Central hosting first football playoff game since 1992

The night was Nov. 20, 1992.

Current Central Gwinnett head football coach Bradley Warren was still in college and the Black Knights were still in their heyday under longtime coach Tally Johnson when Central hosted Brookwood in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs. The '92 game ended in a Central loss, but it ended up being notable for another reason, because it was the last time the Lawrenceville program hosted a playoff game.

Until Friday.

Thanks to Walton's upset of top-seeded Harrison and the Black Knights' win over No. 2 seed Collins Hill last week, Central has earned a home playoff game in this week's AAAAA second round against Walton. Warren's team broke one drought with a thrilling 17-14 win over Collins Hill - it was Central's first playoff win since 1993 - and it will end another streak this week by hosting the first home playoff game in 13 years.

As he prepared to hop in his truck after the Collins Hill game, Warren wasn't sure about his team's second-round foe. Then he got a cell phone call from Walton head coach Ed Dudley, who informed him of the upset.

"It's huge to be at home," Warren said. "These kids have never played in a home playoff game. I don't even think they've seen one. The kids are really excited. The community's really excited. We're 5-0 at home right now so hopefully we can keep that up."

If not for the courtesy shown by Dudley, Friday's game might have been played at another Gwinnett stadium.

The Georgia High School Association's new seating guidelines call for 6,000 seats to host a AAAAA playoff game - the organization also allots a 24-inch width per seat rather than 18 inches as in the past - and Central falls under that limit. The stands at Tally Johnson Field hold somewhere close to 4,000 fans.

However, in the first two rounds the visiting team can waive the seating requirements and Dudley did just that, allowing Central to get its home playoff game. Warren appreciated the measure and would have done the same for Dudley, adding that he isn't fond of the new seating guidelines.

"I feel like the seating requirements are way too high in many instances," Warren said. "If it's a state championship game you might need that many seats, but you don't always. Nobody wants the game moved to a neutral site and play in front of 50 people. We have a good atmosphere here, a small, nice stadium. It's going to be loud. I think (Dudley's) going to set a standard (by waiving the requirements).

"We should have a nice crowd. There's still a small-town atmosphere in Lawrenceville. The bleachers go right down to the sidelines. It's going to be fun."