Commerce at Irwin County
When: 7:30 Friday night
Where: Indian Field, Ocilla
Coaches: Commerce, Michael Brown; Irwin County, Buddy Nobles
Records: Class A Public No. 6 Commerce (10-2); Class A Public No. 2 Irwin County (10-1-1)
Key players: Commerce, RB/LB Will Thomas (6-0, 210 So.); RB/S Cole Chancey (5-10, 175 So.); RB/CB Grant Mayberry (Sr.). Irwin County, RB/DB Robert Moore (5-8, 185 Sr.); RB/DB Ty Hogan (5-10, 160 So.); QB Zac Tolar (6-0, 163 So.).
Outlook: Commerce has allowed a total of seven points in its two playoff games following a 10-0 quarterfinal victory against Calhoun County last week and a 37-7 win against Clinch County in its postseason opener.
The Tigers’ offense cooled from its torrid late-season pace, scoring fewer than 37 points for the first time since a 48-27 loss at Prince Avenue Christian on Oct. 3. But Commerce’s defense carried the day as it extended its winning streak to six games.
The Tigers are making their first state semifinal appearance since 2006, when they lost 21-3 to Lincoln County at the Georgia Dome, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. Commerce will be seeking its first state championship game appearance since 2000, when it won its second state title.
Irwin County is aiming for its first state championship game trip since it lost in the Class A finale in 1997. The Indians won their lone state title when they earned the Class A crown after a 13-0 season in 1975.
Irwin County took advantage of five Dooly County turnovers in a 40-29 victory last week, following up a 28-0 triumph against Atkinson County in the first round.
Thomas paces Commerce’s ground game with 884 yards and 10 touchdowns, followed by Chancey (794 yards, 7 rushing TDs) and Mayberry (789 yards, 7 rushing TDs). Quarterback Caleb Brooks has a team-high 13 rushing scores and 610 yards on the ground.
J’Varius Wood has pulled in 12 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
Derek Benoit leads the Tigers with 91 tackles, with Jesse Underhile totaling 89 and Dontavius Mosley and Chancey each registering 72. Chancey has a team-best six fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a score, while the other three top tacklers each have one fumble recovery.
Commerce is averaging 31.8 points while allowing 15.3 per contest. That includes shutting out three opponents and allowing two others to score only seven points.
Irwin County has scored 35.4 points per game and allowed 13.7. The Indians also have three shutouts by their defense and two contests where opponents have scored just seven points.
Clinch County is the teams’ lone common opponent. Irwin County defeated Clinch County 47-7 on Sept. 19.
Nobles is in his first season as Irwin County’s coach.