How the Benedictine football team matches up with visiting Troup County in state semifinals

Benedictine is back in familiar territory as the Cadets play host to Troup County in the GHSA Class 4A state semifinals Friday night with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium,

It's the third straight appearance in the Final Four for BC, the defending Class 4A state champion. The Cadets have reached the state semifinals six times in coach Danny Britt's 12-year tenure — taking home three state crowns with championships in 2014, 2016 and last year.

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BC (11-2) entered the playoffs ranked No. 4 among Class 4A teams by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won its first two games at home against Whitewater (34-10) and Spalding (45-6) before hitting the road to take down Stockbridge 34-14.

Troup County (12-1) is ranked No. 5 by the AJC. The Tigers held off visiting New Hampstead 36-29 in the first round of the playoffs and beat Cairo 27-17 before a road win of 38-28 over Holy Innocents' in the quarterfinals.

In the win against Stockbridge, Benedictine had its best rushing performance of the season as the Cadets racked up 282 yards on the ground. The Cadets entered the game averaging 140 yards rushing per game.

Benedictine's Na'Seir Samuel slips into the end zone for a touchdown during Friday night's state playoff game against Spalding at Memorial Stadium.
Benedictine's Na'Seir Samuel slips into the end zone for a touchdown during Friday night's state playoff game against Spalding at Memorial Stadium.

Na'Seir Samuel ran for a career-high 158 yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown as the junior went over 100 yards in a game for the first time.

Junior quarterback Luke Kromenhoek added 41 yards on 14 carries, and Bryce Baker, the Cadets' standout linebacker, ran for a career-high 64 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. The junior had never had more than 15 yards or more than two carries in a game before Friday.

Samuel leads the team with 812 yards rushing and has six touchdowns.

"That was our best running game of the year," Britt said. "With what they (Stockbridge) were doing defensively, we had to buckle down and make the run happen. Na'Seir  (Samuel) really took over in the second half."

The Cadets' passing game has been strong all season behind first-year starter Kromenhoek, a junior who committed to Florida State in March. After playing behind Holden Geriner, now a freshman at Auburn, for two seasons (while playing as a safety and tight end), Kromenhoek has had an excellent season — throwing for 2,279 yards with 24 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has shown his toughness and added another dimension to the offense with his running ability, rushing for 410 yards and seven touchdowns.

Benedictine quarterback Luke Kromenhoek is brought down by two Spalding defenders during their state playoff game at Memorial Stadium.
Benedictine quarterback Luke Kromenhoek is brought down by two Spalding defenders during their state playoff game at Memorial Stadium.

His two prime targets are sophomore Thomas Blackshear (41 receptions for 641 yards and 10 touchdowns) and senior Za'Quan Bryan (51 catches for 537 yards and five scoring catches). Bryan, who battled through nagging injuries during the regular season, is finally healthy and has four punt returns for touchdowns and a pick-six in his last five games.

Bryan, who has committed to Minnesota as a cornerback, is also a leader as a free safety on the BC defense, which allows less than 10 points per game.

Benedictine’s Bryce Baker comes up to make a big stop on a Westminster running back
Benedictine’s Bryce Baker comes up to make a big stop on a Westminster running back

The unit will be focused on trying to contain Troup County's star quarterback Taeo Todd.

The junior, who has an offer from Georgia Tech, has thrown for 2,216 yards and 26 touchdowns with six interceptions, and he's also one of the top runners in the state with 1,959 yards rushing (9.2 yards per carry) and 27 touchdowns.

BC went up against Todd in an opening-round playoff win in 2020 when he was a freshman starter for the Tigers as the host Cadets pulled off a 42-35 win.

"Taeo is definitely a dude," Britt said. "He's a tremendous athlete and a great leader. He is very tough as a runner and has a great arm. We need to try to slow him down."

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Todd has two talented weapons at receiver in Qua Moss, who has 45 catches for 837 yards and nine touchdowns, and Logan Sinkfield, who has 32 receptions for 678 yards and 10 scores. Moss, a junior, has an offer from South Alabama.

The Tigers have four-star talent on the defensive side of the ball in junior defensive end/linebacker Qua Birdsong, who has offers including Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech, and junior safety Noah Dixon, whose offers include UGA, Alabama and Clemson.

Benedictine's Cole Semien flexes after bringing down Spalding quarterback Curt Clark for a loss during a state playoff game at Memorial Stadium.
Benedictine's Cole Semien flexes after bringing down Spalding quarterback Curt Clark for a loss during a state playoff game at Memorial Stadium.

"We need to stay disciplined on defense and keep our eyes on that quarterback and contain him in the pocket," said BC's senior defensive lineman Cole Semien. "And we're glad to be back at home this week. We think we have the best fan base in the state and we expect to have a big crowd cheering us on. That should give us some momentum."

Dennis Knight covers sports for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at Dknight@savannahnow.com. Twitter: @DennisKnightSMN

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Benedictine hosts Troup County in state football semifinal playoffs