Saturday May 28th, 2016 6:16AM

5 things: What we learned from the high school football semifinals

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Related Articles
  Contact Editor
Here's a look at five things we learned from the high school football state semifinals...

1. Jay Gaudlock should be a household name too

While collegiate football fans around the southeast know the name Deshaun Watson and wish the Gainesville quarterback was headed to their school (other than Clemson fans, who will be lucky enough to watch the Georgia High School Association record holder), there should be plenty of fans -- and coaching staffs -- hoping to land Watson's top receiver from this season. Gaudlock is a great athlete with great hands -- just watch this video and fast forward to the 3:20 mark to witness the latest in a long line of outstanding receptions the senior has made this campaign. Gaudlock has snagged 1,276 yards worth of passes this campaign (the correct number, despite a mis-print in our game story from Friday) -- one of the 30 best single season marks in state history -- and helped Gainesville overcome the graduation of two outstanding receivers from last year's state championship team. And he's done all this after switching to the position full time just this year. His lack of big receiving numbers before this season (he did have strong rush stats the the previous two campaigns) helped keep him from becoming a household name, but that's no reason some big-name school(s) should not be taking a long look at the Red Elephants' standout.

2. Tucker's defense is legit

The Tigers are not Buford, but they're not far off. Tucker showed as much in Friday's Class AAAAA semifinal, holding Gainesville's explosive offense to 248 yards and two touchdowns. Most telling were the adjustments Tucker made after Gainesville moved the ball impressively in the first half. After taking a 14-0 lead, the Red Elephants gained very little and saw their early momentum extinguished by an aggressive, blitzing defense that kept Deshaun Watson under pressure and often taking hits. Tucker's secondary also proved up for the task, picking off four passes -- including two huge interceptions by Dominick Sanders that kept Gainesville from a 21-0 lead and one that essentially ended the contest. The Tigers possess speed and size and are obviously well-coached. If Tucker does not go on to win the Class AAAAA crown, count us shocked.

3. Buford knows it can absorb a haymaker -- and counter

We knew they were talented, disciplined and dominant, but even with the lopsided manner in which Buford has played this season, one question remained unanswered by the Wolves: How would they react if they got in a close game? Buford answered that question with a comforting response for Wolves fans on Friday. Falling behind 7-0 and 14-7 to an explosive Callaway team before ripping off 17 unanswered points to win going away, 24-14. And you have to figure that number would have been higher had a torrential downpour not made moving the ball almost impossible in the fourth quarter. Just how dominant was Buford in the second half? Consider that Callaway had 161 yards of offense by halftime but finished with just 187 for the game, including zero yards passing in the second half. We had a hard time coming up with the last time Buford trailed in a game -- the 2012 Gainesville loss was the best we could remember -- and when it's been that long, you have to wonder how a team will react when it finally comes across a big test (though the Wolves did win a couple of close games in last year's playoffs). As we saw Friday, there's no reason to worry.

4. Buford's Class AAA championship opponent will be ready for the challenge

Not that we expected any bad teams to make the state semifinal round, but count us very impressed by what Washington County did to Ringgold last week, hammering the Tigers 37-0 to reach the title game. The Golden Hawks have dominated throughout the playoffs and will be itching to test themselves against the reigning champs. It could be a defensive battle, as Washington County allowed just 95 yards in last week's win (though Ringgold's starting quarterback was hampered by a prior knee injury) and is giving up just 10 points per playoff contest -- Buford, meanwhile, is allowing just over six points per postseason game. And while the Golden Hawks are nowhere near Buford's 8 state championships in 12 years, they have a championship pedigree of their own in the program, winning titles in 1994, '96 and '97. It will be Washington County's first state title game appearance since 2004, and we're looking forward to the match-up.

5. C.J. Leggett is a difference-maker for North Gwinnett

Every team that makes a state championship run needs a player (or group of players) that will take over when the going gets tough. The Bulldogs have that guy in running back C.J. Leggett. It's even better that Leggett is a running back. As explosive and tough as the North Gwinnett's spread passing attack is to stop, there is nothing so demoralizing as watching a back gash your defense over and over. Leggett did just that to the McEachern defense in last week's Class AAAAAA semifinal, piling up 289 yards and two touchdowns to lead North Gwinnett to a 27-21 win. Leggett will face another tough test against Norcross in the state championship game this Saturday, but if the Bulldogs are to walk away with the crown, you can bet he will have to play a key role yet again.


Buford 24, Callaway 14

North Gwinnett 27, McEachern 21

Tucker 20, Gainesville 14

At the Georgia Dome, Atlanta

-- 5:30 p.m., Buford vs. Washington County

-- 8:30 p.m. North Gwinnett vs. Norcross
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 2 years ago )
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 2 years ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 2 years ago )
High School Sports
Snelling to make curtain call at East-West Classic (Video)
Ask Walt Snelling about Gainesville football and you will be supplied with a litany of great players and games from a program with an illustrious history.
7:33PM ( 2 years ago )
High School football 2013: Superlatives abound after another special season
After letting it soak in for a few days we
7:42PM ( 2 years ago )
Friday Game Night
Kanaan leads Carb Day practice for Sunday’s Indy 500
He may be starting 18th in Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, but Tony Kanaan believes he has a car that can win the historic race.
By IndyCar Media
1:54AM ( 4 hours ago )
Markakis has 2-run single in 8th, Braves top Marlins 4-2
Nick Markakis hit a tie-breaking, two-run single off third baseman Nick Prado's glove with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning and the Atlanta Braves beat the Miami Marlins 4-2 on Friday night for a rare home win.
By The Associated Press
11:06PM ( 7 hours ago )
Basketball: Area coaches see a 'positive' change to GHSA finals move
The response amongst northeast Georgia's coaches was overwhelmingly positive following the Georgia High School Association's announcement on Thursday that it will no longer hold its annual basketball championship games in the Macon Coliseum.
10:49PM ( 7 hours ago )
Braves recall Garcia, designate Brignac for assignment
Atlanta Braves utility infielder Reid Brignac has been designated for assignment and third baseman Adonis Garcia has been recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett.
By The Associated Press
9:17PM ( 8 hours ago )
VIDEO: Historic postseason brought countless top plays
This year provided perhaps the most successful overall postseason campaign in the history of the sport in this area. And we have compiled some of the best highlights involved in that campaign here...
9:05PM ( 9 hours ago )