Evans, Grovetown, Harlem and Lakeside all have something in common: They’ve all qualified for the state football playoffs – the first time four Columbia County public schools have advanced to postseason play.
Evans, the Region 3 champion, plays host to Drew at 7:30 tonight in the first round of Class AAAAAA play. Grovetown plays host to Lovejoy at 7:30 p.m. Lakeside, a No. 4 seed, plays at Region 4 winner Tucker.
Harlem, making its first playoff appearance since 2001, travels to Dublin for the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
Grovetown coach Damien Postell has made the playoffs for the second year in a row after becoming the Warriors’ head coach in 2016. Last year, Grovetown went on the road in the first round. This time, the Warriors finished as region runner-up and have their first home playoff game in school history.
“Preparation stays the same,” Postell said. “Now we don’t have to worry about getting on the road, stopping somewhere and getting a meal, and then getting on someone else’s field. Our fans can come see us here.”
Grovetown started the season at 1-3 after losing to Burke County and Richmond Hill. Senior Jahmar Bingham took over at quarterback in the fifth game and the Warriors have responded on offense. Grovetown has scored 24 or more points in five of its past six games, going 5-1 in that stretch.
Grovetown faces one of the top running backs in the state in Lovejoy’s Zion Custis. The 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior has rushed for 1,754 yards with 27 touchdowns. He torched Drew for 303 rushing yards and followed with three 200-yard games in his next four contests to end the regular season.
“They’re probably the biggest offensive line we’ve seen this year,” Postell said. “And the back just runs hard.”
Grovetown (6-4) counters with D’Angelo Durham, who has rushed for almost 900 yards, and has 21 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
Also, Bingham is averaging almost 100 total yards a game.
At Evans, the Knights are seeking to advance to the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2007. Evans features the two-headed monster of quarterback Damekus Taylor and running back Corey Watkins, who have helped the offense post 40 or more points in nine consecutive contests. Watkins has rushed for 1,208 yards with 18 touchdowns, while Taylor has rushed for 1,147 yards, thrown for 1,212 yards and has 35 total touchdowns.
Evans (8-2) faces a Drew squad (4-6) that has scored 209 points and allowed 299 this season.
Harlem (7-3) will try to win a road contest at Dublin, a team the Bulldogs haven’t beaten in four previous tries. The Bulldogs feature running backs A.J. Brown (1,510 yards, 18 touchdowns) and Cameron Garnett (1,054 yards, 13 touchdowns).
Lakeside (2-8) will try to defeat Tucker (9-1), a team that has won seven games in a row and posted four shutouts during the season.