Corey Griffin (left) and Jamon Rowe hoist the championship trophy after winning Sandy Creek’s third title in four years. Th
The Sandy Creek Patriots are back on top of the mountain. The Patriots traveled to the Georgia Dome Saturday afternoon and throttled the Ridgeland Panthers 45-10 for the state championship.
The crown puts Sandy Creek among the elite in the state, not just this year but all time. For the third time in four years Sandy Creek is a state football champion, just the 14th time in Georgia history that feat has been accomplished.
"It's just unbelievable," Sandy Creek head coach Chip Walker said of winning three titles in four years.
For him, the team has learned to accept nothing but excellence. "There ain't no doubt about that," said Walker. "Our guys know we have a standard that's been set and that's what we expect them to work to."
There was little doubt all year that the Patriots were headed back to the top. After the bitter defeat in last year's playoffs, they would stop at nothing less than a championship. The 2012 season was an exhibition in domination from beginning to end. In the opener the Patriots beat Banneker 52-6 and capped it off with a 45-10 victory in the title game over Ridgeland. In between was beating after beating handed out. Only once all season was their victory by less than twenty points. Sandy Creek was the only undefeated team in all of AAAA heading into the playoffs. They were the only team in the state to be ranked number one wire to wire.
It wasn't just season that was dominating for this team and the senior class in particular. The senior class of 2013 has been the very model of excellent. The players will wrap up their high schools with three championship rings and an unbelievable record of 56-2.
"We're going to graduate a lot of great football players," Walker praised. "We're going to miss them a lot. They've taken this program to new heights."
This year won't be the end of the Patriots run by a long shot. Next year's edition is already primed to return to the Dome. Quarterback Cole Garvin and his more than 2,000 yards passing will be back along with wide receiver Demarre Kitt, considered by many to be the finest in the state. Two 1,000 yard rushers in Eric Swinney and Delvin Weems will be back in the fold. The rest of the state better look out.
"We've got a chance to be back," Walker said. "We've got to work and develop an identity. We have to make sure we come back with a purpose."
The Patriots wasted no time in exerting their dominance against Ridgeland. On the first offensive play of the game Garvin bombed it deep to Kyle Wilson for 45 yards. Swinney swept around the left end for a six yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just over a minute into the game.
The fast start to the game was all part of the gameplan. "We wanted to get on them quick," said Walker. "They can control the game if you let them. We had to get them out of their game plan."
Sandy Creek's defense was on point all night, limiting a powerful Ridgeland offense to just 272 yards, many of them on gimmick halfback passes. A defensive stand on fourth down deep in Patriot territory to finish the first quarter would be as close as Ridgeland would get to scoring for a while.
The Patriots did not waste the momentum from the big stop. On the next play Garvin hit Justin Sumpter for 22 yards. When faced with a fourth down of their own, Delvin Weems made the conversion. On the next play, Weems raced off tackle for a 30 yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead three minutes into the second quarter.
A quick Panther three and out would lead to a 35 yard Mitchell McMillin field goal.
Another three and out would even more painfully. A 54 yard punt return by Demarre Kitt set up the Patriots on the 11 yard line. Weems did the rest with a touchdown to extend the lead to 24-0.
The Patriot defense wasn't done yet. Instead of waiting three downs to flip the field, Spencer Roberts picked up a fumble to steal possession right back. Setting up on the forty yard line, Garvin bombed it deep for Kitt who hauled it in just one yard short of scoring. Swinney plunged into the end zone on the next play for a 31-0 halftime lead.
It was a fantastic first half for the high-flying Patriot offense. They got the ball rolling and quickly put the game out of reach. Cole Garvin passed for 249 yards and one score. Demarre Kitt racked up six catches for 85 yards and countless more as a return man. Kyle Wilson added two catches for 81 yards and one score. Delvin Weems ran for 96 yards on 10 carries.
The big names may grab the headlines, but they aren't all that makes the offense go. The offensive line of Alan Knott, Brandon Hobbs, Isaac Saxon, Ryan Warrior, and Jamon Rowe dominated all night. "We have great skill guys, but it all starts with those guys on the offensive line," said Walker. "This line was challenged before the year and they stepped up."
The second half was more of the same. After the defense forced another three and out the offense put the game on ice. Garvin started by converting a third and long with a 14 yard pass to Kitt. Next came a second and long completion to Antonio Williams. Garvin capped off the drive with a beautiful play fake to get the defense biting. He then hit a wide open Kyle Wilson for a 37 yard touchdown and a 38-0 lead.
Ridgeland finally got on the board just before the end of the third quarter with a 29 yard field goal. It was not nearly enough to prevent the mercy rule running clock down the stretch.
Coach Walker got an extra special treat early in the fourth quarter. With the game well in hand, the coach's son and backup quarterback entered the game. Trey Walker rewarded his faith with a 21 yard touchdown pass. Justin Sumpter went up for the pass and pulled it down for a tremendous score.
Late in the game Ridgeland would reach the end zone for the first time on a 38 yard halfback pass to wrap up the 45-10 beating.