VALDOSTA — In a rematch between last year’s state semifinalists, Collins Hill continued to roll.
The top-ranked Eagles (13-0) racked up 559 yards of total offense, led by the play of Sam Horn, Travis Hunter and others in a 49-7 rout of the Vikings (10-3) Friday night in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals. Collins Hill advances to host Grayson in next week’s semifinals in a rematch of the 2020 state championship game, won by Grayson.
“It was just a great performance,” Eagles coach Lenny Gregory said. “The coaching staff did a great job. The kids, just the way they handled this road trip and how they stayed focused and treated it as a business trip, nobody was distracted. I’m just so proud of everything – being able to come down here and perform this way and get the win.”
Horn hardly missed any of his targets, completing 28 of 33 passes for 320 yards with four touchdowns. Nine of the senior’s completions went to Hunter for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Cedric Nash also went over the 100-yard mark in the game with seven catches for 113 yards, Ethan Davis caught nine passes for 86 yards and two scores as well. Horn also had five carries for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Not only was the passing game working, the ground game was prolific as well led by Ryan Stephens’ 125 yards on only seven carries — an average of nearly 18 yards per carry. Stephens’ 1-yard touchdown with 3:17 to go in the third quarter was the final blow as many fans inside Martin Stadium began to make their way to the exits.
With the win, the Eagles snapped a couple of impressive streaks the Vikings had going coming into Friday’s game. The Eagles not only stopped the Vikings’ eight-game winning streak — the team’s first loss since Sept. 10 at Lee County — they also ended the Vikings’ 26-game home winning streak.
Defensively, the Eagles held the Vikings to a season-low seven points, which is the fewest points the Vikings have scored since a 40-10 loss to Colquitt County last November.
With the offense scoring virtually at-will, the Eagles’ defense kept the explosive Vikings from finding any momentum to climb back into the contest.
The Vikings finished with only 148 yards of offense and struggled mightily on third down, finishing 1 of 11.
Lowndes star quarterback Jacurri Brown, hobbled by an ankle injury suffered in last week’s second round win against Norcross, completed just 5 of 11 passes for 54 yards with no touchdowns. The Miami commit rushed just four times Friday for minus-15 yards.
Without dynamic running back Chase Belcher, the Vikings had just 85 yards rushing — led by sophomore Jacarre Fleming’s 11 carries for 66 yards.
Cornerback Christian Harris led the Eagles with eight tackles and a tackle for loss in the win.
“We were just doing what we do,” Gregory said of his defense. “We had a great game plan. We just went out there and took away what they wanted to do. I’m just proud of the defensive staff and the kids for going out there and playing. Lowndes has got a great football team.”
An 80-yd touchdown run by Stephens and a successful two-point conversion gave the Eagles a 28-7 lead at the half.
The Eagles faced a potential momentum swing as Horn was picked off by the Vikings’ DeAunte Hunter, who returned the ball to the Eagles’ 15-yard line.
The Vikings couldn’t capitalize, however, as a penalty in third-and-3 from the 8 pushed them back to the 13. A pass from Brown fell incomplete off of the helmet of intended receiver Justin Barron in the end zone.
On fourth down, the Vikings came up empty as Franklon Aguilar’s 30-yd field goal missed wide left — setting up the Stephens touchdown run with 29 seconds left before the half.
Following a 6-play, 45-yard scoring drive by the Eagles to go ahead 20-0, the Vikings responded with a 34-yard sprint up the gut by Jacarre Fleming that put Lowndes on the board with 2:42 left in the half.
The Eagles’ up-tempo offense caused headaches for the Vikings’ defense as the Eagles needed only four plays to score on their opening drive and eight for their second drive to go ahead 14-0.
Friday’s win punched the Eagles’ ticket to next week’s semifinals against Grayson, which advanced to the semis with a 24-14 win over Roswell.
Though the two teams will meet again in a rematch of last year’s state title game, Gregory refuses to view next week’s game through the lens of revenge.
“I don’t get into that,” Gregory said when asked if there’s an element of revenge going into next week’s game. “It’s more about us than them, right? Our deal right now, and it’s been this way all year, is to figure out how to go 1-0. We’ve got to go back, look at our mistakes that we made and clean up some things and get ready to go 1-0 and just be the best version of us that we can be.”