The GMC Prep Bulldogs (3-2 region, 6-4 overall) booked a spot in the GHSA Class A-Public state playoffs with a 38-13 win over the visiting ACE Charter Gryphons Friday night.
The home team made history with their win, earning their first postseason berth since 2002. The ‘Dogs overcame a slow start with a second-half surge to clinch the third seed in their region, finally putting an end to their 18-year playoff drought.
Second-year GMC Prep head coach Lee Coleman was brought to tears of joy following the emotional victory.
“It is so surreal,” Coleman told The Union-Recorder after Friday’s game. “We started off rough, down by 10 at the half. In the third quarter, we changed the momentum.”
It was a shaky start for the crowd favorites in the opening period as ACE’s Kaylun Palmer ran in a pick-six to give his visiting squad an early lead.
Palmer, ACE’s main weapon, had an incredible night, logging double-digit catches and two touchdowns. He caught his second touchdown toward the end of the first half.
Mistakes plagued the Bulldogs as they threw picks and fumbled the ball on several occasions in the early going. Meanwhile, ACE wide receivers Palmer and Sam Whitley dominated the GMC secondary with a plethora of productive catch-and-run sequences.
A lone field goal from GMC kicker Levi Ward gave the home team its only points of the first two quarters. The Bulldogs trailed 13-3 at halftime.
“We were beating ourselves, throwing a pick-six and fumbling again and again,” Coleman said. “At halftime, we talked about taking care of the football and running it down their throat.”
And that is exactly what the Bulldogs did.
In the third period, GMC got massive contributions from several players. Running backs Yasir Saleem and Jessie Washington gave the ‘Dogs big boosts, each scoring a touchdown of their own.
GMC sophomore quarterback Tyler Saunders also threw a beautiful touchdown pass to freshman receiver Noah Williams to shift the home team’s momentum
The Bulldog defense took it up a gear as well, increasing their pressure on opposing quarterback Tate Brown. Washington made more contributions on the defensive side of the ball, recovering a fumble and an onside kick to highlight an electric performance.
GMC seniors MJ Ingram and Jackson Miller recorded several tackles, helping their team to a second-half shutout that allowed the Bulldogs to go on a 35-0 run through the last two quarters.
The energy continued to shift in favor of the ‘Dogs as Washington opened the fourth quarter with his second touchdown rush of the evening. His 12-yard score was preceded by a 20-yard sprint from Saleem.
The ball-carrying duo continued to make things happen as the game wore on. Saleem capped off his explosive night with a 50-yard touchdown run near the end of the contest. The GMC junior rushed for over 100 yards during his unbelievable outing.
It was an incredible team effort from the Bulldogs, highlighted by a dominant running display in the second half.
GMC tight end Travion Woods also contributed with some key catches down the stretch. Meanwhile, Ward went a perfect six-for-six on kicks, nailing five PATS and a lone field goal attempt.
The Bulldogs have shown their resiliency all season long, and they will look to continue their inspiring play in the upcoming postseason.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Coleman said. “They’ve always been counted out, but they made history.”
GMC Prep will take to the road next week to open the GHSA Class A-Public state playoffs against Gordon Lee, the runner-up out of Region 6.