Grayson Green’s Jake Whitten (15) is tackled by Grayson White’s Jaylen Williams (16) and Tre Freeman (3) for a short gain during the GFL 9-year-old championship last year. (File Photo)
What: Gwinnett Football League championship games
Where: South Gwinnett High School
6-year-old: Dacula NL North vs. Lawrenceville AL South
7-year-old: Lawrenceville AL South vs. Buford NL East
8-year-old: Mill Creek NL South vs. Dacula NL East
9-year-old: Peachtree Ridge NL North vs. Brookwood AL East
10-year-old: Grayson AL North vs. Grayson AL South
8th grade, Division II: Mill Creek NL South vs. South Gwinnett AL South
11-year-old: Mill Creek NL South vs. South Gwinnett AL South
12-year-old: North Gwinnett NL South vs. North Gwinnett NL North
8th grade, Division I: South Gwinnett AL South vs. Grayson AL North
The glory, at least statewide, comes later.
When Gwinnett’s young football players reach the high school level, they expect to win games, region titles and in quite a few programs, state championships. They expect to see college coaches recruiting their campuses. They know their games will be played under the Friday night lights in front of thousands of friends, family members and other supporters.
Getting to that point for the majority of the county’s high school begins much earlier in the Gwinnett Football League, the feeder system that makes this place such a hub for high school football excellence.
It’s where those youngsters learn to play football and the life lessons it teaches, and it’s also where they develop dreams of being on the field for their high school team on Friday nights.
Go by Gwinnett parks on fall Saturdays and the GFL’s impact is easy to see, from the sheer volume of folks involved to the sounds of cheers, whistles and music echoing from the football field throughout the park. More than 1,000 regular-season games and more than 200 youth football and cheerleading teams participate in the GFL each year, ranging from the youngest 6-year-old teams to the eighth-graders who are tantalizingly close to seeing those high school football wishes come true.
The feeder league’s ultimate showcase happens Saturday at South Gwinnett High School, where Gwinnett’s future football stars compete for prestigious GFL championships in the culmination of a long playoff process.
It’s an all-day spectacle that cycles easily more than 10,000 fans through the gate during an event that kicks off with the 6-year-old finals at 8 a.m. The marquee matchup, Eighth Grade Division I, is scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff and features a South Gwinnett squad vs. one from Grayson.
South also has teams in the Eighth Grade Division II final and in the 11-year-old title game, while Grayson has both of the teams in the 10-year-old championship game. Mill Creek has three teams in the finals, while Lawrenceville and North Gwinnett have two each.
Those who have been to the championship weekend know about its neat atmosphere. For anyone who hasn’t been to the GFL finals, it’s worth the trip this weekend.
The winners’ glory is concentrated more locally, but winning a GFL title still means a ton to those involved.
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.