'll be a great fit for Notre Dame at the 3-4 nose tackle.
Buford has a very talented defense, but Hunter makes it tick. He takes on double and triple teams throughout the game and frees up his linebackers and his other defensive linemen, including promising 2009 defensive tackle Dallas Lee. The Wolves limited Dublin to only 22 total yards in the first half.
T.J. Pridemore also looks the part for Buford. The three-star linebacker is a big, physical kid. He is good when he gets moving downhill and he has the size and strength to take on offensive linemen getting to the second level. Though he had several tackles on the morning, he tends to get most of his tackles five yards downfield. He is still developing the recognition abilities to make those tackles at the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, Buford running back Demetris Murray had a strong night behind Buford's overpowering offensive line. The senior is a strong runner with good leg drive. He runs through arm-tacklers and has some speed as well which he showcased on a 36-yard touchdown sprint.
Senior fullback Tyler King had a night to remember on the offensive side of the ball. The rumbling fullback scored on three touchdown runs and there weren't many Dublin defenders that liked the idea of getting in his way.
Lovett 29, Cook 14
The second game on the second day in the Georgia Dome didn't produce much more suspense than the first but did showcase some good young AA talent. Lovett handled Cook easily to the tune of 29-14 and led throughout the game, shutting Cook out until the final period.
Lovett running back Andre Hicks provided most of the firepower for the Lion offense. The South Florida commit broke off long gains all afternoon long. He's dangerous on the edge and when he turns the corner he's upfield in a heartbeat. He looks like a nice pickup for the Bulls.
At wide receiver, the Lions feature a talented sophomore in Max Williams. He only had three catches and was only targeted a handful of times, but in limited opportunities he displayed sure hands and good speed. His most impressive play came off of a short hitch route at midfield that he took across the field to the goal line. He looked like a natural runner with the ball in his hands and will be a dangerous weapon for his coach down the road.
The most promising prospect on Cook's sideline is also one of the youngest. Opposing players don't seem to know that fullback/linebacker Shannon Brown is only a freshman when he is pushing them around like they're the underclassmen. The youngster rushed for more than 100 yards on the afternoon on limited carries. He is big and physical, but has good feet and quickness. As he continues to mature, he will be a physical specimen for the Hornets and an impact player on either side of the ball.
Cairo 42, North Hall 14
Going into halftime of Saturday's AAA state semifinal game in the Georgia Dome, North Hall had to have been feeling good about its chances to be playing next weekend for a state championship. The Trojans were up 14-7 in an evenly matched first half in which the only difference between the two teams was a Trojan fumble return for a touchdown.
Then the third quarter happened.
In the third quarter, Cairo ran 12 plays for 290 yards of offense and turned a seven-point deficit into a 28-point lead and it didn't take long to get things going.
After a kickoff into the endzone, 2009 running back prospect Reginald Bryant took the first play from scrimmage 80-yards for a score. On the run, he showed pure speed and some nifty footwork to break tackles and separate from defenders.
On another long second-half run, Bryant maintained a good body lean and leverage to truck a North Hall defender before heading towards the sideline for a big gain. Bryant finished the afternoon with 19 carries for 226 yards rushing.
Bryant's teammate, junior Ronnie Wooten, had shown flashes of some burner speed in the first half on speed sweeps from his wide receiver position but left no doubt on two runs in the second half. Wooten scurried for touchdown runs of 50 and 61 yards in the third quarter. On both runs he was at a completely different speed than the North hall defense. He made the most of his five carries, gaining 135 yards rushing for the afternoon.
Wooten and Bryant are joined in the backfield by 2009 athlete Angelo Pease. Pease is an undersized quarterback who will likely end up at another position in college due to his athleticism but that doesn't mean the kid can't sling it. Pease has plenty of arm strength which he displayed on a beautiful deep ball in the first half that went 45-yards in the air. He also showed a nice touch on a TD pass that was placed just over a linebacker and between two DBs.
The Cairo defense played at a different level in the second half as well. Junior defensive tackle Montavious Williams was a terror on the inside. He plays a little high at this point but he is extremely athletic and was unblockable in the second half. Defensive end Logan Bennett, also a junior, joined Williams to make several plays in the North Hall backfield.
A team this young and this talented already in the Georgia state championship game can be a scary thought for other AAA teams in 2008.
North Gwinnett 31, Walton 7
On Saturday evening, North Gwinnett's Michael Tamburo quarterbacked a precise, efficient offense that picked Walton apart through the air and on the ground with multiple sets and multiple players doing damage.
The junior opened the game with a perfect pass on a post between two defenders for a big gain. He spent the rest of the night slicing up Walton's defense with a quick passing game and some opportunistic rushing. Though undersized, Tamburro is accurate and is good outside of the pocket and in the drop back game. He always seems to find a way to make plays.
Walton couldn't solve the North Gwinnett offensive attack and wasn't helped by the ineffectiveness of highly-touted defensive end Chase Thomas. Thomas was neutralized by the North Gwinnett offensive line led by left tackle Clint Duggan.
When big plays came for Walton, junior defensive back Price Garrett was often involved. Garrett had some nice hits from his safety position and he hauled in the one score on the night off of a pretty 31-yard corner route from quarterback Brandon Theobald.
The best performance of the evening from the Walton side of the field was from its punter Adam Shreiner and frankly it wasn't even close. He kicked the ball with distance and hang time that you rarely see on the high school level. He topped his night off with a 66-yard bomb that he sent out of bounds at the one-yard line.