It's rare that the Class AAAAA boys soccer playoffs approach and the consensus state title favorites don't include immediate talk of Gwinnett teams.
But that may be the case this year.
The county's AAAAA boys teams begin the state playoffs tonight in somewhat of an underdog role, as many in the soccer community view the favorites as top-ranked Chattahoochee, No. 2 Harrison, No. 3 North Cobb and No. 5 Walton.
"I definitely think (the Gwinnett teams) are (the underdogs)," Brookwood boys coach Danny Klinect said. "I think Gwinnett County is viewed by North Fulton and Cobb (County) as old school and that we've kind of lost our edge. You don't hear Brookwood and Parkview mentioned for state titles as much.
"We talked (Monday) at practice about that. I just said, 'Let everybody talk. You guys have something to prove. People don't think we have much, so you have an opportunity to prove you deserve to be in the Final Four.'"
Sixth-ranked Brookwood is one of seven AAAAA boys teams from Gwinnett in the state playoffs. The Broncos open up against No. 13 Northview tonight.
Region 8-AAAAA champion Parkview, ranked fourth in AAAAA, hosts Centennial in today's opener.
Eighth-ranked Peachtree Ridge, the top seed from 7-AAAAA, also is at home tonight against Campbell while Norcross hosts Etowah.
Gwinnett's other AAAAA teams face tougher first-round foes, with Central Gwinnett going to No. 5 Walton, South Gwinnett going to No. 1 Chattahoochee (on Wednesday) and No. 7 Collins Hill facing No. 3 North Cobb.
"It is nice (to be the underdog) because there's no pressure on us," Collins Hill boys coach Stan Carpenter said. "If we lose, we're supposed to. It takes the pressure off and it fires up the boys. They're excited."
In tonight's only local AAAA game, 11th-ranked Dacula also has a tough task in No. 8 Tucker. The Falcons also qualified in the girls bracket, opening the tourney Wednesday at top-ranked St. Pius.
Wednesday also features the start of the postseason for the county's AAAAA girls teams, including No. 1 Parkview and No. 3 Brookwood. The unbeaten Panthers (17-0) host Roswell, and the Broncos host No. 7 Walton in what is, rankings-wise, one of the most intriguing first-round matchups.
North Gwinnett also has a first-round home game against Woodstock, while the other AAAAA girls teams are on the road - No. 11 Collins Hill is at No. 2 Kennesaw Mountain, No. 10 Grayson is at No. 6 Pope, No. 9 Norcross is at No. 12 Harrison and Central Gwinnett is at No. 4 Milton.
Gwinnett will have just two teams each in the AA/A bracket because of changes made in the smallest classification's playoff format. Defending AA/A boys champion GAC hosts Athens Academy on Thursday, while the defending state runner-up Providence boys travel to North Oconee.
On Friday, the Providence girls begin defense of their AA/A state title with a home game against North Oconee. The Buford girls begin the state playoffs at Athens Academy.
SideBar: Soccer Playoffs
First-round matchups in the state
high school soccer tournaments:
Class AAAAA boys
7:30 p.m. - Campbell at Peachtree Ridge
7:30 p.m. - Centennial at Parkview
7:30 p.m. - Collins Hill at North Cobb
7:30 p.m. - Etowah at Norcross
7:55 p.m. - Central Gwinnett at Walton
8 p.m. - Northview at Brookwood
Class AAAA boys
7:30 p.m. - Tucker at Dacula
Class AAAAA boys
7 p.m. - South Gwinnett at Chattahoochee
Class AAAAA girls
6:30 p.m. - Central Gwinnett at Milton
6:30 p.m. - Collins Hill at Kennesaw Mountain
6:30 p.m. - Norcross at Harrison
7 p.m. - Woodstock at North Gwinnett
7:30 p.m. - Grayson at Pope
7:30 p.m. - Roswell at Parkview
7:30 p.m. - Walton at Brookwood
Class AAAA girls
5 p.m. - Dacula at St. Pius