Whitten Celebrates TD

George Walton running back Jake Whitten (4) celebrates with his lineman after scoring a touchdown in last week’s 28-25 win Sweet 16 win over Christian Heritage.

Game of the Week

  • Who: George Walton (9-2, No. 3 in 8-A Private) at Calvary Day (7-3, No. 2 in 3-A Private)
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
  • Where: M.C. Anderson Field, Savannah
  • Series: First matchup between the two
  • Last: N/A

George Walton Academy’s recent run of football success is doing a number on the school’s travel budget.

Having driven to Atlanta for the first round of the Class A state private school playoffs two weeks ago, the Bulldogs ventured to the upper reaches of northwest Georgia last Friday.

This week, they’ll go in the opposite direction as they head southeast to Savannah to face Calvary Day in the state quarterfinals Friday night

Such are the perils of being a third seed. But neither the GWA coaches nor players are complaining.

“Somebody’s got to travel,” said Bulldogs head coach Shane Davis. “We’re just glad to still be playing.”

The game will represent the latest date GWA has played a football game in the school’s 50-plus-year history and just the second time they’ve made the third round since joining the Georgia High School Association. The last was in 2012 when it lost to top-ranked Eagle’s Landing Christian.

This time, the Bulldogs will be the only ranked team, despite being a lower seed, and might actually be considered a favorite to advance to the semifinals for the second time ever.

Calvary finished runner-up in Region 3-A, a league with just four teams, ending the regular season with a 6-4 mark. It advanced to the second round after first-round opponent Landmark Christian had to forfeit because of COVID-19.

Last Friday, the Cavaliers upset First Presbyterian, the champ from Region 1-A.

Like GWA, Calvary is led by a freshman quarterback. Jake Merklinger was faced with filling the shoes of Thomas Carver, who also started as a ninth-grader for the Cavaliers and finished an illustrious career with over 6,500 yards passing.

Merklinger has thrown for 1,664 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Calvary also features a powerful rushing attack, led by senior Greg Daniel, who has run for 1,173 yards and 12 TDs.

GWA’s young signal caller Gavin Hall has been impressive in his first season of varsity action. He eclipsed 1,000 yards passing in last week’s win over Heritage Christian and he’s second on the team in rushing with over 600 yards.

He’s part of a quartet of runners who’ve made the Bulldogs’ running game unstoppable at times. The other three include seniors Jackson Ellerbee and Jake Whitten and junior Laythan Folgman. The four have totaled nearly 3,000 yards rushing.

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