By Ryan Rohde
1.) Seminole Seminoles (Sanford, Florida)
Led by the “Big Three”, the ‘Noles made an improbable run that ended with the Class 6A state championship. Ray Ray Armstrong, Andre Dubose and Dyron Dye used their versatility on both offense and defense to upset Miami Northwestern in the title game, 28-21. The ‘Noles amassed a 13-2 record after going 4-5 in ’07 and failing to make the playoffs. Dye and Armstrong will play at Miami together while Dubose will be a Florida Gator.
2.) Osbourn Eagles (Manassas, Virginia)
They weren’t expected to win their first playoff game, or the second, or the third for that matter, but that is exactly what the Eagles did on their way to the Class AAA Div. 6 title game. After a 3-4 start, the Eagles won their final three games and rode that momentum into the playoffs. The 6-4 regular season gave the Eagles the fourth and final playoff berth in the Northwestern regional playoffs. When the dust settled, Osbourn found themselves in the title game, posting playoff wins over three undefeated teams before falling in the finals to national power Oscar Smith, 54-24.
3.) Phillip Ely, QB, Plant Panthers (Tampa, Florida)
The Plant faithful might have believed that their season was about to go down the tubes when star quarterback Aaron Murray went down with a broken leg at midseason. But that is where backup Phillip Ely stepped in.
The sophomore stands only 5-10 and 150 lbs. and had big shoes to fill, but the emerging star came through for his team. Ely led Plant to a 7-0 record and a playoff berth. Perhaps Ely’s shining moment was the victory over local rival and national power Armwood for the region title, something Murray was never able to accomplish in his career. Ely threw for 143 yards and two scores in the 17-14 win. Murray returned to action the following week and led Plant to the Class 4A state title. Ely finished his short stint at quarterback completing 60% of his passes and throwing for 1,726 yards and 19 touchdowns.
4.) Woodstock Wolverines (Woodstock, Georgia)
After starting the season 2-4, no one gave the Wolverines much of a shot at the playoffs, let alone a playoff run. But Woodstock made history by posting the program's first playoff win in only its second playoff appearance. Woodstock handed Walton its first home loss since the '06 season and knocked out a talented Norcross team. The dream ended as the Wolverines almost upset eventual state champion Camden County in the region championship, falling 18-17.
5.) Buford Wolves (Buford, Georgia)
It's tough to say that a Buford team could be a surprise, but the Wolves won their second straight Class AA state title in impressive fashion. Buford is a title contender year in and year out, but the ’08 team was not expected to steamroll to the championship like they did. The Wolves graduated five all-state players from the 15-0 squad of last year and returned just four starters in ’08.
But Buford doesn’t rebuild, they reload. Boosted by a dominating offensive and defensive lines, the team's average margin of victory this year was 31 points, and the defense posted five shutouts, all in consecutive games. The closest Buford came to defeat was against Blessed Trinity, a solid league rival who took Buford to the wire, 14-10. The Wolves defeated Calhoun, 45-21, for the state crown and extended their win streak to 30 games.
To contact correspondent Ryan Rohde, send an e-mail to email@example.com.