13-1, Region 6 No. 1 seed
Lovett returns to the finals for the first time since 2007, when the Lions were
|Photo by Perry McIntyre
handled by Buford 50-0. Coach Mike Muschamp's squad will try to bring a state championship trophy back to Lovett's Buckhead campus for the first time since 1970. It would be Lovett's second football state championship.
Running back/defensive back Grant Haley leads the Lions on both sides of the ball with his unique playmaking ability. The Vanderbilt commitment has rushed for 1,420 yards and 23 scores this year, both tops on the team, while leading the defense with six interceptions. The senior has also returned a punt for a score and is the Lions' main kickoff returner (nine for 147 yards).
Jay Harris and quarterback Willie Candler are also major components in the Lions' running attack, which rushed for 3,600 yards and 46 scores this season. Harris carried the ball 110 times for 851 yards and six scores, while Candler ran it 140 times for 495 yards and seven touchdowns.
Lovett is predominately a running team, but Candler is efficient through the air. The junior signal-caller is 80 for 140 passing for 1,228 yards and 14 touchdowns against just three interceptions. The Lions' leading receiver is senior Jack McGranahan, who has 26 catches for 469 yards and five touchdowns.
Lovett was more than impressive in its 35-12 domination of Brooks County in the semifinals. The Lions roared to a 21-0 lead over the Trojans, which had won 10 straight games heading into the semis. Haley rushed for three scores while the Lovett defense held a strong Brooks County rushing attack to just 70 yards.
Muschamp's team played one of the tougher schedules in all of GHSA football this season, facing multiple teams from higher classifications and beating all of them except Washington County, which is in the Class AAA finals.
14-0, Region 4 No. 1 seed
Coach Franklin Stephens has brought consistent winning to Lamar County
|Photo by Jason Mussell
in just two years at the middle Georgia school. Last year's 12 wins tied the most in program history (which began in 1970) while this year's haul of 14 victories set the school record. This is the Trojans' first appearance in the state finals.
Lamar County won a tight 10-7 semifinal over a previously-undefeated Benedictine squad last week in Barnesville. Kicker Tyler Scandrett made a 24-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Cadets, which led the game 7-0 at the half. Ironically, one year ago, Lamar County kicked a field goal to beat Benedictine in the second round.
Quarterback Lance Austin and the Trojans' offense drove the ball from their own six-yard line in the final 7:23 for the game-winning kick. Stephens' defense held the Cadets to just 37 yards in the second half. In the third quarter, Lamar County tied the game on a 17-yard fake field goal pass from Austin to Ray Lions.
Three Trojans are committed to Georgia Tech: Austin, brother Lawrence and wide receiver/safety Qua Searcy. Lawrence plays fullback for the Trojans and had rushed for 1,324 yards and 19 touchdowns heading into to semifinals, while Lance had thrown for 803 yards and 11 scores while grinding out 967 yards and 19 touchdowns out of the Trojans' wing-T formation. The trio also leads the Trojans on defense.
The Lamar County defense held all opponents to 20 points or less through a 35-24 win over defending state champion Jefferson in the quarterfinals. Thomasville managed 20 points in the second round, but no other team scored more than 15 prior to that.
Stephens is one of the state's most successful coaches, with 90 wins, six semifinals appearances and two state championships in just seven seasons.