Hoover (Ala.) vs. Auburn (Ala.) | Class 6A State Championship
Hoover overcame an 18-point deficit to Vestavia Hills (AL) with a touchdown pass from Jack Hutcheson to Leonard Wood to take the lead with three minutes left in the game. Hutcheson threw for two touchdowns as the Bucs sealed the 31-28 semifinals victory. Hoover has survived two close games in a row, including a 22-21 quarterfinals victory over Florence, and carry a 29-game wining streak to the state championship.
Auburn (13-1) will be a challenge for Hoover and the battle-tested Tigers have won three consecutive one-possession games heading into the championship. In the quarterfinals Auburn topped McGill-Toolen 24-21. Quarterback Bradley Northcutt found Kyle Sikes for a 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Rashaan Evans rushed for a 1-yard score. Evans is dangerous at running back, but his impact at linebacker has the 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior listed as a top-two recruit in the state and four-star prospect.
Dwyer (Fla.) at East Lake (Fla.) | Class 7A State Semifinals
In this battle of unbeatens, both schools will feature some of the Southeast’s most productive units on both sides of the football. Dwyer averages 42.8 points per game offensively and East Lake lights up the scoreboard for 44.5 points per game. In the quarterfinals, East Lake set a school record with its 13th win as the Eagles dominated Port Charlotte (Fla.) 49-15. Quarterback Jake Hudson threw for five touchdowns, including three to George Campbell. Defensively, East Lake allows just 6.38 points per game and Dwyer 7.9 points per game.
Dwyer topped St. Thomas Aquinas 35-28 in a rare shootout in the quarterfinals. Dwyer held Raiders’ quarterback Wade Freebeck to 9-of-27 passing for 140 yards. Daniel Parr finished 21 of 35 passing for 339 yards and two touchdown passes for the Panthers.
Maryville (Tenn.) vs. Hendersonville (Tenn.) | Class 6A State Championship
Maryville turned two Jauan Jennings’ interceptions into touchdowns to erase Blackman’s early 6-0 lead and cruised to a 28-16 win in the quarterfinals. Quarterback John Garrett finished 16-of-18 passing and threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns. The 12-point margin of victory was the smallest this year for the Rebels, who are scoring at a rate of 44.4 points of game while allowing 8.9 points per game defensively.
Hendersonville won a 49-41 shootout over White Station in the quarterfinals and held a 19-point lead in the final quarter before the Spartans almost came back all the way. Running back Jack Towe is a feature ball carrier in the Hendersonville offense behind the Bearcats’ offensive line. The trenches will feature Maryville’s 6-foot-6, three-star junior defensive end Dylan Jackson.
Stratford (S.C.) vs. Northwestern (S.C.) | Class 4A Division II State Championship
This could be the best quarterback duel in the southeast this weekend. Northwestern is led by Oklahoma State-commit Mason Rudolph and Stratford is quarterbacked by Georgia-commit Jacob Park. Rudolph is considered the No. 14 prospect in the state by 247sports and Park is listed as the No. 2 overall senior prospect.
Rudolph had six passing touchdowns in the Trojans’ 49-21 win over North Augusta in the semifinals and hooked up with junior Dupree Hart for a 22-yard touchdown, a three-yard touchdown and a 20-yard touchdown.
Park completed 23-of-30 attempts for 252 yards and three touchdowns, and also added another score on the ground in Stratford’s 36-13 semifinals win over South Pointe.
Tupelo (Miss.) vs. Oak Grove (Miss.) | Class 6A State Championship
Tupelo shutdown defending state champion South Panola in the quarterfinals 12-3 and will look to do the same against Oak Grove’s potent offense, which is coordinated by NFL legend Brett Favre. Oak Grove quarterback Kirk McCarty completed 21 of 33 passes for 412 yards and four touchdowns in the Warriors’ 45-15 win over Meridian in the quarterfinals. The Warriors are averaging 278 passing yards per game and sophomore Jordan Duncan and junior Cameron Myers have each caught 10 touchdown passes this season.
Tupelo’s defense will need to play its best game and the Golden Wave have been solid this year with a 9.86 points per game average. Offensively, running back Quinn Tiggs will be the key to keeping the ball out of the Warriors’ possession. The senior has carried the ball 206 times for 13 touchdowns and averages north of 100 rushing yards per game.
Gainesville (Ga.) vs. Tucker (Ga.) Class 5A Semifinals
This matchup features the past two Class AAAAA state champions. Tucker topped Lovejoy 22-7 for the 2011 state title and Gainesville rolled over Ware County 49-13 last year. Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson holds the state passing records for career yardage and touchdowns and is having another historic season. Watson passed for 344 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for two scores in the Red Elephants’ 42-28 quarterfinals win over Mundy’s Mill. Gainesville has scored 28 or more points in 10 consecutive playoff games dating to 2011 and is averaging 49.2 points per game this year. Watson and backup Mikey Gonzalez have combined for 56 passing touchdowns and just five interceptions. Rodney Lackey, Jay Gaudlock, Chastin Newman and Orrin Ragland are Watson’s favorite targets and Michael Byrd averages more than seven yards per carry out of the backfield.
Tucker averages 45 points per game offensively, but it is the defensive side of the football that has made the Tigers a state championship favorite this year. Tucker recorded a 29-0 shutout in the quarterfinals, holding Ware County to just three first downs. Cornerback Duke Shelley returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown and the pass rushed forced an intentional grounding in the endzone for a safety. Tucker’s speed and physicality starts with linebacker and Georgia-commit Detric Dukes. Defensive linemen Elisha Shaw and Jonathan Ledbetter dominate the line of scrimmage. Stanford-commit Kirk Tucker makes plays at outside linebacker and safety Dominick Sanders is one of the top playmakers in the state. Offensively, Tucker quarterback Joe Farrar rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the quarterfinals and has plenty of explosive playmakers around him. This will be the first time these established programs will meet on the gridiron.