By Will Hammock
Parity, a word often used to describe college and pro football, is also getting better than ever at the youth level here in Gwinnett.
The Gwinnett Football League has made a special effort to promote equality among its teams, and the result will be on display in Saturday's county title games at Buford.
Instead of youth organizations stacking all the top players on one team, the league worked to ensure more balance through more strict draft rules and draft monitoring.
"Parity is reigning in the GFL," league president Erik Richards said. "In three age groups (in the county finals), we've got an association playing their own association for the title. That shows stacking's not going on, we're getting the splits pretty even.
"It takes away that travel ball mentality, where a coach can load up one team and run over everybody."
The age groups Richards mentioned are the 6-year-olds (Dacula South vs. Dacula North), the 10-year-olds (Loganville East vs. Loganville North) and the 12-year-olds (Parkview East vs. Parkview South).
In what's also a rare occurrence, neither Buford nor Brookwood has a team in a county final.
"People look at that and think Brookwood's down," Richards said. "Brookwood's just done a much better job of splitting their teams fairly."
The county's champions in the 12-year-old and eighth-grade level advance from this weekend to the upcoming Chick-fil-A Junior Peach Bowl at Georgia Tech. The eighth-grade final features Mill Creek North vs. North Gwinnett South. The Division II eighth-grade final also is a Mill Creek-North matchup.
The major difference in this year's event is the addition of a 6-year-old age group. The 6- and 7-year-olds were previously in the same division, which often meant the 6-year-olds saw minimal game action.
"I think in the long run that's going to increase our returning 6-year-old participants," Richards said.
The GFL also will continue its tradition of awarding college scholarships to the league's football and cheerleading alumni. Richards said a total of 48 scholarships (one as big as $3,000) will be awarded during Saturday's competition. The organization's total scholarship fund this year is around $20,000.