I don't know what I get more excited about -- the start of the football season or the playoffs.
It doesn't matter if your allegiance is to Region 7 or Region 8. This is when we want to see all Gwinnett County teams go deep in the playoffs. Of course those two regions could cross paths in the second round, but that's another story.
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The playoffs show the rest of the state what we already know, Gwinnett County football is the best. There's nothing I love more than a Gwinnett team beating a South Georgia school. (See Grayson's win over Lowndes last year as a point of reference.)
Gwinnett County has put a team in the Class AAAAA state finals eight of the past nine seasons, including the last five years in a row. But a Gwinnett team has not won the 5A title outright since Parkview in 2002 (Peachtree Ridge shared it with Roswell in 2006.) Region 7-AAAAA has put a team in the state finals the last three years.
So here's my question, what team or teams from Gwinnett will reach the Class AAAAA state championship game in the Georgia Dome in Dec.?
Gwinnett County has nine teams that made the playoffs. Here are Gwinnett's playoff teams and in order of who I think have the best shot at winning state.
The defending Class A state champs are the heavy favorite to repeat.
- North Gwinnett
The Bulldogs won their first region title, completed their first 10-0 season. Is this the year for the first state title?
The Wolves are in the playoffs as a rare No. 2 seed, but the bracket sets up nicely for them. Calhoun, Fitzgerald and Charlton County are on the other side of the bracket.
The two-time Region 8 champs have dominated lesser competition the last half of the regular season despite several injuries. Can they live up to their No. 1 regular season ranking?
- South Gwinnett
This is my sleeper team of the playoffs. I don't how the Comets are not ranked. Their only loss is to No. 1 Grayson. South will surprise some people in the postseason.
- Peachtree Ridge
The Lions are in probably the toughest part of the bracket. Camden County, Lowndes and McEachern will make it hard for The Ridge to make a return trip to the state finals
The Falcons' defense has been outstanding the last few weeks. But can the offense do enough for a deep playoff run?
- Collins Hill
The Eagles ended the season with a loss to an average Norcross squad. Look for a heavy dose of RB Charles Perkins in the playoffs.
The Broncos made the playoffs with a win over rival Parkview to get the No. 4 seed. It was probably the most complete game Brookwood has played all season. A deep playoff run is not impossible with the No. 4 seed. Peachtree Ridge did it in 2006.
These were supposed to be sure bets
Parkview, GAC and Norcross missed the playoffs this year. At the beginning of the season I thought all three of these teams were sure bets to make the postseason. After all, Parkview and GAC have made the playoffs the last 15 and 14 years, respectively, and Norcross has had one of the most talented programs over the last five or six years.
Regular season awards
If I were handing out regular season offensive and defensive player of the year awards, here's who would get them.
Offensive player of the year: RB Charles Perkins, Collins Hill
Others to consider: RB Ean Pemberton, Grayson; QB Kent Rollins, South Gwinnett; RB Kyle Karempelis, Wesleyan
Defensive player of the year: DB Brad Roby, Peachtree Ridge
Others to consider: DT Shawn Green, Grayson; LB Jessel Curry, Buford
Do you agree with the picks? Who do you think should be offensive and defensive players of the year?
U pick 'em contest
Test your knowledge against The Blitz and other Gwinnett County football fans with the Gwinnett Daily Post's U pick 'em contest. Pick the winners in the Class AAAAA playoff bracket. Prizes will be given away, but most importantly bragging rights are on the line.
Hit us up on Facebook, Twitter
If you're on Facebook (and quite honestly who isn't these days) become a fan of the Gwinnett Daily Post sports department. Just search Gwinnett Daily Post Sports.
And while we're talking hi-tech, 21st century technology, be sure to follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/gdpfootball. You know you're going to want all those playoff scores instantly.
From my notebook
There's not question North Gwinnett's performance on defense was the key to the Bulldogs winning the Region 7 title over Peachtree Ridge on Friday. A blocked field goal, goal line stand, three stops on fourth down, two forced fumbles, an interception returned for a touchdown. I asked North offensive lineman Austin Shepherd, an Alabama commitment, after the game what he thought about the Bulldogs' defense.
"Our defense is crazy. That's the best defense in the state by far. We have to practice against them every day. I think that's why we are so good on offense -- because we practice against the best defense."
It's true. Success does live here
Gwinnett County has been on a roll in the postseason with the fall sports. Here's the state title count so far.
Collins Hill softball
Brookwood boys cross country (Grayson's Kirubel Erassa won individual state title)
North Gwinnett girls cross country (Collins Hill's Nicky Akande won individual state title)
Wesleyan boys cross country
Congrats to the all these athletes, teams and communities. Hopefully, we'll be adding more state crowns to this list during the 2009-10 season.