How Benedictine punched ticket to state football semis, while Calvary's season came to end

Benedictine, the defending Class 4A state champion, hit the road for a playoff game for the first time since 2019 on Friday, and the Cadets made it a business trip worth remembering with a 34-14 win over Stockbridge.

The Cadets (11-2) advanced to the state semifinals for the third year in a row. BC will host Troup County (12-1) in a Class 4A matchup on Friday with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

The Cadets, who entered the playoffs ranked No. 4 among Class 4A teams in the state by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, had another strong defensive performance as they held a Tigers offense averaging 32 points per game in check.

Danny Britt, Benedictine Head Coach.
Danny Britt, Benedictine Head Coach.

"It was a tremendous team win for us tonight," BC coach Danny Britt said in a phone interview on the bus ride home from the game. "We were missing (standout sophomore receiver) Thomas Blackshear and a lot of our stars weren't shining. Luke (Kromenhoek) didn't have his best passing game, so it came down to our run game and defense, and we got the job done."

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The score was tied 14-14 at halftime as the Cadets had rushing touchdowns by Za'Quan Bryan and Na'Seir Samuel before intermission.

Britt said linebacker Bryce Baker saw a lot of action offensively at running back, and the junior had a 10-yard scoring run at the start of the fourth quarter to put the Cadets up 24-14.

Benedictine's Bryce Baker celebrates a play in the Cadets' playoff win over Stockbridge Friday night.
Benedictine's Bryce Baker celebrates a play in the Cadets' playoff win over Stockbridge Friday night.

Senior Asher Sigmon connected on field goals of 30 and 34 yards, and Cody Brinson closed the game out with a pick-six, on his team-leading fifth interception of the season.

"They were moving the ball pretty well on us in the first half, but our defense showed up and showed out in the second half," Britt said. "They were playing fast and aggressively."

Britt said a strong contingent of Benedictine fans made the trip — with two busloads coming along to support the Cadets, along with many others who traveled to Henry County, about 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta, to root the team on.

"Honestly, our crowd was nearly as big as theirs was," Britt said. "And that was great. Now we get to come back home to play next week and we're anticipating a big crowd to show up for that one."

Za'Quan Bryan of the Benedictine football team.
Za'Quan Bryan of the Benedictine football team.

Defensive coordinator Galen Houston agreed with Britt's assessment of the game.

"I know it sounds like 'coach speak,' but we really performed well on every level defensively and made plays all over the field," Houston said in a text exchange early Saturday morning. "We've been facing some adversity losing some starters and key players, but our guys continue to step up and make plays. ... I'm just excited we have another week to get better and compete."

Calvary season ends in loss to Cedar Grove

Calvary Day went on the road to Atlanta as the Cavaliers, ranked No. 2 in the state among Class 3A teams, met up with No. 1 Cedar Grove, the defending state champion.

Cedar Grove, like Calvary a squad stacked with Division I talent, had a strong performance in a 30-0 victory.

It was the final game for a strong Calvary senior class as players like Terry Simmons Jr, the defensive tackle headed to Duke, Troy Ford Jr., the standout linebacker committed to UCF and offensive lineman Jalin Scott, who will also be playing college ball, competed in their final games.

Troy Ford Jr.
Troy Ford Jr.

"Cedar Grove is a quality football team and they played really well tonight," said Calvary coach Mark Stroud, who picked up his 250th career win in a second-round victory over Dougherty last week, in a phone interview after the game. "I thought our defense had a good game and gave us some opportunities, but we couldn't take advantage of them.

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"Cedar Grove was real fast on defense, and as they got up on us, they brought even more pressure. We had some self-inflicted wounds, and you can't have miscues like that against a team that's that good."

Jalin Scott
Jalin Scott

Stroud said it was tough in the locker room as the seniors realized their high school careers were over.

"You don't realize how quick it all goes by, and it's always a shock when it ends," Stroud said. "We really appreciate those seniors who have meant so much to our program. After they get over the initial shock of the season ending, I think they will be able to look back and appreciate the journey we had together."

Calvary has a strong, talented group of players returning next year led by four-star prospects in quarterback Jake Merklinger and tight end Michael Smith, who will be seniors, along with rising junior Doopah Coleman at receiver, and his classmate, Buddy Mathis on the defensive line. A.J. Butts, a linebacker and running back, and Trevor Strowbridge, a safety and running back, and linebacker Kam Lanigan  also will be back for their senior campaigns.

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

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Benedictine beats Stockbridge to advance to state football semifinals