The Peach County Trojans are Mercedes-Benz Stadium bound.
The Trojans went on the road against the Greater Atlanta Christian School Spartans in Norcross and took home a tough 28-23 victory in a physical, four-quarter battle Friday night in the AAA state semifinal to advance to the state championship game next weekend.
Peach County quarterback Antonio Gilbert kept the Spartan defense on its heels all night long as he led an efficient offense, while the Trojan defense stifled the Greater Atlanta Christian offensive attack, holding them to just 301 total yards of offense.
The Trojans (13-1) took the lead with a touchdown late in the first quarter and never surrendered the lead as they outlasted the Spartans (12-2) with a large number of Peach County fans making the trip to support the team.
Three who mattered
Antonio Gilbert: The Trojans’ senior quarterback made quick reads against the GAC defense all night long. He was efficient through the air and also hurt the Spartans with his legs as he rushed for 36 yards in addition to his 318 yards through the air.
Millard Thomas: Thomas served as a reliable weapon over the middle of the field for Gilbert. The junior wideout was dangerous on the slant route, particularly on his 15-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, where he shed a few arm tackles en route to the end zone on third down. He finished with 70 receiving yards.
Kyler McMichael: The Spartans’ two-way star made his presence felt in this game. The Clemson commit rushed for 95 yards, including a critical 54-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give his offense life. McMichael also lined up at cornerback for the Spartan defense.
Late in the second quarter, the Spartans snapped the ball over the head of their punter while backed up inside their own 15-yard line. The snap sailed out of the back of the end zone to give Peach County a 12-7 lead heading into the half and was one of several errors that prevented the Spartans from getting in a rhythm.
Special teams blunders help Peach County: The Spartans had issues in the first half with long snapping on punts. Twice they snapped the ball over their punter’s head and the second mistake came at a bad time as the ball sailed out of the back of the end zone to put up two points for Peach County late in the second quarter.
Spreading the sugar: Gilbert hit eight different receivers on the night, six of whom had at least three catches, and was quick in getting the ball out. His ability to read the defense and take what was given to him, instead of forcing to one receiver, kept the Trojan offense rolling through the air.
Fineran’s field goals: Senior kicker Mitchell Fineran was a weapon for the Trojans on Friday night. He hit two field goals, from 50 and 33 yards respectively, to bail out Peach County when the offense stalled on the plus side of the field.
No Jackson or Gibson still for the Trojans: Peach County continues its deep playoff run without two of its key weapons. Chris Gibson and Georgia commit Kearis Jackson were still sidelined but the Trojans still amassed 425 yards of offense without them.
Good ball security: The only turnover in the game was the aborted snap that resulted in a Peach County safety. Aside from that, both teams took care of the ball and did not give it away.
Sweet revenge: The Trojans were eliminated from last season’s state playoffs by the Spartans in the semifinals by a 13-7 score. They avenged that loss Friday to set up a date in the title game.
They said it
Peach County head coach Chad Campbell on the team’s preparation: “Coaches had a great game plan. We felt very confident about what we were doing. Last year, we didn’t play very well against them. And the kids played their hearts out. We love playing in Atlanta.”
Campbell on the keys to the game for his defense and how his offense succeeded: “We knew if they had to drive the ball down the field, and we didn’t give up big plays, then we had a great opportunity. They had a couple of big plays but, offensively, we can’t say enough about (Gilbert). He played a great game and he had a great week of preparation.”
Gilbert on the feeling of the home crowd traveling with them: “[The crowd factored in] a lot. Every time we did something good, they made us feel great about it…It’s a good feeling but we’ve got one more game. It’s not over yet.”
The Trojans will face off with Calhoun in the GHSA AAA Football State Championship at 1 p.m. Friday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Peach County 28, Greater Atlanta Christian 23
Peach County: 33-yard field goal by Mitchell Fineran (5:27)
15-yard touchdown pass from Antonio Gilbert to Millard Thomas, XP good (0:36)
Greater Atlanta Christian: 10-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rose to Jeffrey Blake, XP good (4:30)
Peach County: GAC snaps punt out of endzone for a safety (3:24)
Greater Atlanta Christian:
Peach County: 17-yard touchdown pass from Antonio Gilbert to Jaydon Gibson (9:43)
50-yard field goal by Mitchell Fineran (1:18)
Greater Atlanta Christian: 54-yard touchdown run by Kyler McMichael (7:35)
Peach County: 3-yard touchdown run by Trevon Woolfolk, XP good (1:27)
Greater Atlanta Christian: 32-yard field goal by Sean Henderson (7:25)
15-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rose to Trey Morrison, XP good (0:16)