The Class AAAAAA state championship game will be played in the Georgia Dome next month, but the path to get there runs through Gwinnett County.
The last three state champs in the highest classification have come from Gwinnett with Brookwood, Grayson and Norcross winning the last three crowns.
I know I sound like a homer, but I like the county’s chances of winning a fourth straight state crown. And who knows, maybe there will be multiple state crowns won this year with Buford in Class AAA and GAC in Class AA.
Here are some things that stand out to me about the playoffs and the brackets.
• I think Norcross is the county’s best chance to win a state title. The Blue Devils look like the team they were last season. Ask anyone in Region 7 and they are playing the best football right now.
• The No. 4 seeds from Region 7 and Region 8 will post upset wins. Usually this matchup is dominated by the No. 1 seed, but I don’t see that happening. Region 8’s South Gwinnett will beat an Alpharetta school that has never won a playoff game.
Region 7’s Peachtree Ridge has survived the toughest region in the state and will beat a Lassiter team that is 1-3 in its last four playoff games against Gwinnett teams.
• Gwinnett teams will face each other in the second round and possibly again in the semifinals or finals.
• My dream state final is an all-Gwinnett matchup. I’d love to see Norcross vs. Archer for the true bragging rights of Region 7 vs. Region 8.
Or I would love to see Norcross vs. Collins Hill/North Gwinnett to decide the true Region 7 champ.
• I think the top right of the Class AAAAAA bracket has favorable matchups for Collins Hill and South Gwinnett. The bottom right part of the bracket with Archer, North Gwinnett, Camden County is the toughest.
• The only team outside of Gwinnett I see as a threat for a state title is Colquitt County. The Packers have been been knocking on the door for four straight years with semifinal appearances.
• Lanier is in the playoffs for the first time in the school’s four-year history and I like the Longhorns’ draw in the bracket. Don’t be surprised if Lanier makes it to the state semifinals. All of the big boys in the classification — Griffin, Sandy Creek, Marist, Carrollton, Monroe Area — are in different parts of the bracket. Lanier wouldn’t face any of them until the semis or finals.
• I can’t imagine what is going through Sonoraville’s mind. The Northwest Georgia school is in the playoffs for the first time — with a losing record — and the reward is traveling to play defending state champion Buford.
That’s a two-hour bus ride just to get beat by 30 points.
• GAC didn’t help itself by not winning the region crown last week. If the Spartans win their first-round playoff game, they will face last year’s state runner-up Calhoun in the second round.
GWINNETT PLAYOFF PAIRINGS
Peachtree Ridge at Lassiter
West Forsyth at Dacula
Etowah at Norcross
Brookwood at Lambert
South Gwinnett at Alpharetta
Walton at Collins Hill
North Forsyth at Archer
North Gwinnett at Milton
Lanier at Carver-Atlanta
Sonoraville at Buford
Rabun County at GAC
Wesleyan at Washington-Wilkes
GETTING SCORING UPDATES FROM THE DAILY POST
The Daily Post will have scoring updates for its playoff teams during the postseason, just like we did during the regular season. Go to www.gwinnettprepsports.com or follow us on Twitter @gdpfootball.
A LOOK BACK
I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the beginning of the year for my pre-season predictions. I’m proud to say in the past I’ve usually been pretty close, but that wasn’t the case this year.
The region title had been won by Grayson or Brookwood the last eight years. Archer ended that streak by claiming its first region crown.
I only picked two of the four playoff teams. I had Parkview and Grayson finishing 1-2 in the region and they didn’t even make the playoffs.
Archer (6-4, No. 5 prediction, 10-0 actual)
I thought youth was going to hold the Tigers back this season, but it turned out I was way wrong. Archer’s young skill players flourished to help the Tigers run away with the region crown.
Dacula (1-9, No. 9 prediction, 6-4 actual)
After going 1-9 in 2012, this was supposed to be a re-building year under first-year head coach Tommy Jones, or at least I thought it was going to be that way. Dacula was a pleasant surprise this season, beating Grayson, Brookwood and South Gwinnett this year to make the playoffs.
Brookwood (7-3, No. 3 prediction, 5-5 actual)
Brookwood lost its best player in running back Josh Brown in the season opener and began the year 0-3. A second-half surge put the Broncos in the playoffs for the 12th straight season.
South Gwinnett (5-5, No. 4 prediction, 5-5 actual)
South began the year 1-4, but a second-half surge helped the Comets get in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
Grayson (8-2 and No. 2 prediction, 4-6 actual)
Grayson had just one returning starter, so the Rams needed to grow up fast this season. That never happened. They looked better late in the year, but there was still some growing pains for the young Rams, who missed the playoffs and posted a losing record for the first time since 2005.
Shiloh (5-5, No. 7 prediction, 5-5 actual)
I felt like the Generals needed to beat someone they weren’t supposed to and get over the hump. They actually beat three teams I didn’t expect — Parkview, South Gwinnett and Central Gwinnett. The Generals appear to be headed in the right direction.
Parkview (8-2 and No. 1 prediction, 3-7 actual)
The Panthers survived a brutal first-half schedule last season, but that didn’t happen this year. Parkview began the year 0-5 and could never rebound despite a win over playoff-bound Dacula.
Central Gwinnett (6-4, No. 6 prediction, 2-8 actual)
The Black Knights got their first winning season since 2006 last year. I thought the program was headed in the right direction, but then they dropped the last six games of the year. Three of the losses came by nine points or less.
Berkmar (3-7, No. 8 prediction, 3-7 actual)
I thought the Patriots might be able to pull off an unexpected win or two. It may have happened if starting QB Jaquan Morris didn’t get hurt. The defense was the biggest improvement and kept them in games.
I don’t think anyone would have ever predicted a three-way tie for first in the region. That’s what we got this year with Norcross, Collins Hill and North Gwinnett.
Norcross (10-0, No. 1 prediction, 8-2 actual)
The defending state champions got off to a rough start this season, but rebounded by winning the last seven games of the year and a piece of the region crown.
Collins Hill (7-3, No. 4 prediction, 9-1 actual)
I don’t think anyone expected Collins Hill to knock off No. 1 ranked North, including me. That put the Eagles in position to claim a share of their first region crown for the first time since 2004.
North Gwinnett (9-1, No. 2 prediction, 9-1 actual)
After beating Norcross in the region opener, it looked North would cruise to the region crown. A loss to Collins Hill changed all of that, but the Bulldogs still claimed a piece of the region crown.
Peachtree Ridge (6-4, No. 5 prediction, 7-3 actual)
The Lions were the team I thought could make the biggest improvement from 2012. They proved to be a legitimate playoff threat with close games against Norcross and Collins Hill.
Mill Creek (8-2, No. 3 prediction, 6-4 actual)
The award for best team in the state to miss the playoffs goes to Mill Creek. A one-point loss to Peachtree Ridge and a three-point loss to North Gwinnett kept the Hawks out of the postseason.
Duluth (4-6, No. 6 prediction, 3-7 actual)
The Wildcats needed a big win over someone they weren’t supposed to beat, but could never get it. Duluth has some talented players, but the team needs another year under first-year coach Jason Conner.
Mountain View (3-7, No. 7 prediction, 2-8 actual)
The young Bears program improved over the course of the season, but is still a couple of years away from competing with the big boys in the region.
Meadowcreek (1-9, No. 8 prediction, 1-9 actual)
One of the few predictions I made correctly at the beginning of the year was that Meadowcreek would snap its five-year losing streak. The Mustangs did by beating Habersham Central.
Habersham Central (0-10, No. 9 prediction, 0-10 actual)
The only non-Gwinnett team is hoping the GHSA moves them to a different region next year.
Lanier (6-4, No. 4 prediction, 8-2 actual)
The Longhorns took a big step in the right direction by securing a playoff berth and a winning season.
Buford (10-0, No. 1 prediction, 10-0)
The only challenge on Buford’s schedule was defending Class AAAAA state champion Gainesville. The Red Elephants, just like every other team, ended up not being a threat. The Wolves cruised to another undefeated season and region title.
GAC (10-0, No. 1 prediction, 9-1 actual)
The Spartans dominated the regular season and were never in a close game until the region finale against Lovett. The Lions gave GAC its only loss and kept them from winning the region crown.
Wesleyan (5-5, No. 4, 2-8 actual)
A tough non-region schedule paired with a tough region, limited Wesleyan’s victories this season. But the Wolves still made the playoffs in the five-team region.
Hebron (3-7, No. 4, actual 2-8)
The Lions started 2-0, but then lost their last eight to finish last in the region.