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The Blitz: Home field huge for Grayson

Not many people around the state are going to give Grayson much of a chance this week in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

The Rams host defending state champion Lowndes on Friday. The same Lowndes team that is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 6 in the nation by USA Today, holds a 26-game winning streak, has won three of the last four state titles and is 8-3 all-time against Gwinnett County schools.

No, not many people will give Grayson a fighting a chance. And why should they?

Grayson is in just its ninth year of football and fifth in Class AAAAA. Sure, the Rams are 12-0 this season and are Region 8-AAAAA champs, but critics will say the region is not that strong and is nothing compared to Lowndes' powerful Region 1.

All of that may be true, but the biggest break for Grayson came on Saturday after its 17-7 win over East Paulding. With Lowndes and Grayson both being No. 1 seeds, a coin flip was used to determine home field, which Grayson won.

And that's why Grayson shouldn't be counted out.

Grayson doesn't have to worry about travel plans for the week, most importantly making a six-hour bus drive to Valdosta. Instead it gets to host a quarterfinal game for the first time in school history. And guess what? Grayson's is one the toughest teams to beat at home in Gwinnett. The Rams are 6-0 at home this year and have a 13-game home winning streak dating back to 2006.

It's also the place where Grayson has had some of the biggest wins in school history. Like in 2002 when it won its first-ever playoff game, or in 2006 when it beat Parkview for the first time or this year when it defeated three-time defending region champ Brookwood for the first time.

No, Grayson doesn't have the rich history of Lowndes or the Division I players like Greg Reid (Florida) and Gerald Demps (Florida State), or a massive stadium like its South Georiga counterpart, but when it comes to defending the 'G' no one takes more pride in that than Grayson.

Lowndes vs. Gwinnett County

Lowndes has played Gwinnett County schools 11 times, winning eight of the last nine meetings. The last Gwinnett team to beat Lowndes was Central Gwinnett in 2006, the last year the Vikings didn't win state. This will be Lowndes' second trip to Gwinnett County. The first was in 2004 when it beat Parkview in the state championship game.

Here's a look at the Gwinnett vs. Lowndes matchups

2008: at Lowndes 22, Peachtree Ridge 7

2007: at Lowndes 34, North Gwinnett 6 (state finals)

2007: at Lowndes 42, Central Gwinnett 0

2006: Central Gwinnett 11, at Lowndes 7

2005: at Lowndes 49, Brookwood 7 (state finals)

2005: at Lowndes 38, Central Gwinnett 0 (quarterfinals)

2005: at Lowndes 57, Meadowcreek 6

2004: Lowndes 17, at Parkview 14 (state finals)

2004: at Lowndes 49, Meadowcreek 0

2001: Collins Hill 21, at Lowndes 14 (quarterfinals)

1996: Brookwood 16, Lowndes 7 (semifinals at Dome)

Here's a look at Gwinnett's other third round matchups. Remember, the winners move onto the semifinals, which will not be played in the Georgia Dome like in year's past. The games will be played at the higher seeded school. The Dome will host the state finals on Dec. 12 and 13.

Coffee (9-3) at Peachtree Ridge (10-2)

Coffee is one of the surprise teams of the playoffs. The Trojans were a No. 4 seed out of Region 1 and used an overtime win over Stephenson a dominating victory over Chapel Hill to reach the quarterfinals. Coffee features DeMario Bennett, a 6-3 receiver that has committed to South Carolina.

Peachtree Ridge is back in the quarterfinals since 2006 when it won the state championship. That season the Lions had a very tough defense, recording five shutouts and allowing 101 points through 12 game. This year's defense resembles the 2006 D, posting three shutouts and allowing 111 points.

North Gwinnett (10-2) at Newnan (12-0)

This game has the potential to have a 56-49 final score. North Gwinnett and Newnan are mirror images with high scoring offenses, great quarterbacks, big offensive lines and fast defenses. The two met last year in the quarterfinals with the Bulldogs holding on for a 38-35 victory.

Newnan is undefeated after winning a very weak Region 4. The Cougars' most impressive wins are over Class AAA power LaGrange, Chapel Hill and East Coweta and last week's 42-0 victory over Tift County. Other than that, Newnan beat up on some pretty bad teams. So when you hear they have outscored their opponents 41-3, don't be fooled. One thing that is impressive is Newnan's six-straight shutouts. I don't care who you are playing, that's pretty tough to do.

Newnan has two big linemen in 6-2, 280-pound Raymond Beno, who is headed to Georgia Tech, and 6-5, 335-pound Adam Calhoun, who is committed to Alabama State.

Quarterback Russell Powell has an offer from Air Force after throwing for 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns last year.

After being held without an offensive touchdown in the regular season finale, North seems to have found its groove on offense. The Bulldogs have put up 34 and 43 points in the first two games of the playoffs.

Dublin (11-1) at Buford (12-0)

Dublin shared the Class AA state championship with Charlton County in 2006. The Fighting Irish's title defense was halted in the semifinals last year when Buford easily won 48-0 in the Georgia Dome.

After winning a coin toss to decide home field, Buford will host Dublin on Friday at Tom Riden Stadium where its won its last 15 home games.

Dublin features receiver/defensive back Rashard Smith, who has offers from several ACC schools.

Wesleyan (10-2) at Miller County (11-1)

Wesleyan lost the coin flip to host a quarterfinal game, so the Wolves will have to take a four hour trip to South Georgia.

The good news is it should be a fun trip home. While Miller County boasts an 11-1 record, but the competition is hardly anything compared to what Wesleyan has faced.

Miller County played only two teams with a winning record during the regular season. Its opponents combined record was 34-69-1 this season. The Pirates beat a 4-7 Dooly County team 14-6 in the first round and Savannah Christian 20-13 last week.

It's the third time Wesleyan has reached 10 wins in a season, but the last two times it resulted in a quarterfinal loss. That trend could end Friday.