Boyd-Buchanan has its rematch.
One year after losing by one point, in overtime, to eventual state champion Friendship Christian in the Class 2A football quarterfinals, the Buccaneers have a shot at redemption. Last year's game ended in controversy when the Commanders scored on a 6-yard, fourth-down run by quarterback Brennan Swindoll, although it appeared his knee was down before he crossed the goal line.
The sting of that loss was a Bucs motivation through the offseason, regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs.
"In a way it's OK, I guess, that's we're playing them again, but the biggest thing is it's another opportunity to get to the next game," said Bucs coach Grant Reynolds, whose team has won its last two playoff games on the road and will travel this week to the Lebanon school. "We have to look at it as another team and another chance to get where we want to be."
Boyd-Buchanan is the only area football team left in the TSSAA playoffs, while three area teams survived the first round of the Georgia postseason and two others join in this week as Class A teams Gordon Lee and Trion begin their playoffs.
Boyd-Buchanan defeated top-ranked Knoxville Grace Christian by 22 points this past Friday. After giving up a frustrating five fourth-down conversions in the first half, including two for touchdowns, which helped Grace Christian stay within a point at halftime, Boyd-Buchanan's defense shut the door on those extra chances in the second half, stopping the Lions four times in the deciding second half.
The Bucs' defense also set up the first touchdown of the second half with an interception. Jim Cardwell cashed in on that turnover with a 1-yard scoring run, the first of three unanswered TDs. Cardwell finished the game with 161 rushing yards and 89 passing and a combined four TDs.
In Georgia's first round, Class AA top-ranked Calhoun (11-0) rolled to a 42-10 win over Wesleyan as Taylor Lamb threw for two touchdowns and ran for two. The Yellow Jackets, whose path to what would be their fifth consecutive championship game appearance is ranked the toughest of any No. 1 Class AA seed, will entertain Washington-Wilkes (10-1) this Friday.
Like the Jackets, Ridgeland (10-1) had little trouble getting past Booker T. Washington, 45-21, as senior running back Darrell Bridges rushed for 220 yards and scored five touchdowns. The Panthers will be seeking their first postseason win beyond the first round when they host LaGrange (6-5) on Friday.
Easily the biggest surprise Friday involving an area team was Dalton's 17-14 win over Atlanta's Carver High School. The Catamounts (8-3) trailed 14-7 after turning the ball over three times in the first half and watching Carver star Montavious Taylor rush for more than 100 yards. However, Taylor was injured early in the third quarter and never returned and Dalton took advantage of a turnover to tie the game on a Brandon Dale touchdown pass from Cole Calfee.
Dale then made the play of the game on a 69-yard run on a reverse on long-and-long deep in the Cats' own territory. The run set up what would turn out to be a winning field goal. Senior Robert Hardaway sealed the win with a sack on fourth down on Carver's final drive.
"It was a great night," Dalton coach Matt Land said. "Our kids just played lights out all game, the coaching staff did a great job and we probably had more than 1,000 fans come down and support us. Our kids understand what's at stake and they have definitely matured, and, more than anything, we're beginning to jell at the right time."
Dalton's first road playoff win since 1992 set up a visit to top-ranked Sandy Creek (11-0), which routed Eastside, 55-0.
"At Sandy Creek it's real easy to say they have great athletes, and they do," Land said. "But I think it starts with great coaching and great schemes. I'm confident they are the best team we will play this year, and I'm also confident we'll take our best team to play them, because that seems to be what we've been doing lately."