Aquinas playing for first state championship

This isn’t about following in some fabled team’s path or reclaiming something won decades earlier.


It’s about making history.

The Aquinas football team goes for its first state title when it plays Calvary Day at 2:30 p.m. today at the Georgia Dome in the Class A private state championship. The Fighting Irish are trying to become the first Augusta school to win a Georgia High School Association state title since Josey won the Class AAA crown in 1995.

“It’s a big opportunity for these guys,” Aquinas coach James Leonard said. “They’ve been working hard since June. When we come out of the tunnel it will be real special for everybody.”

The Irish would complete the transition from pushover to champion with a win.

At 13-0, Aquinas has won as many games this season as it did from 1983 through 1990. It has gone 30-7 since the start of the 2011 season, by far the best three-year run in its history. But 2013 has been the pinnacle year, as the Irish reached the quarterfinals in 2011, which was when the program picked up its first-ever state playoff win.

This year’s team has already done so much. It’s the first Irish squad to win region, the first to go undefeated during the regular season and the first to make it past the quarterfinals. It’s also the first Aquinas team to beat Lincoln County since the 1972 group.

But today’s game is on another level. For some, it’s the end.

“It’s my last one at Aquinas,” senior lineman Jeff Fox said. “It’s pretty big. We got to keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll come out on top.”

An 11-2 Cavaliers team averaging 39.2 points per game blocks Aquinas’ shot at perfection. Calvary Day has won its past 11 games, including an overtime win against previously unbeaten Eagle’s Landing Christian in the semifinals. With the Irish’s 17-16 win at Mount Pisgah Christian coming from a touchdown in the final minute, both Aquinas and Calvary Day won by a point to make it to the final.

The two teams are also looking to win it all for the first time.

“We just got to go out and execute and try to be No. 1 and be the first team from Aquinas to win that state championship,” quarterback Liam Welch said.

Generations of players, fans thrilled by Aquinas' run to the Class A private state championship game
Calvary Day, Aquinas' opponent for Class A title, features balanced attack
Aquinas kicker Justin Thompson has given the Irish an edge
Aquinas wins thriller to advance to state championship

GHSA Class A private state championship • 2:30 p.m. today • Georgia Dome, Atlanta


1. DON’T BE FLAT. This game is starting five hours earlier than normal with the 2:30 p.m. kickoff. Today would be the worst time to start slowly.

2. KEEP BENDING. Aquinas has been outgained in each of the past four games, but the Irish defense hasn’t broken as much as other teams’ defenses. Aquinas might give up long drives, but it has a habit of getting a
stop when needed.

3. WIN THE FINAL MINUTES. The Irish have found magic late in halves, with a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the semifinals the highlight as only 19 seconds remained. Aquinas has also scored in the last 17 seconds or later in every one of its past five second quarters, with four of those scores touchdowns.

– From staff reports



Sat, 01/20/2018 - 00:01

Senior cutter wins Futurity Open finals

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 00:02

Friday’s prep box scores