The quarterfinal round of the high school football playoffs was played last season on Black Friday, though shopping wasn’t on the list of Gwinnett coaches and players. After that round, though, they had plenty of time for the mall.
All three Class AAAAA teams remaining were eliminated last year in the round of 16, when north metro Atlanta teams begin facing South Georgia squads for the first time. Four Gwinnett teams are alive this week with hopes of a better quarterfinal showing for the county, and three of those teams will face long road trips to make it happen.
Collins Hill at Lowndes
Grayson at Valdosta
Hillgrove at Brookwood
Mill Creek at Colquitt County
Cook at Buford
Wilcox Co. at Wesleyan
Collins Hill travels to Lowndes, Grayson visits Valdosta and Mill Creek plays at Colquitt County this Friday in the quarterfinals, while Brookwood has a home game against Hillgrove. Of those four, only Grayson played in last year’s quarterfinal round, when the Rams lost 9-7 to Newnan.
Grayson had a late field goal blocked in that loss on a night that also saw Peachtree Ridge lose a heartbreaker in overtime to Northside-Warner Robins and North Gwinnett fall in a lopsided game with eventual champion Camden County.
“I think it’s a matter of who has the good night that particular night,” Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said of Gwinnett losing three teams last year the day after Thanksgiving. “We’ve beat Camden and Lowndes before and other Gwinnett teams have beat south Georgia teams before. Last year we were on the brink of getting it done.”
Grayson is coming off an upset of nationally ranked North Gwinnett, getting an improved offensive effort and its usual stout showing on defense. Up next is a speedy Valdosta team on Friday.
Across town at Lowndes, Collins Hill will play its quarterfinal. The Eagles were the last team to beat Lowndes at home in the postseason back in 2001.
Mill Creek plays its quarterfinal in Moultrie against Colquitt County, coached by former Hoover head coach Rush Propst. The Hawks won the first two playoff games in school history the previous two rounds.
“We take a lot of pride in representing our region and Gwinnett County,” Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. “We’re going down there to win.”
Of the remaining local AAAAA teams, only Brookwood is a No. 1 seed. The Broncos host Hillgrove, which knocked off top-ranked Camden last Friday.
Three-time defending AA champion Buford and 2008 champion Wesleyan both won coin flips on Saturday for home games this week. Buford hosts undefeated Cook and Wesleyan takes on a Wilcox County team it lost to last year on Black Friday.