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THE BLITZ: Thankful to cover another week of football

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Without getting too personal, let's just say this has been an interesting year.

Which is why when I think about the quarterfinals of the state playoffs the day after Thanksgiving this week, I'm thankful to be covering another week of football. But there's a lot of other things I'm thankful for.

  • I'm thankful that I have a job that will allow me to cover sports.

  • I'm thankful to spend time with family this week.

  • I'm thankful to be physically able to run another half marathon Thanksgiving morning.

  • I'm thankful that I will spend time with my aunt and uncle, who I rarely see, at Thanksgiving this year.

  • I'm thankful to spend another Thanksgiving with my grandmother because I don't know how many she has left or will remember.

  • I'm thankful Gwinnett County has five teams left in the football playoffs and I get to cover one of them. (After all, Gwinnett does have the best football in the state.)

  • I'm thankful I will get to spend the weekend with my friends, enjoying their fellowship as we argue about college football.

  • I'm thankful I'm not a Georgia Bulldogs football fan. :)

What are you thankful for?

Who's left

Gwinnett County is down to five teams in the state playoffs. (Wait, I think someone just scored again in the South Gwinnett-Lassiter game.) Grayson, North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge in Class AAAAA, Buford in AA and Wesleyan in A are still left in the playoffs. It's the quarterfinals of the playoffs and this is the round where North Georgia meets South Georgia. Other than the travel, this is the round I like because you finally get to see some of the better teams in the state you typically only hear about.

Camden County, Newnan, Northside-Warner Robins are some of the top teams in the state, but we rarely get to see them play. This is the round where we do and it's also a good measuring stick of where Gwinnett County football stands.

Here's the Gwinnett games for this Friday.

Class AAAAA

  • Newnan at Grayson

  • Camden County at North Gwinnett

  • Peachtree Ridge at Northside Warner-Robins

Class AA

  • Cook at Buford

Class A

  • Wilcox County at Wesleyan

Coin flips were huge

Grayson and North Gwinnett needed coin flips to decide whether they would play at home or on the road this week. Both won the flips and will host third-round games.

Here's why they were big.

North doesn't have to worry about a six-hour trip to the South Georgia coast to play Camden County. Instead the defending state champions will travel to Suwanee. Can you imagine making that bus ride the day after Thanksgiving with a full belly of turkey and then playing a football game?

Grayson will host Newnan and the travel wouldn't have been too bad. But what was big about the coin flip for the Rams was they get another home game and they don't lose at home. Grayson has a 21-game winning streak at home, dating back to 2006. This is also the same home field that helped Grayson take down juggernaut Lowndes last season.

Hold onto the ball

I think Peachtree Ridge has a good shot at beating Northside Warner-Robins, but only if the Lions don't fumble the ball. In two playoff games, the Lions have 11 fumbles, losing the ball four times. One was returned for a touchdown. That can't happen against Northside.

Respect for Eagles

I asked Peachtree Ridge head coach Bill Ballard what he knew about Northside. He said he had not seen them play much in recent years. Although he is familiar with them from when he was the head coach at Tucker, which played in Class AAAA. Northside won Class AAAA state titles in 2006-07 and played for it in 2005. In recent years, Ballard has been in touch with Northside head coach Conrad Nix, who has 258 wins in 27 years of coaching, to trade film. The two have traded film of Lowndes and talked about the Vikings on many occasions.

To put things in perspective, Lowndes beat Peachtree Ridge 51-17 in Week 2 and then lost to Northside four games later 10-7.

I asked Peachtree Ridge quarterback Nick Lombardo what he knew about Northside and his answer was a little innocent. After a long pause he said "Not much, but it's South Georgia football, so they must be good."

Special teams big for Rams

Grayson capitalized on a fumble on a kickoff for a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown and kicked a 27-yard field goal. That might be a good sign for the Rams' special teams for the postseason. Remember, it was a failed kick last year that kept the Rams out of the state championship game.

Also, the Rams' 24-14 win over Roswell may not seem that impressive, but it reminded me of what head coach Mickey Conn said earlier in the season. A reporter from another newspaper made the statement after the South Gwinnett game that the Rams don't know how to win pretty. Conn simply replied a win is a win. At this time of year that's all that matters. Sure they would love to win 50-0 every game, but now it's down to the top eight teams in the state. It doesn't matter if it's a 10-point or 1-point win at this time of the year.

Contrast of styles

You couldn't ask for a bigger contrast of offensive styles than in North's game vs. Camden County. The Bulldogs love to throw the ball, the Wildcats love to run it.

North is one of the best at running the spread offense, while the Wildcats run the wing-T to perfection.

The one thing these two teams do have in common -- great defenses. Both average about nine points allowed a game this season.