ATLANTA - If Washington County beats Westminster today at 3 p.m. in a Class AA semifinal at the Georgia Dome, next Saturday's state championship game should be a classic matchup between No. 1 and No. 2.
Americus (14-0) defeated Carrollton 24-14 in Friday's Class AA semifinal at the Dome, and will play host to the Washington County-Westminster contest, in the second day of semifinal action under the big top.
"I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens (Saturday), but Washington County is an excellent football team," said Americus coach Dan Ragel. "I saw one of their games on film, and they are very quick and play great defense. If we played them, I think it would make for a great matchup."
Carrollton trailed just 10-7 at halftime, but the Americus defense dominated the second half while its star sophomore quarterback, Fabian Walker, helped send the Panthers to the title game.
Walker, who has thrown for more than 2,300 yards this season, scored on a 1-yard run and threw a 20-yard TD pass to senior John Wilson in the third quarter.
Senior Broderick Coley carried 11 times for 117 yards, and his 74-yard run set up the Walker TD.
Walker completed 12 of 25 passes for 107 yards.
Wilson led the state in receiving yards last season with 1,130 and is on track to shatter several state records. With three receptions Friday, Wilson has 73 receptions for 1,219 yards. He is six catches shy of the all-time single-season mark of 79, set Steve Davenport of Southwest DeKalb in 1984. With 14 catches in the state title game, Wilson would break the career receptions mark of 209, set by the legendary Stan Rome of Valdosta from 1970-73.
The No. 2 Panthers, featuring that record-breaking passing attack and a formidable defense that sacked Carrollton quarterback David Rooks 10 times Friday, is vying for its first title in 21 years.
The last time Americus won a title was 1974-75, when it won back-to-back championships in Class AA - now Class AAA with the move to four GHSA classifications in the early 1980s.
With a win today, the No. 1-ranked Hawks will play for its second Class AA title in three season. Washington County defeated Screven County 31-7 for the 1994 crown.
In Friday's Class A semifinal, Titus Dunn rushed for 140 yards and two TDs on 17 carries, fullback Tommario Bullard added 88 yards and quarterback Daron Jackson had 92 yards on 10 carries to lead Putnam County to a 38-14 rout of Manchester.
Putnam (12-2) will face the winner of today's Macon County-Crawford County winner for the state title next Saturday.
Jermaine Cooper carried 18 times for 82 yards and one TD to lead Atlanta-Lakeside to the state championship game for the first time since 1991 with a 20-12 win over Albany-Dougherty in Friday's Class AAA semifinal.
Lakeside and Columbus-Kendrick were co-champions in 1991, when the teams played to a 14-14 tie in the title game.
Down 20-12 with 4:16 left in the game, Dougherty's chances were killed when Jesse Barnes fumbled at the Lakeside 31 after a pass reception. Donuell Fisher recovered for the Vikings, who benefited from six Dougherty turnovers.
The Vikings face the winner of today's classic Class AAA semifinal matchup between No. 1-ranked Thomas County Central and No. 2 Marist.
Thomas County, who defeated defending Class AAA champion Josey 42-20 last week in the quarterfinals, defeated Marist 32-21 in overtime in the Corky Kell Kickoff Classic at the Dome to open the season.
Three-time state champions in the '90s (1992-94), the Yellow Jackets (12-1), are 2-0 at the Dome, including the win this season and a 31-7 semifinal win over Dalton en route to the '94 crown.
Marist (11-2) had one of the toughest schedules in the state this year, with four state playoff teams and Jacksonville-Bolles, the nation's top-ranked team.
Class A Semifinal
Putnam County7 0 14 17- 38
Manchester7 0 7 0- 14
M- Rico Martin 3 run (Blake Thompson kick)
PC- Daron Jackson 55 run (Matt Hancock kick)
PC- Titus Dunn 11 run (Hancock kick)
M- Martin 1 run (Thompson kick)
PC- Dunn 63 run (Hancock kick)
PC- Hancock 37 field goal
PC- Tommario Bullard 39 run (Hancock kick)
PC- Ferdinand Farley 53 interception return (Hancock kick)
Class AA Semifinal
Americus7 3 14 0- 24
Carrollton7 0 7 0- 14
A- Kelsey Franklin 25 run (Isaac Ramsingh kick)
C- Terrell Walker 46 pass from David Rooks (Matt Tallent kick)
A- Ramsingh 30 field goal
A- Fabian Walker 1 run (Ramsingh kick)
A- John Wilson 20 pass from Walker (Ramsingh kick)
C- Reggie Brown 40 pass from Rooks (Tallent kick)
Class AAA Semifinal
Dougherty6 0 0 6- 12
Lakeside-Atlanta7 6 7 0- 20
D- Brian Cohren 52 interception return (kick failed)
L- Keyandre Fenn 5 pass from Vincent Moore (Dale Donatelli kick)
L- Jermaine Cooper 4 run (Donatelli kick)
L- Moore 1 run (kick failed)
D- Kawaskee Teemer 3 run (pass failed)