Thomson, Langston Hughes make history with GHSA championship wins
As the Georgia High School Association football championship weekend continued on Friday, the day begin with the Class 2A title game as the defending champions, the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricanes faced the Thomas Bulldogs. After the two teams matched touchdowns in the first quarter, it would be a big defensive stop by Thomson’s Cervuntes Felts in the fourth quarter as he would come up a sack of Fitzgerald quarterback Sulton Cooper, forcing the Purple Hurricanes to punt as they trailed 26-21.
On the ensuing Bulldogs possession, with Fitzgerald needing a stop, the Purple Hurricanes would have Thomson backed up deep in their own territory on third and 11, however, Thomson running back, Jontavious Curry would take the direct snap and elude defenders en route to a 83 yard touchdown run, his fourth rushing score of the night, giving the Bulldogs a 32-21 lead. They would go on to pick up the 32-27 win for their first state title since 2002. The win also hold significance for head coach, Michael Youngblood, as he was the first black head coach hired by Thomas five seasons ago.
“Proud of our kids for not getting rattled. There were many opportunities we could’ve gotten rattled and got a little bit off balance, but we kept chipping away, kept chipping away, kept chipping away and man, it’s good. 2022 state champs,” Youngblood said following the win. Following the Thomson win, defending 4A champions, the Benedictine Cadets would successfully retain their title after they defeated Cedartown 14-13. The night would end with another historic moment in the 6A championship game in which the Langston Hughes Panthers took on the Gainesville Red Elephants.
With the first quarter of the nightcap ending with Hughes up 3-0 on the Red Elephants, the second period of play would begin with Gainesville adding a field goal of their own to tie the game up. However the quarter would end with the Panthers outscoring the Red Elephants 20-3 to take a 23-6 lead into the locker room at the half. Hughes quarterback, Prentiss “Air” Noland engineer the scoring spree throwing for all three touchdowns the Panthers had in the second quarter.
And while Gainesville would strike first in the third quarter, cutting the Hughes lead down to 10 as they trailed 23-13, the Panthers would only answer back with a touchdown of their own as Noland would rush for another touchdown, giving him four total on the night and with a completed two point conversion, the Hughes would take a 29-16 lead. The two teams would trade a few more touchdowns, however, the Red Elephants would not come up with the needed defensive stop and would eventually run out of time, falling to the Panthers 35-28.
The win marks the first time the Langston Hughes Panthers football program has won a state championship. “I can’t say enough of how proud I am of these kids,” Hughes head coach, Daniel “Boone” Williams said after the win as he thanked the school’s community for their support along their journey to winning the 6A crown. “You have to been in South Fulton to understand how much it means to be in South Fulton, and to go out and win one for South Fulton, that’s huge,” Williams said of the large number of supporters, many not members of the Langston Hughes community itself, that came out to stand behind the Panthers, cheering them on to victory. The Panthers wrapped up the 2022 season at 15-0 after the win, meanwhile Friday’s loss was the first for Gainesville as they finished at 14-1.