One way or another, people from Gwinnett can claim a winner in Friday's Class AAA state championship football game.
Buford, in its sixth straight state final, is a direct representative of the county, but its opponent also has a Gwinnett-heavy feel. St. Pius' coaching staff and roster has plenty of roots in Gwinnett, despite the Catholic school's location just across the border in DeKalb County.
It starts at the top with Golden Lions head coach Paul Standard, a Gwinnett resident who coached in the county for 15 seasons before taking the St. Pius job in 2001. He was a longtime assistant to highly regarded Dacula head coach Kevin Maloof for five seasons at Meadowcreek and another 10 at Dacula. Standard has taken 10 of his 12 St. Pius teams to the playoffs. His current team takes a 12-2 record into Friday's 5:30 p.m. final at the Georgia Dome.
His success has been aided greatly by his defensive coordinator, Jerry Stewart. Stewart, in his 10th season at St. Pius, was the architect of Parkview's defenses all four of the program's state championship seasons. Stewart's son Todd, a former all-state linebacker at Parkview, also is on the Golden Lions' staff along with secondary coach Wendell Early (formerly head coach at Berkmar) and tight ends/special teams coach Bob Gilbert (who coached seven seasons at Dacula).
Those guys coach a football team with 21 players who reside in Gwinnett.
The group features six starters -- offensive tackle Michael Caragher (Suwanee), linebackers Daniel Crochet (Stone Mountain) and Dalton Wilson (Norcross), defensive tackle Kyle Johnson (Duluth), wingback Branden Mitchell (Norcross) and cornerback/punt returner Michael Sikorski (Lawrenceville). Johnson is the son of WXIA-TV anchor Karyn Greer.
Key reserves Brian O'Reilly (free safety, Snellville) and Kevin O'Toole (linebacker/wingback, Lawrenceville) also are from Gwinnett. Other locals on the St. Pius football roster are Colm Boyer (Duluth), Matthew Coklan (Lawrenceville), Fred Dorsey (Lilburn), Julian Holloman (Stone Mountain), Reid Lareau (Duluth), Brian Lentini (Snellville), Frank Lentini (Snellville), Robby Moots (Norcross), Matthew Nall (Norcross), Peter O'Reilly (Snellville), Michael Reddaway (Snellville), Bradley Schwaner (Lawrenceville) and Austin Thomas (Norcross).