The hype is building for this Friday's slate of high school football games, and rightfully so.
Norcross hosts North Gwinnett in a battle of Region 8-AAAAA unbeatens, while Grayson and Dacula also put their perfect region marks on the line. Those games will determine plenty in the playoff races in those two regions.
The four teams involved in those games are widely considered the favorites to win region championships, but their success has overshadowed two other teams --Parkview and Peachtree Ridge.
Like Grayson and Dacula, Parkview also is without a region loss. Ditto for Peachtree Ridge in 7-AAAAA.
Those two programs have just gotten to this point with much less fanfare. They're both in great position to contend for a region title, even if few people give them much of a chance, partly because they had low expectations coming into the season.
Parkview, once the standard of success for Gwinnett football, hasn't won more than seven games in a season since a 10-win season in 2005. The Panthers missed the playoffs in 2009 for the first time since 1991, then went 5-6 last year.
But here they are this season with a 3-2 record (with losses only to powerhouses Norcross and Stephenson), and more importantly a 3-0 region record. They've done it with the old Parkview formula, running the ball with a Chris Carson-led offense and playing stout defense, a Panther staple for years.
A win over struggling Central Gwinnett this Friday would put Parkview at 4-0 in the region, giving it high hopes for a late-season gauntlet that includes Grayson, Dacula and defending state champion Brookwood.
Peachtree Ridge also entered this season as an unknown, sporting a new coach (Mark Fleetwood) and a 6-4 record in 2010 that left the Lions without a playoff spot for the first time since 2005.
But Fleetwood, whose team is 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the region heading into Friday's showdown with Collins Hill, is enjoying a nice start to his first season at the Ridge. He hasn't strayed from the running game, though he has made the passing attack with quarterback Billy Best a more substantial part of the offense. Meanwhile, the defense is still playing up to past Peachtree Ridge standards. Much like Parkview, Peachtree Ridge has its own gauntlet coming up. After Collins Hill, games remain with Norcross, Mill Creek and North Gwinnett. I'm not saying Peachtree Ridge will be favored to win those games. Parkview won't be expected to run the table in 8-AAAAA, either. But based on their seasons thus far, those two underdogs could surprise people the rest of the season.
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His regular column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.