The Columbus Blue Devils have won their first state playoff football game in 44 years.
In the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA playoffs, the Region 1 third seed Blue Devils prevailed 35-32 Friday night at Salem, the Region 4 second seed.
“It feels great,” said Columbus head coach Phil Marino. “For our kids and our coaching staff, it’s a great accomplishment. . . . We’re just proud of our team.”
The Blue Devils hadn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2015 and hadn’t won a playoff game since 1974, when they beat Richmond Academy 13-7 at home in the Class AAA quarterfinals, then lost 28-14 at Thomasville in the semifinals.
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Columbus improved to 7-4, and Salem finished its season with the same record.
In the 16-team second round, the Blue Devils will play 7:30 p.m. Friday at Region 3 first seed Baldwin, which beat Region 2 fourth seed Perry 39-22. Baldwin is 6-5 but has won six straight after losing its first five games of the year.
Junior running back Tre Peterson scored all five of the Columbus touchdowns, four rushing and one receiving.
“We ran the football pretty well tonight,” Marino said. “. . . Our line played outstanding. (Salem) didn’t surprise us defensively at all.”
Peterson, sidelined with an injury for four games during the middle of the season, has rushed for more than 350 yards the past three games, Marino said.
“He’s back at full speed,” the coach said. “He brings another level to our offense.”
The Blue Devils led the entire game, including 21-6 at halftime and 35-20 after three quarters, then held on as Salem outscored them 12-0 in the fourth quarter.
“Our kids battled all game against a good football team,” Marino said. “. . . Our kids just wanted it more than they did.”
Brookstone 28, Christian Heritage 7
In the first round of the GHSA Class A private-school state playoffs, the visiting Brookstone Cougars won their first playoff game since 2008 and their first road playoff game since 1993.
According to the GHSA Power Ratings, which determined the 24 teams in the Class A private-school playoffs, this was an upset. The Cougars, who improved to 7-4, were ranked No. 21, and the Lions, who were ranked No. 12, finished their season 6-5.
But the Cougars played like this wasn’t an upset. Senior running back Jeremiah Burgess had 21 carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns, junior Clark Smith had 13 carries for 71 yards and one touchdown, sophomore Rylan Cowart had 18 carries for 86 yards, and senior Chris Edmonds had four catches for 104 yards and one touchdown.
“Our defense played great,” said Brookstone head coach Blair Harrison. “(The Lions) had one explosive play the entire game. Our offense protected the ball. We did not have a turnover. I am so happy for our program. We have worked so hard and played an unbelievable schedule the last three weeks (lost 43-39 at Macon County and 63-36 at home against Dooly County).
“Chris Edmonds was unstoppable when we threw it to him. Ben Sloan managed the game very well, and our three running backs all had big nights. But our defense were the stars tonight. They were challenged, and they responded.”
Brookstone’s second-round game will be 7:30 p.m. Friday at fourth-ranked North Cobb Christian (9-1), which received a bye in the first round.
Central 46, Davidson 0
In the first round of the AHSAA Class 7A playoffs, the No. 1 Central Red Devils cruised into the quarterfinals by trouncing the Davidson Warriors at home.
The Red Devils (11-0) next will host McGill-Toolen (9-2), which nipped Prattville 17-13.
Davidson ended its season at 6-5.
Central now has won at least one playoff game in five straight seasons. The Red Devils have lost in the semifinals the past three years — all to McGill-Toolen, including 27-26 in overtime last season.
Chattahoochee County 22, Macon County 12
In the first round of the GHSA Class A public-school state playoffs, the Chattahoochee County Panthers won their first playoff game in nine years.
ChattCo, tied with Charlton County at No. 11 in the GHSA Class A public-school power ratings, improved to 8-3. No. 21 Macon County finished its season 5-6.
The last playoff victory for the Panthers was in 2009, when they edged Seminole County 34-27 at home, then lost 47-18 at Twiggs County in the second round.
The key moment Friday night came with ChattCo ahead by only two points in the third quarter. Junior running back Kyjuan Harris’ 50-yard touchdown run and senior Devion Dotson’s 2-point conversion run made produced the final margin.
Harris also scored in the second quarter, on a 37-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Trevor Erickson.
ChattCo will play in the second round 7:30 p.m. Friday at seventh-ranked Greene County (8-2), which received a first-round bye.
Woodward Academy 55, Carver 40
In this wild first-round GHSA Class AAAA state playoff game, the host Carver Tigers were outscored by the Woodward Academy War Eagles at Kinnett Stadium.
Carver, the Region 1 second seed, finished the year 9-2 — its best record since 2015, when the Tigers also lost in the first round. Their last playoff victory was in 2016, when they beat Cross Creek 35-6 at home, then lost in the second round 24-21 at Blessed Trinity.
Woodward Academy, the Region 4 third seed, improved to 7-4.
Eastside 41, Hardaway 23
In the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs, the visiting Hardaway Hawks couldn’t recover from their 20-7 deficit in the first quarter, but they forced the undefeated Eastside Eagles to exert themselves all game.
Hardaway, the Region 1 fourth seed, finished its season 6-5. Eastside, the Region 4 first seed, improved to 11-0.
It was the first playoff appearance for the Hawks since 2010, when they lost in the first round 42-9 at Starr’s Mill. Their last playoff victory was in 1998, a 42-28 win at home against North Clayton, followed by a 44-21 loss at Dougherty in the second round.
Rabun County 65, Spencer 0
In the first round of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs, the visiting Spencer Greenwaves were routed by the Rabun County Wildcats.
Spencer, the Region 5 fourth seed, finished its season 3-8, winning three of its final five regular-season games after starting the year 0-5. Rabun County, the Region 8 first seed, improved to 10-1.
The Greenwaves were in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, but their last playoff victory was in 2015, when they won 47-34 at Washington County, followed by a 22-12 loss at Dawson County in the second round.
Dutchtown 35, Harris County 0
In the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAA state playoffs, the visiting Harris County Tigers were blanked by the Dutchtown Bulldogs.
Harris County, the Region 1 fourth seed, finished the year 4-7. The Tigers made the playoffs despite losing their first four games as. they won four of their final six regular-season games. Dutchtown, the Region 4 first seed, improved to 11-0.
The Tigers were making their second straight appearance in the postseason but haven’t won a playoff game since 2014, a 33-31 home victory over Warner Robins, followed by a 49-40 home loss to Gainesville in the second round.
Emanuel County Institute 42, Manchester 20
In the first round of the GHSA Class A public-school playoffs, the visiting Manchester Blue Devils were tied 20-20 at halftime, but the ECI Bulldogs dominated the second half.
Manchester, ranked No. 20 in the power ratings, finished its season 6-5. ECI, ranked No. 13, improved to 7-4.
This was Manchester’s fourth straight playoff appearance. The Blue Devils reached the quarterfinals in 2016 and 2017.
Bessemer 36, Glenwood 29
In the AISA Class AAA semifinals, the visiting Glenwood Gators fell in overtime to the Bessemer Rebels.
Glenwood ended its season 5-7. Bessemer improved to 9-3.
The Gators were in the playoffs for the fifth straight year, going 1-1 in the postseason for the second time in three seasons after losing in the first round last year.
Community Christian 45, Calvary Christian 20
In the GICAA Class AAA semifinals, the visiting Calvary Christian Knights hung in there, trailing only 10-6 with a minute before halftime, but they couldn’t keep those other Knights from Community Christian contained.
Calvary finished their season 6-6. Community Christian improved to 9-3.
Statistical leaders for Calvary were Darius Durham (110 yards passing), Aaron Christopher (60 yards receiving and two rushing touchdowns) and Tyler Watkins (85 yards rushing).
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.