Photo by Christine Troyke
High school football fans don't have to wait until the second round of the state playoffs to see two of the county's top programs on the same field.
Grayson will host North Gwinnett on Friday at 8 p.m. in a preseason game that kicks off the high school football season. The Region 7 vs. Region 8 matchup is one of four games featuring Gwinnett teams against each other. Central Gwinnett plays at Duluth, Collins Hill is at Berkmar and South Gwinnett will play at Mill Creek.
"We try to make it as much of a game situation as possible," North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire said. "Third-and-seven in practice is not the same as a game situation."
Friday's scrimmage will be the first time North has been on the field since last season's surprising second-round loss to Grayson. The Rams went on to reach the Class AAAAA semifinals.
"I am assuming they will be pretty seasoned," Sphire said of Grayson. "I'm assuming they will be the preseason No. 1 (in the state rankings)."
The South-Mill Creek scrimmage is also a rematch of last year's second round of the playoffs. The Hawks won 49-34 and lost to eventual state runner-up Colquitt County in the next round.
"It's going to be a great challenge fo us. We're both going to get what we want out of it," South head coach John Small said. "We're trying to get better as a team and we've both coordinated what we want to get out of the scrimmage."
The preseason scrimmages, or for some teams preseason games, allow coaches to put their teams through a practice run before the season starts, which for some is next week. Starting spots are finalized, depth is developed at positions and special teams take heavy consideration.
"We start so early with the Corky Kell, so practice time is limited in rushing to develop special teams," Sphire said. "This gives us a chance for game situations and kicking situations."
Four-time defending Class AA state champion Buford will travel to Athens to play Clarke Central, which was state runner-up in AAAA two years ago.
"We scrimmage at Clarke Central and we're really excited about that," Buford coach Jess Simpson said.
Other notable matchups include Class AA power Lovett at Wesleyan, Southwest DeKalb at Peachtree Ridge and Parkview at West Forsyth.