Class 6A: Hughes vs. Gainesville
Hughes vs. Gainesville
Coach: Daniel Williams
GPB Ranking, record: No. 1, 14-0. Region 5 champion.
Playoff results: d. River Ridge 49-6, d. North Forsyth 77-16, d. Woodward Academy 56-28, d. Rome 42-3.
Top players: QB Prentiss Noland, OL Bo Hughley, TE Jelani Thurman, DB Terrence Love, RB Jekail Middlebrooks, RB Justus Savage, WR Jaden Barnes, DE Joshua Horton.
Notable: Noland has thrown for 3,832 yards and 52 touchdowns, with only four interceptions. Middlebrooks, a Lovejoy transfer, has run for 1,347 yards and 19 touchdowns and J Savage has added 1,004 yards and 12 TDs. Barnes and Thurman (an Ohio State commit) lead a deep group of receivers. The team has 33 sacks, 69 tackles for loss, intercepted 14 passes and recovered 10 fumbles. They have been the most dominant team in the state this season. The offense needs to score two points to break the state’s single-season record and the defense has been equally effective with hits relentless pressure and big-play ability. The Panthers had their game-winning field goal attempt blocked in last year’s state championship loss to Buford.
Gainesville Red Elephants
Coach: Josh Niblett
GPB Ranking, record: No. 5, 14-0. Region 8 champion.
Playoff results: d. Sprayberry 51-23, d. South Paulding 42-21, d. Houston County 48-36, d. Roswell 35-28.
Top players: RB/KR Naim Cheeks, LB Jeremiah Telander, QB Baxter Wright, WR Travien Watson, Tre Reece, Sky Niblett, Carmelo Byrd. PK Eric Guerra.
Notable: The Red Elephants have prospered under first-year coach Josh Niblett, who won seven state championships in Alabama. Gainesville, the third-winningest program in Georgia history, won its only title in 2012. Wright has thrown for 3,152 yards and 18 touchdowns with only four interceptions and Cheeks has rushed for 1,775 yards and 20 touchdowns. Cheeks has run for 700 yards in the playoffs, with two 200-yard games. Five receivers have at least 29 catches, including Reece (41 catches, 12 TDs) and Niblett (30 catches, 11 TDs). Telander, a Tennessee commit, leads the defense with 99 tackles and 12 sacks. Gainesville has intercepted 19 passes, four of them by Byrd.