Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. South Gwinnett's Chad Ross (11) weaves his way in between Brookwood's David Cooper (10), Cameron Lynch (38) and Nick Moore (19).
There are Class AAAAA playoff brackets posted throughout the South Gwinnett fieldhouse with every game crossed out but one.
The only game visible on the bracket is tonight's matchup between Etowah and the host Comets.
"That's the only game. That's all we want to focus on," South Gwinnett head coach John Small said. "Because none of the other stuff matters unless we win. Then we can look at the next one."
Just for the record, a South Gwinnett win would mean a second round game against the Lassiter vs. North Forsyth winner.
It's a rare home playoff game for the Comets. South Gwinnett is in the postseason for the second time in three years, but it's the first time since 2003 that the Comets have hosted a playoff game. That should bode well for a Comets team that was undefeated at home this season.
South Gwinnett's only loss this year was to two-time Region 8-AAAAA champion Grayson. The Comets' 9-1 record is the most wins since 2003.
"I don't want them to be satisfied with just being here," Small said. "We had a great regular season, but that's over. They give you a second-place trophy, a pat on the back and the second seed. This season we're in now, they give you rings at the end of the season."
South Gwinnett hasn't played for a state championship since 1993, when many of this year's seniors were just born. That year's team went 12-3 and was the first to win 10 or more games. Since then, the 2002 and 2003 squads have posted 10 wins or more. The 2009 team can do that with a win over Etowah, the No. 3 seed from Region 5-AAAAA.
The Eagles had just one playoff appearance in 29 years before former Parkview assistant coach Bill Stewart took over the program. Stewart has led Etowah to the postseason in each of his four season's at the Woodstock school.
"He's a done a tremendous job over there," Small said. "They never made the playoffs until he showed up. He's done an excellent job with them."
Etowah is 8-2 this season with its losses coming to No. 6 McEachern and No. 10 Woodstock. The Eagles' veer offense averages 28 points a game.
"They are scary. They are a hard-nosed bunch that runs a split-back veer," Small said. They're going to get up there and try and grind it out. They do a good job at that."
Jason Holdway, a 6-foot, 180-pound junior, leads the Eagles' rushing attack with 1,002 yards and nine TDs. Braden Nolan has 638 yards rushing and 10 TDs.
The Eagles' defense has allowed more than 14 points in two games this season. The pass defense has given up 819 yards, but will face a South offense that had more than 800 yards passing after just two games.
Quarterback Kent Rollins leads the Comets' attack with 1,767 yards passing and 18 TDs. Receiver Jonathan Krause, a Vanderbilt commitment, is the team's leading receiver with 37 catches and Aaron Wimberly has 853 yards rushing.