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Column: Looking at the GHSA football playoffs and the semifinal round

Kevin Price breaks down the games that are ahead.

The views of the author may not be the view of AllOnGeorgia.

The Georgia High School Association state football playoffs have reached the semifinal round.

That means four teams in each of the eight state tournaments remain alive for the state championships and that of course means 32 teams still have those title dreams.

Later this week folks that follow high school football in Georgia will turn their attention to the games that will actually be played this week to see who gets to the state title games.

But when this week started, a good bit of the talk was about what might happen with the state championship games scheduled for Dec. 7-8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

That’s because the Atlanta United, who play their home games at the stadium, appear to be headed to the MLS Cup in professional soccer which is scheduled for that same Saturday.

The United defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-0 on Sunday in the first leg of the two-game semifinal series. The winner is the team that scores the most combined goals over the two matches.

In really simple terms, Atlanta is in good shape with that cushion it built Sunday with the three-goal win. The teams play again this Thursday in New Jersey.

The GHSA knew this might happen, and this summer it developed a backup plan that would move the finals to the following Tuesday and Wednesday at Mercedes Benz to keep the games on the same neutral field. Remember, last year six of the eight games were postponed by that winter storm that hit Atlanta the weekend of the title games and the games got moved to home sites the next weekend.

Now, the GHSA is getting criticized on message boards by fans because of the plan to have mid-week games which could make it difficult for many to make the trip to see their teams play.

I have my thoughts on this, but will reserve saying anything at length until we see how this all plays out.

I will say this will likely lead to a major discussion about the future of the championship games under the Mercedes Benz roof if the GHSA does have to take action on its Plan B this season.

On that note, let’s now look at the semifinal games.

Class 7A

The semifinals feature two Region 1 teams on opposite sides of the brackets in Colquitt County and Lowndes plus Archer from Gwinnett County and Milton from Fulton County.

Lowndes plays Milton and Colquitt plays Archer. Unless Milton can pull the upset of the Vikings, there will be another state champion from Region 1 or Gwinnett County which have dominated Georgia’s largest class for several years now.

Milton winning would be a good story. This is the school’s first semifinal appearance since the 1952 season according to Georgia High School Football Daily.

I don’t think it will happen, though. I foresee a Region 1 matchup of Colquitt and Lowndes for the title.

Class 6A

Well, so much for an all Region 1 semifinal round. Valdosta losing to Dacula last week and Coffee losing to Lanier ruined that.

Now, we have Northside (Warner Robins) from Region 1 against Dacula from Region 8 and Lee County from Region 1 against Lanier from Region 8.

Lanier is a pretty cool story, too. The school opened eight years ago and the team is in the semifinals for the first time. But defending champion Lee is just too good and will win.

Northside, of course, is no stranger to the semifinals, and Dacula is back in the semis for the first time since 2005. Dacula ran away from a Valdosta team that nipped Northside during the regular season.

Still, I like Northside as a No. 3 seed to make the title game.

Class 5A

The big story here is that Buford did not make the semifinals.

The Wolves had been to a record 11 straight semifinals before a red-hot Bainbridge team ended their streak last week with the upset in the quarterfinals.

Now, it’s Bainbridge against Stockbridge, which hopes to make its first finals appearance.

The other semifinal is two-time defending champion Rome against Warner Robins in a rematch of last year’s Class 5A title game.

I look for a Rome vs. Stockbridge final.

Class 4A

Here again, the final four teams come from two regions.

One matchup is Region 7’s Marist against Region 5’s Cartersville and the other game is Blessed Trinity from Region 7 and Troup from Region 5.

Blessed Trinity topped Marist in the title game last year.

I think Blessed Trinity gets there again, but it will face Cartersville this time. Of course, Cartersville won state crowns in 2015 and 2016.

Class 3A

This class might have two good ones.

Pierce County, with its 13-0 record, will take on powerful Cedar Grove which is loaded with major college prospects.

The other game is getting lots of hype as it pits Peach County against Calhoun in a rematch of the state final last year when the Trojans felt like they got robbed of the title because of a late controversial call.

I really like this Pierce team, but you have to give Cedar Grove the nod, especially at home.

I had Peach winning the title in my bracket, so I am sticking with the team from Fort Valley for now.

Class 2A

Heard County is in the semis from

Region 5 along with fellow region member Callaway.

Neither team has ever made the final.

Heard plays Fitzgerald and Callaway faces Rockmart.

Fitzgerald is coached by Tucker Pruitt who is in the semifinals for the first time as a head coach. Remember, his dad Robby Pruitt used to be the coach of the Purple Hurricanes and is now the head coach at Coffee.

I’ll go with a Fitzgerald-Callaway final.

Class A public

The matchup between region rivals Irwin County and Clinch County is still possible.

Irwin, the runner-up last year, survived a scare against Commerce last week, while Clinch, the defending champion, cruised by Mount Zion.

Irwin draws Pelham this week. Pelham has not been to the semis since 1965. Clinch gets Marion, which won a state crown in 2013.

I’ll stick with the Irwin-Clinch showdown for the crown.

Class A private

One semifinal is all Athens – Athens Academy against Prince Avenue Christian.

Athens finished second last year and is chasing its first state title. Prince Avenue is in the semis a fourth straight time, but hasn’t advanced since 2012.

I’ll go with Prince Avenue to advance this time.

The other semifinal is Savannah Christian against Eagle’s Landing Christian.

Savannah Christian has not been to the semis since 2011 when it won a state final. Eagle’s Landing has won three titles in a row and has now set a Class A record with its eighth straight trip to the Final Four.

You figure Eagle’s Landing has to at least get to the final again.

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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