THE BLITZ: Gwinnett still riding high in playoffs

Like a lot of people in Gwinnett County, I wanted an all-Gwinnett Final Four in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. That didn't happen. Actually, at one point on Friday, I thought it was going to be a repeat of 2009's Black Friday.

Norcross came through with a win over Camden County. It was the only victory in four games for Gwinnett teams in Class AAAAAA.

I'm sure it made Gwinnett outsiders very happy to know Gwinnett last a few teams. But remember this, Buford and Greater Atlanta Christian are still left in the playoffs in the smaller classifications. Imagine if Norcross, Buford and GAC all win state titles. That would give the county half of the state's football titles for the year. It would certainly cement the county's football dominance.

On to the next round.



Colquitt County at Norcross

Class AAA

Buford at Cartersville

Class AA

GAC at Jefferson

Impressive coaching

There was several teams that stood out this year from good coaching. Two of those teams seasons came to an end on Friday.

North Gwinnett was knocked out of the quarterfinals by Lovejoy. Before the season started, I wasn't sure if the Bulldogs could even make it that far. The coaching staff was depleted, they started a first-year QB and the defense was made up of a bunch of undersized kids. Head coach Bob Sphire still managed to lead his team to an 11-2 record. Both of their losses came to teams left in the semis and who I think will be playing in the championship game. Not bad.

The other is Parkview. The Panthers had the toughest schedule in the state to start the year with five playoff teams from the year before. To add to it, Parkview lost its starting quarterback for half the season and their starting running back, a player of the year candidate, before the playoffs. Still, head coach Cecil Flowe and his staff managed to get his team to the quarterfinals. Not bad for a program that missed the playoffs two of the last three years.

Buford for real

In case anyone forgot about Buford, they are for real. With the loss of 20 starters, this was supposed to be a down year for Buford. The program has been hit by adversity for the last 12 months. An assistant coach died in January, they moved up a classification, several players suffered major injuries and they had to forfeit a pair of games. But the players and coaches never gave up.

Their resilience has produced a title caliber team. I got to see the Wolves in person for the first time this Friday. They beat a very good Carver team, which was expected to be a state finalist. Buford doesn't have the big-name players like its had in years past. This might be one of the lowest-profile teams Buford has had in its recent run of dominance. As I looked at their roster as they used a strong running game and stingy defense, I noticed a lot of young players making plays.

This was supposed to be a down year for Buford, but the Wolves are back in the semifinals where they'll play at Cartersville. Buford is 10-0 in the semis since 2000. What was supposed to be a re-building year has turned into a reloading year.

Wolves face impressive passer

After Buford's win over Carver, I asked Buford head coach Jess Simpson what he knew about Cartersville. He wasn't too familiar with them other than their quarterback.

Brooks Barden, the son of Cartersville head coach Frank Barden, went into Friday's quarterfinal game with 36 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

"I've never head of that before," Simpson said.

Barden was 160 of 280 for 2,552 yards going into the Purple Hurricane's win over No. 1 ranked Thomson.

Contrast in coaches

The Greater Atlanta Christian vs. Jefferson game will have two coaches on opposite ends of their coaching careers.

Jefferson is coached by T. McFerrin, the former South Gwinnett coach, who is one of the state's all-time winningest coaches. McFerrin jump started the Comets program in the early 2000s and won 338 games in 40-plus years of high school coaching.

On the opposite sideline is GAC's Tim Hardy, who is in his fourth year as a high school head coach and has 19 career wins.

Packers are the state's road warriors

Colquitt County will make the four-hour trip from South Georgia to Gwinnett again this week to play Norcross. For most teams, long road trips are a disadvantage. For Colquitt it's normal. The Packers, who have a fitting nickname considering all of their postseason travel, are 11-3 on the road the last four years. There's not a better road team in the state than Colquitt. The Moultrie school will face another Gwinnett team, who they are 4-3 against since 2009.