Three local football teams hosted state quarterfinal football matches tonight and all three advanced to the state semifinals in their respective classifications.
Sandy Creek, the 2009 and 2010 state champions and currently ranked first in Class AAAA, hosted last year's AAA state champs, the third ranked Burke County Bears. The Battlefield was packed on both sides for what many considered to be a de facto state championship. Sandy Creek won 31-20 and will take on Monroe Area in the AAAA semifinals next week with a trip to the Dome on the line.
Burke County struck first when their star quarterback Donquell "Gator" Green rushed 44 yards for a touchdown with six minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Patriots answered with an 83 yard drive that took four and a half minutes off the clock and ended with a five yard touchdown catch by Demarre Kitt. In the second quarter, the momentum was Sandy Creek's as the Bears made a series of costly penalties and the Patriots' Juwan Pulliam intercepted a pass on the Burke County 36. Sandy Creek's Delvin Weems made an incredible second effort for a first down on a fourth down and ran 22 yards for a touchdown on the next play to give Sandy Creek a 14-7 lead. The Patriots followed several minutes later with a 26 yard field goal from Mitchell McMillin. Just when it looked like Sandy Creek would pull away for good, Burke County scored on a 25 yard pass on a trick play. Sandy Creek blocked the extra point and led 17-13 at the half.
Halfway through the third quarter Burke County scored on a 65 yard touchdown pass to take a 20-13 lead. The Bears fans were getting loud and Sandy Creek wasn't getting much in the way of house. Things changed at the start of the fourth quarter when Patriots quarterback Cole Garvin connected on a pass play to Kitt who ran 74 yards down the Burke County sideline to give Sandy Creek a 24-20 lead. Six minutes later Eric Swinney ran 33 yards for the final touchdown for Sandy Creek.
"The defense did a great job tonight, outside of a couple of lapses," said Sandy Creek head coach Chip Walker. "Demarre got the momentum back for us and our offensive line and backs were able to pound the ball after that. I just can't say enough about this team, these coaches, these fans and this program."
The Bears presented Sandy Creek with their biggest challenge of the season and Walker praised Burke County.
"They are a great team. State champs last year," Walker said. "We ain't too bad either."
A coin flip tomorrow will determine where Sandy Creek and Monroe Area will play next week.
Whitewater, playing in and hosting their first ever state quarterfinal football game, jumped on Allatoona in the second quarter and never looked back, winning 24-3. Kendall Conley scored his first touchdown of the game with five minutes remaining on the first half. Right before the break Jay Ashley scored on a 15 yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead. in the third quarter, Sam Leathers kicked a 40 yard field goal to make it 17-0. Allatoona kicked a field goal in the fourth quarter but Conley added another one yard touchdown run late to make it 24-3 and punch Whitewater's ticket to the final four.
Whitewater will host Gainesville next week. Gainesville took on Harris County and won 64-13.
Landmark Christian hosted First Presbyterian and won 38-24. Josh Nobles scored the first Landmark touchdown on a 16 yard touchdown pass. Jeremiah Kirkland then added four touchdowns . After an interception from Noah Bryant, Stockton McGuire kicked a 28 yard field goal to seal the win. The War Eagles will travel to take on Prince Avenue Christian School next week. Prince Avenue beat Athens Academy 24-7.