September 24, 2012
Of the 12 Gwinnett area high school football games this Friday, three stand out as very significant even though we're not yet at the halfway point of the season.
Four teams are unbeaten in Region 8-AAAAAA play and that number will be cut in half by late Friday evening after Parkview hosts Brookwood and Central Gwinnett hosts South Gwinnett. Three teams have perfect marks in 7-AAAAAA and one of those will go away this week after Mill Creek hosts Norcross.
Here's a look at the state of each region and my thoughts on the playoff chase at this point.
Who would have pictured Parkview in this position? A win over Brookwood this week and the Panthers (2-0 in the region) are in the driver's seat for a region championship. Already with wins over two potential playoff teams in Grayson and Archer, they can notch a third against their longtime rivals.
Meanwhile, a Brookwood win in this game would scramble up the region standings and put the Broncos (1-0) in a pretty good position. It would also do a favor for defending state champion Grayson (1-1) and get the Rams back in the region title chase after their early stumble against Parkview.
The other matchup of 8-AAAAAA unbeatens, South (2-0) at Central (1-0), will tell us a lot about which team is the more serious playoff contender. Both teams are ultra-talented on offense (remember South's 63-55 win in this game last year), but they're also both stronger on defense than a year ago. Which defense has improved more could be the deciding factor in this one.
While all the above teams have good shots at the playoffs from this region, you can't write off a talented Archer team (0-2) after early losses to Brookwood and Parkview.
Is Mill Creek legit? We'll find out this Friday.
Norcross (2-0) is a proven power — its 20-0 win over Parkview looks better and better by the week — and is the team to beat after already knocking off playoff favorite North Gwinnett (1-1). The Blue Devils bring a talented team to Hoschton, where the Hawks (2-0) will be aiming for one of the biggest wins in school history.
Mill Creek will be physical and will fight to the end, as it showed in last week's impressive second half vs. Peachtree Ridge.
Collins Hill (1-0) is the only other 7-AAAAAA team without a region loss. The Eagles take on Mountain View on Friday.
North (1-1), which has a bye this week, also looks good for one of the 7-AAAAAA playoff spots.
When all is said and done in this region, I see Norcross, North, Mill Creek and Collins Hill as the four playoff teams. That said, Collins Hill must beat Peachtree Ridge next Friday to make that happen. A loss there could throw the Lions (1-1) strongly back into the playoff mix.