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GFL titles on line Saturday

The task of managing so many youngsters - more than 6,000 football players and more than 3,500 cheerleaders - alone is quite a challenge.

Whittling those 255 football teams into nine county champions is just as difficult.

Somehow the Gwinnett Football League, the county's official feeder system for high school football programs, and its administrators manage to pull it off. The organization's playoff plan is one of the league's crown jewels and it culminates with Saturday's title games at North Gwinnett.

"The biggest thing I get from other organizations throughout the country is how with our size that we're able to have a playoff system like we do," GFL president Erik Richards said. "(Other leagues) have trouble coming up with a true champion from their county or their region. But with four rounds of playoffs we're able to name a champion in each age group."

The league for 6-year-olds up to eighth-graders has flourished over the years, fueling Gwinnett's success at the high school level and turning out a ton of college players.

"You're going to see the Ean Pembertons, the Nick Lombardos, the Joseph Champaigns, the Cody Getzes, the Dallas Lees in the GFL, the kids who are currently starring at the high school level," Richards said. "You're going to see them all in one place on Saturday."

Richards and the GFL stress balance among its organizations, opting to split the top players among each park's teams rather than stacking the best on one team to make a run for the county title. He praised Dacula's 7-year-olds for sending three teams deep into the playoffs.

Several other interesting storylines have emerged for Saturday's games.

The 10-year-old Dacula NL East team is seeking an unprecedented fourth straight county title, while Richards and his Peachtree Ridge NL North team is facing a 12-year-old Mill Creek NL South team coached by Deric Governale, his former high school teammate at Duluth.

Lilburn, a combination of feeder programs into Berkmar and Meadowcreek, has its first finalist in the 11-year-old bracket despite being a No. 15 seed (out of 16). The league also has its first No. 16 seed to ever reach a final, the 10-year-old Buford NL East Wolves.

And maybe the most unique situation is in Eighth Grade Division II, where Mill Creek AL North plays Mill Creek NL North. Both teams are coached by Rod Dollar, who has to figure out how to coach against himself.

"He's taking a very non-committal role," Richards said. "I don't envy him. He's planning to be in the box, calling the offense for both teams."

Saturday's action begins at 8 a.m. with the 6-year-old division, leading up to the eighth-grade championship game at 8 p.m. - the last of nine title games.

SideBar: YOUTH FOOTBALL

What: Gwinnett Football League county championship games

When: Saturday

Where: North Gwinnett

Championship matchups:

· 8 a.m. - 6-year-old finals

Shiloh AL North vs. Peachtree Ridge NL North

· 9:30 a.m. - 7-year-old finals

Lawrenceville AL North vs. Dacula NL East

· 11 a.m. - 8-year-old finals

Dacula NL South vs. Mill Creek NL North

· 12:30 p.m. - 9-year-old finals

North Gwinnett NL East vs. Shiloh AL North

· 2 p.m. - 10-year-old finals

Dacula NL East vs. Buford NL East

· 3:30 p.m. - 8th Grade Division II finals

Mill Creek AL North vs. Mill Creek NL North

· 5 p.m. - 11-year-old finals

Dacula NL South vs. Lilburn AL East

· 6:30 p.m. - 12-year-old finals

Mill Creek NL South vs. Peachtree Ridge NL North

· 8 p.m. - Eighth grade finals

Parkview AL South vs. Brookwood AL South

AWARD WINNERS

The Gwinnett Football League will hand out $21,000 in scholarship money to former football players and cheerleaders at Saturday's championships. The GFL also will honor four Kyle Maynard Courage Award winners for overcoming adversity. The honorees are as follows:

Kyle Maynard Courage Award winners

Patrick Lambright, Mill Creek

Daniel Milton, Mill Creek

Erica Gray, Brookwood

Kayla Craft, Brookwood

GFL Scholarship recipients

Jessica Wilson, Buford

Adrian Hall, Buford

Elizabeth Corbin, Buford

Hunter Jones, Buford

Wesley Holman, Buford

Kyle Martin, Buford

Landon Anderson, Buford

Celia Ann Cheatham, Buford

Ryan Reed, Buford

Lindsay Chester, Central Gwinnett

Brittney Parham, Central Gwinnett

Lori Kitchens, Central Gwinnett

Eleanor Futch, Central Gwinnett

Lauren Porterfield, Collins Hill

Gary Tiller, Collins Hill

Kristin Hash, Collins Hill

Stephanie Rary, Collins Hill

Jeremy Kien, Dacula

Cody Ames, Dacula

Katie Montelin, Grayson

Alexis Rudolph, Grayson

Madison Gaubert, Grayson

Samantha Massengill, Grayson

Kimberly Hammack, Grayson

Christie Pulliam, Mill Creek

Scott Ooley, Mill Creek

Jay McCloskey, Norcross

Zach Humphrey, North Gwinnett

Adam Gustafson, Parkview

Kimberly Farris, Parkview

Morgan Carter, Parkview

Chandler Stepp, Parkview

Shelby Flowe, Parkview

Austin Chambers, Parkview

Buck McClure, Parkview

Cara Causey, Parkview

Clayton Wilkin, Parkview

Ashley Wilson, Parkview

Andrea Bell, Parkview

Margaret Westbrook, Shiloh