0

Tourneys give JV, 9th-grade teams an incentive

Through the years it's happened countless times in many sports at the high school level.

Ninth-grade and junior varsity players compete in games to get better and to hopefully reach the varsity level, but they don't always have an ultimate team goal. There isn't always a playoff system with a goal, a championship.

Enter the Gwinnett JV/Ninth Grade Football Playoff Series, now in its third season. It provides a large number of the county's JV and ninth-grade football players a playoff-type atmosphere as they try to advance through a late-season bracket.

The schools involved in the series - Brookwood, Buford, Central Gwinnett, Grayson, Loganville, Parkview, Shiloh and South Gwinnett - played four regular-season games for seeding followed by three playoff games that concludes Thursday night with championship games.

"The big thing is it adds something to the ninth-grade and JV games," said Brookwood head coach Mark Crews, who introduced a format for the playoff system prior to the 2005 season. "They were just playing sometimes to get in their seven games. Now in your first four games you're trying to win to determine your seed in the tournament. Then once you start the three-game playoff you're playing to try to win the bracket."

The current format features almost entirely Region 8-AAAAA schools, with Loganville and Buford filling in for Berkmar and Meadowcreek, which aren't involved because of their difficulty finding enough players to compete with both JV and ninth-grade teams.

Crews said he wants to look into expanding the playoff series in the future, with the possible addition of the remaining county schools from 7-AAAAA.

"What would really be cool is to play the four-game season, then determine our best four (teams) and let Region 7 determine who their best four are, then our best teams would play their best teams," Crews said. "But that would take a lot of logistical work to make it happen."

Crews' program has teams in both the JV and ninth-grade title games. Brookwood hosts Buford on Thursday for the JV championship and travels to Parkview for the ninth-grade finals.

The Broncos earned the top seed in the JV bracket, while fellow finalist Buford was the No. 2 seed.

In the ninth-grade bracket, Brookwood was the No. 2 seed while Parkview entered as the No. 4 team, but upset top-seeded South Gwinnett in last week's semifinals.

SideBar: PREP FOOTBALL

What: Gwinnett JV/Ninth Grade Football Playoff Series

When: Thursday, 6 p.m.

Where: Local high school stadiums

Schedule:

Ninth Grade

' Brookwood at Parkview, championship game

' Grayson at Buford

' South Gwinnett at Shiloh

' Central Gwinnett at Loganville

Junior Varsity

' Buford at Brookwood, championship game

' Loganville at Grayson

' Parkview at South Gwinnett

' Shiloh at Central Gwinnett