It's the last week of the high school football season. Hundreds of teams dreamed about playing this week back in August, but now there's only 14 teams left. Gwinnett is fortunate to have two teams remaining in two state championship games.
There's no team that has more experience playing in the Georgia Dome or in the state finals than Buford.
On the flip side, Norcross is in uncharted territory. This is the school's deepest playoff run in its 50-plus year history. Norcross has had some of the county's and maybe some year's the state's most talented teams. But those groups never materialized into a deep playoff run.
Now the school that's been known for winning basketball state titles and producing future NBA players has a chance to add a football championship to its trophy case.
Buford has a cabinet full of state title trophies. The Wolves are in their sixth straight state title game and have won eight championships all-time.
This will be their 10th time playing in the Georgia Dome, an experience that never gets old for high school kids.
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
Class A (private)
2:30 p.m. — Prince Avenue (11-2) vs. ELCA (12-1)
5:30 p.m. — Buford (11-3) vs. St. Pius (12-2)
8:30 p.m. — Ware County (13-1) vs. Gainesville (11-3)
Class A (public)
11:30 a.m. — Dooly County (11-2) vs. ECI (12-1)
2:30 p.m. — Jefferson (13-1) vs. Calhoun (14-0)
5:30 p.m. — Sandy Creek (14-0) vs. Ridgeland (13-1)
8:30 p.m. — Lovejoy (13-1) vs. Norcross (14-0)
Take the over in 6A state final
I'm expecting to see a lot of points scored in the Class AAAAAA state championship game with Norcross and Lovejoy. I know they both have good defenses, I just don't know if we'll see them on Saturday. Lovejoy scored 63 points in its semifinal win and Norcross had 41 points.
Both these teams have some really good offensive skill players. Get your popcorn ready, this will be a fun game to watch.
Buford in surprising final
I think to most people around the state, they are not surprised to see Buford in the state finals. But when you look at the program and what they've gone though this year with replacing 20 starters and the off-the-field struggles, it's pretty impressive they are in the finals again.
I thought this was a team that could make the quarterfinals. I wasn't ready to predict another championship game appearance. But the way they are playing lately looks like their other championship teams with a good running game and strong defense. That defense was impressive again last week with three interceptions against a QB that had thrown just two all year.
To watch Buford lose in last year's state finals was a surprise. But I have a feeling we won't see that again this week if the Wolves continue to play like they have the last two games.
GAC on the rise
GAC shocked a lot of people, including me, by reaching the state semifinals. But I don't think it was a one-year fluke.
First-year GAC head coach Tim Hardy had just three returning starters to work with and he molded the team into a 10-win team.
GAC loses just 11 seniors, so don't be surprised if they are making a deep playoff run again next year.
Maloof presence at Dome
The late George B. Maloof never coached a game at the Georgia Dome, but his presence will be felt there at this weekend's state championship games.
Maloof's son Keith is the head coach for Norcross, who plays Lovejoy in the Class AAAAAA title game on Saturday.
Maloof's former team St. Pius will play Buford in the Class AAA finals on Friday. St. Pius has won only one state title in 1968 under Maloof. The Golden Lions have a chance to win another one under Paul Standard, who played for Maloof in the late 1970s and graduated in 1980 with Keith Maloof.