County's top teams collide in playoffs

Gwinnett's representatives in the Class AAAAA soccer playoffs will be pared down quickly thanks to the state brackets.

The county's two regions go head-to-head in the first round this year, setting up four Gwinnett vs. Gwinnett matchups in boys and girls playoff openers.

"I always pull for all the (Gwinnett) County teams in the playoffs because I'm good friends with so many coaches," said North Gwinnett girls coach Mark Karen, whose team opens state with Grayson. "So it's tough to see half or more of the Gwinnett teams could be eliminated in the first round."

In addition to North-Grayson, the other Gwinnett clash in the girls first round is Shiloh at Collins Hill, the Region 7-AAAAA champion. On the boys side, Collins Hill travels to 8-AAAAA champ Brookwood and Parkview hosts Duluth.

The remaining Gwinnett playoff teams face Fulton schools in the opening round.

By the time those games are completed, one of the county's two regions will be able to brag that it's stronger than the other.

"I've got a lot of coaching friends in the county, in guys and girls, and a lot of people I respect a lot," said Grayson boys coach Scott Luthart, whose team travels to Centennial in the first round. "I like to see them do well. You're also trying to keep as many schools standing from Region 8 as you can, because it shows what you did in the season was good.

"The longer you have Region 8 teams standing, the better your season looks."

Of Gwinnett's AAAAA teams facing challenges outside the region, Central Gwinnett's boys may have the toughest draw. They open with No. 1 Chattahoochee, which gives them a similar feeling to last year's first round, when they faced top-ranked Walton.

Gwinnett also has seven representatives in the Class AA/A playoffs, including four girls teams - Providence, Greater Atlanta Christian, Buford and Wesleyan. GAC, Buford and Providence qualified for state in AA/A boys.