In the GISA Class AA championship game Saturday afternoon at Mercer University Stadium, Memorial Day came through in a close, well-played, exciting affair, defeating Piedmont 42-35.
“It feels great to be state champions,” Memorial head coach Michael Thompson said. “I’m so proud of this team and the way they battled (Saturday). I’m so happy, and words can’t explain how I feel.”
Irvin Riley’s 25-yard run late in the fourth sealed it for Memorial Day, but not before going through numerous momentum swings and five lead changes.
Memorial Day pounced on Piedmont on the opening drive, as running back McKinley Habersham scored on a 2-yard touchdown to give the Matadors a 7-0 lead.
Piedmont (10-1) matched Memorial Day (9-2) on the next drive when running back Jeremiah Dave scored on a 3-yard run. Another touchdown run by Habersham put Memorial Day up 14-7 as the first quarter closed.
In the second quarter, Piedmont running back Hunter Knox, operating out of the shotgun formation, threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to wide out Michael Edwards as the Cougars went into halftime with a 21-20 lead.
On the opening drive of the second half, Piedmont extended its lead to eight when Edwards scored on a 5-yard touchdown run.
Memorial Day scored two touchdowns in the third quarter when fullback Miacah Cooper rushed for a 72-yard touchdown run and Habersham connected on his third score of the game to take a 34-28 lead.
Piedmont answered in the fourth quarter, when Knox scored on a 1-yard run to give the Cougars a 35-34 edge prior to Riley’s score.
“I think the key thing (Saturday) was out senior leadership,” said Thompson, whose team won 10 straight games following an 0-2 start. “All year long, we preached the team is more important than self, and it really paid off in the fourth quarter (Saturday).”