The 2021 Georgia high school football season is in the books, with Collins Hill, Buford, Warner Robins, Benedictine, Cedar Grove, Fitzgerald, Brooks County and Trinity Christian emerging as state champions.
Not surprisingly, those eight teams are represented very well on our list of the top 20 players of the postseason.
And Collins Hill still has one more national game to play — Saturday in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series in Las Vegas.
(Photos by Cecil Copeland)
Ty Anderson, Thomasville LB
The highlight of a playoff run full of them for Anderson was his performance against Gunner Stockton and Rabun County. He was the leader of a defense that shut down the record-breaking quarterback. And even though Thomasville came one game short of a state championship, Anderson still made 13.5 tackles in the final against Fitzgerald.
Omari Arnold, Brooks County RB
Arnold had a huge game in the state semifinals, rushing for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. But he saved his best for last, rushing for 320 yards and five touchdowns on 21 carries in a 56-28 win over Irwin County for the A Public state championship. The total broke Herschel Walker's state finals record of 318 yards in 1979.
CJ Clinkscales, Buford RB/DB
Clinkscales earned his stars as a defensive back, which is where he's likely to play at Boston College, but he became Buford's workhorse running back during the playoffs, especially close to the goal line. And besides his prowess running the ball and defending wide receivers, he was also a dangerous kick returner.
Mo Clipper, Milton OL
Jordan McDonald is the one racking up most of the yardage in Milton's ground-heavy attack, but the Eagles' big offensive line — led by Mo Clipper — paves the way. Clipper, who signed Wednesday with Tennessee, anchored arguably the most dominant offensive line throughout Milton's playoff run to the state championship game.
Jaiden Credle, Carver-Columbus RB
Carver-Columbus fell one game short of winning the Class 4A state championship, but it didn't go without Credle's A game. He racked up another 184 yards and two touchdowns against Benedictine, his fourth straight game going over 100 yards rushing.
David Dallas, Trinity Christian QB
Dallas' favorite target is usually his brother Josh, but he and Aaron Gates were a lethal combo in Trinity Christian's state championship win over Prince Avenue Christian. David Dallas was a force defenses couldn't reckon with throughout the playoffs, with his biggest week coming against Darlington when he threw for 339 yards and five touchdowns, including three to his brother in a 56-7 win.
Kyle Efford, Dacula RB/LB
Efford was the heart and soul of a team that made an impressive run to the state semifinals, where Dacula lost to Langston Hughes. Whether it was amassing rushing yards and touchdowns, making big tackles or snagging a one-handed interception, Efford was all over the field for Dacula in the playoffs.
DeNorris Goodwin, Fitzgerald RB
Fitzgerald ran the ball down the throats of its opposition all the way to a state championship, and Goodwin was the bell cow. Running alongside EJ Lightsey, there was no more dominant running team in the playoffs at any classification than Fitzgerald. Goodwin had 33 carries for 175 yards and two touchdowns to help control the clock and the game in beating Thomasville for the 2A title.
Josh Horton, Langston Hughes DL
Langston Hughes' magical run to the state championship game was led by its defense, and no one affected the game more than dominant defensive lineman Josh Horton. Even when the junior wasn't sacking the quarterback or making tackles for losses, he was setting them up for his teammates by drawing blockers. He's in line for a huge senior year for a team that returns a lot of talent.
Eddrick Houston, Buford DE
It's fitting that Houston would follow Horton alphabetically, as they'll be two of the best defensive linemen in Georgia next season. Only a sophomore, Houston was a one-man wrecking crew rushing the passer for Buford in the playoffs. He started in the first round with two sacks and multiple tackles for loss against Kell and kept games like that coming all the way to Buford's third straight state championship.
Travis Hunter, Collins Hill WR/DB
Hunter returned from a long injury layoff in the second round against Pebblebrook, and the No. 1-ranked senior in the nation looked like he hadn't missed a beat. He caught a 48-yard TD pass from Sam Horn and made an interception. And he saved his best playoff game for last, forcing a fumble and making 10 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown to help Collins Hill win its first state championship.
Kayin Lee, Cedar Grove DB
Yes, there are all the interceptions and pass breakups for Lee, but what stands out when you watch his film are the hits. They're big. Really big. And they come one after another. He was a big-play machine in the state championship win over Carver-Atlanta, but throughout the playoffs the junior Georgia commit stood out as the best defender on the field.
Quintavious Lockett, Carver-Atlanta RB
When Lockett comes out of the huddle you expect him to take a spot on the offensive line. Nope. He lines up in the backfield, and once he gets the ball and takes off, you realize he's a born running back. A playoff highlight for the bruising Lockett was rushing for all three of Carver-Atlanta’s touchdowns in a 19-17 win over Pierce County in the state semifinals.
Jordan McDonald, Milton RB
McDonald had a rock-solid regular season and then got even hotter in the playoffs, including rushing for 159 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries to beat Walton in the semifinals. The Central Florida signee helped control the clock through one half in the state championship game before Collins Hill took over.
Fred Perry, Warner Robins RB/DB
Perry inherited the starting job at running back after Malcolm Brown went down with a season-ending injury, and the two-way star more than ran with it. He ran for 926 yards and 16 touchdowns in the playoffs while routinely coming up with big plays on defense, including making a team-high 10 tackles in the state championship win over Calhoun.
Asani Redwood, Collins Hill DE
The Collins Hill offense has gotten a lot of the headlines this season, but the defense has been something else, especially the front seven. And that front was led by Asani Redwood, a pass rusher who always seems to affect the play even when he isn't making it. He'll try to parlay his dominant postseason to a quick start as a college football player at West Virginia.
Nathaniel Sanford, Warner Robins DT
Shout-outs are well-warranted here for linebacker Jay Carter, who made the goal-line stop to preserve a win over Cartersville, and Vic Burley, a nightmare for opposing quarterback and runners. But we're going with Burley's partner in crime on the defensive line in Sanford, who was unblockable during the playoffs and even rumbled for a touchdown on a blocked punt in the championship game.
Rodney Shelley Jr., Langston Hughes WR/DB
Whether on offense or defense, Shelley was a big-play machine this postseason. He had three touchdown catches in Langston Hughes' semifinal win over Dacula, and he returned an interception 50 yards in the state championship game against Buford. He also returned a punt 64 yards for a TD against Shiloh and made two more interceptions in a blowout win over Northside.
Cole Speer, Calhoun WR/DB
Speer was a human highlight reel during the playoffs, whether making long touchdown runs or snagging one-handed interceptions. He was routinely in the middle of the action for Calhoun, absorbing big hits and getting up every time while leading the Yellowjackets to the 5A state championship game.
Justin Thomas, Benedictine RB/DB
Thomas usually does most of his damage as a runner, but he was the top receiver in Benedictine's 4A state championship win over Carver-Columbus. He and teammate Za'Quan Bryan were constant menaces running and catching the ball, and then on defense they became lockdown corners. As good as Thomas was on the football field this postseason, he's signed to play baseball for Georgia.