Gwinnett well represented in quarterfinals

Thanksgiving week means a lot of things, but in the world of Georgia high school football, it traditionally has come to mean the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.

In Gwinnett County, it's come to mean seeing the usual suspects juggling their game preparation time around their Thanksgiving dinner plans.

For the better part of the decade, those "usual suspects" were Brookwood, Parkview and Buford.

The Wolves (12-0, ranked No. 3) are still around, awaiting a visit from Cook to Tom Riden Stadium for Friday night's Class AA quarterfinal game.

However, four other sets of familiar faces have become fixtures in their respective classifications' quarters.

Top-ranked Grayson (12-0) and No. 2 North Gwinnett (12-0) are making its fourth straight appearance in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals, while Peachtree Ridge (10-2) is among the largest classificiation's "elite eight" for the third time in four years.

By comparison, top-ranked and defending state champion Wesleyan making its second straight trip to the Class A quarterfinals seemingly makes them relative newcomers.

However, the Wolves (12-0) had another two-year run earlier in the decade, making Friday night's game against No. 9 Wilcox County their fourth quarterfinal appearance in the last eight seasons.

Every team in this list has also advanced past the quarters into the semifinals at least once during their current runs, which should make the players on each squad familiar with the pressure and expectations that come with the territory.

"We hope this speaks to the quality of work we've been putting in," said North coach Bob Sphire, whose Bulldogs play host to No. 9 and defending Class AAAAA state champion Camden County (10-2) at Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium.

The other characteristic about the quarterfinals that has now become familiar is that it is the first round teams from north Georgia regions cross over in the brackets to meet teams from south Georgia regions.

And in this year's case, it has created some particularly compelling matchups.

Aside from the North-Camden County game, Class AAAAA's other two matchups will feature a battle of titans, with Peachtree Ridge traveling to No. 7 Northside-Warner Robins and top-ranked Grayson welcoming No. 4 Newnan to Britt-Moody Field.

"This is always where you want to be," Rams coach Mickey Conn said. "It set up perfect in the brackets for a No. 1 (seed) vs. a No. 1. It didn't set up easy, but we're excited about playing (Newnan). It's a good challenge for us, and it's a challenge we want."

Sports Editor Will Hammock contributed to this report