Championship Visits are New for Some, Old Hat for Others
There are different story lines among the 16 teams who have advanced to the state championship games next week. Some programs are regular participants in the title game, while others are going for the first time. Some have won multiple titles, while others are seeking their first trophy. For others it has been many years since they’ve enjoyed this level of success.
Here’s a look at the teams who are in the final and their championship history.
Walton (14-0) is making its first appearance in the final since 2011 under coach Rocky Hidalgo, a team that lost the title to Grayson. The Raiders reached the semifinal game in 2021 and have gone 66-22 in seven seasons under coach Daniel Brunner. Walton is trying to join Allatoona (2015) and Harrison (2019) as the only schools from the Cobb County Public Schools to win a championship. Milton (12-2) has been one of the state’s dominant programs since breaking through to win the school’s first state championship in 2018. The Eagles are making their third trip to the final and first in two seasons under coach Ben Reaves, who were eliminated in the semifinals in 2022.
Woodward Academy (12-2) has advanced to the title game for the first time since 1980, one of two championships won by iconic coach Graham Hixon. The War Eagles have made the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons but had not advanced past the second round during that time. Thomas County Central (14-0) is playing for a state championship for the first time since 2002 under second-year coach Justin Rogers. Until his arrival the program had not gotten past the second round since 2009. The Yellow Jackets were one of the state’s dominant teams in the 1990s, winning five state titles (1992-94, 1996-97) in six seasons under legendary coach Ed Pilcher.
Creekside (13-1) has steadily climbed into the championship scene since coach Maurice Dixon took over in 2017. The Seminoles reached the semifinals in 2021 and the quarterfinals in 2022, both times losing to Warner Robins. Creekside won its only championship in 2013. Coffee (14-0) is trying to win the school’s first state championship under second-year coach Mike Coe. The Trojans had made the playoffs for 10 straight seasons but lost its only appearance in the title game in 2017.
Stockbridge (12-2) advanced to the championship game for the first time in school history and is trying to become the first Henry County school to win a state title. The Tigers won their second straight region title under coach Thomas Clark, who returned the team to the level of success enjoyed under Kevin Whitley (99-28 from 2009-18). Perry (12-2) is trying to win the first state championship since the school began playing football in 1954. It will be the first appearance in a title game for t he Panthers, who had never gotten past the semifinal round.
Cedar Grove (9-5) is in the championship game for the sixth time in eight seasons and have won four championships. Coach John Adams is the third coach to take the Saints to a championship during that stretch. Savannah Christian (12-2) is playing for a state title for the first time since 2011, when the Raiders made three consecutive trips to the final. The school dominated in the GISA league before joining the GHSA, winning seven state championships from 1975-84.
Pierce County (13-1) won the school’s first state championship in 2020 under coach Ryan Herring, who has a 59-8 record in five seasons. Rockmart (12-2) has reached the state championship game for the second time since 2018 and have won seven consecutive region championships. The Yellowjackets won their only championship in 1950.
Class A Division I
Prince Avenue Christian (13-1) is making its fourth straight appearance in the championship game and is seeking its third title. Now in his eighth season, coach Greg Vandagriff is 96-12 with five region championships. Swainsboro (12-2) is playing in the title game for the second straight year. The Tigers are vying for their first championship since 2000 under coach Rayvan Teague.
Class A Division II
Manchester (12-2) is going back to the state championship game for the first time since winning its first and only state championship in 1997. Bowdon (12-2) is trying to win back-to-back championships and bring home the school’s fourth title; last year’s title ended a 20-year championship drought.