0

Gwinnett teams get fresh start as football playoffs begin

Photo: Karl L. Moore South Gwinnett linebacker Colton Nash (6) makes the tackle on Parkview's Justis Rosser (4) for a short gain during Friday night's game at South Gwinnett.

Photo: Karl L. Moore South Gwinnett linebacker Colton Nash (6) makes the tackle on Parkview's Justis Rosser (4) for a short gain during Friday night's game at South Gwinnett.

Momentum can be an important factor at any time during a high school football season, and certainly any coach would want his team playing at its best with the postseason looming.

That said, every coach of a team fortunate enough to qualify for the postseason -- like 11 teams from Gwinnett County that will begin play in their respective classifications' state playoffs beginning Friday night -- will likely fall back on one of the oldest adages in the sport.

It's a brand new season, and every team still playing is now 0-0 in the category of the season that means the most.

"We set high goals this year," first-year GAC coach Tim Hardy said minutes after his Spartans came up just short of the Region 6-AA championship in Friday's 31-30 loss at Lovett. "Nobody said we'd be playing ... in a region championship game (before the season), and we did, and our guys need to be proud of that. But more than that, we need to realize our season's not over. We're playing ... Friday night, and we're playing at home. That's pretty important."

And for teams like GAC (7-3, Region 6-AA runner-up), which plays host to Model in the first round of the Class AA playoffs, coming off a tough loss to end the season, Friday night represents a new beginning.

The same can be said for Brookwood, which travels to east Cobb County on Friday to take on No. 2 state-ranked Lassiter in an opening round match-up in Class AAAAAA.

The Broncos (6-4, No. 4 seed from Region 8-AAAAAA) are very much in need of a freshs start after dropping their final two games of the season to the region's top two seeds -- Grayson and South Gwinnett -- plus suffering injuries in several key positions.

But as coach Mark Crews points out, all it takes is a chance at a state title -- which Brookwood last won just two years ago -- to re-energize his players.

"We played an awfully tough part of our schedule late (in the season), and that coincided with a lot of injuries," Crews said. "That's not to make excuses, but it kind of works on your psyche. But the kids are excited about playing in the playoffs. This is the 11th year in a row we've made it. Not many teams can say that, and I think the kids are anxious to get started."

Of course, other teams in Gwinnett's playoff contingent enter the postseason with plenty of momentum -- perhaps most notably third-ranked and Region 7-AAAAAA champion Norcross.

The Blue Devils begin their quest for a state title at home against Chattahoochee on Friday off their first 10-0 regular season since 2006 and having outscored their last five opponents by a combined score of 230-38.

And both defending Class AAAAA state champion Grayson and perennial lower classification powerhouse Buford are also riding plenty of momentum into the playoffs, with both having overcome a little adversity at different points of the season.

The Region 8-AAAAAA champion and fourth-ranked Rams (9-1) suffered a stunning 22-7 upset loss to Parkview on Sept. 14, but have rolled since, winning their remaining seven games by an average score of 48-7, including a school-record four straight shutouts from Oct. 5-Nov. 1.

Buford, meanwhile, was dealt a blow when being forced to forfeit two games after self-reporting a clerical error to the Georgia High School Association that resulted in the use of an ineligible player for a play or two in each game.

Still, while the forfeits cost the No. 3 Wolves (7-3) a chance at the Region 7-AAA title, they haven't missed a beat, winning their remaining five games, including a decisive 45-16 win over region champion North Hall last Friday.