If you've been waiting for clarity in the Gwinnett County high school football playoff picture, you're checking in on the right weekend.
Three games scheduled this Friday will go a long way in establishing the front-runners in regions 7-AAAAAA and 8-AAAAAA.
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In 7-AAAAAA, Norcross plays at Mill Creek in a matchup of teams that are 2-0 in the region (Norcross is 4-0 overall; Mill Creek is 3-1).
In 8-AAAAAA, Parkview hosts Brookwood and Central Gwinnett hosts South Gwinnett in games also matching undefeated in the standings. Parkview and South Gwinnett are both 2-0 in region games; Central and Brookwood are 1-0.
Here's the deal about mid-season region games: They often come back to haunt you, especially with big games ahead.
A look at the ramifications:
TEAMS WITH MOST TO LOSE
Central Gwinnett and South Gwinnett: The Central-South game is perhaps bigger than the other two this week. Both teams' fast starts (Central is 3-0 overall; South is 3-1) have come against weaker foes. Both have the four playoff favorites (Grayson, Brookwood, Parkview and Archer) left on their schedules, so a loss this week could be damaging to their playoff hopes. The result also could be the tiebreaker if they're tied in the standings by the end of the regular season.
TEAMS WITH MOST TO GAIN
Mill Creek: A win over third-ranked Norcross would be huge for Mill Creek, which could take the 7-AAAAAA lead outright and be in the driver's seat for the title. The overlooked Hawks also have defending region champ North Gwinnett on its home field on Oct. 12.
Parkview: Tenth-ranked Parkview has beaten Grayson and Archer in back-to-back games and would take the 8-AAAAAA lead with a win over its biggest rival. After that, it would take an upset loss for the Panthers not to run the table.
TEAMS THAT CAN ASSERT THEMSELVES
Norcross: The Blue Devils will be favored against Mill Creek, and a win over a quality opponent like the Hawks will confirm that they should be considered a state-title contender. They also would appear to have clear sailing to an undefeated regular season.
Brookwood: The Broncos have won three in a row (and six of seven) over Parkview, so a win will continue its dominance over the Panthers. A win could set up Brookwood's Nov. 9 game at Grayson to decide the region title.
Another game-winner at the buzzer: Wesleyan kicker Rhett Delk's 49-yard field goal with four seconds left gave the Wolves a 17-14 win over Brookstone last week. It was the third time a Gwinnett kicker has won a game at the end this season. Collins Hill's Mitchell Blanchard did it with a 55-yarder in a 24-22 win over Dacula, and North Gwinnett's Michael D'Angola made a 33-yarder as time expired to beat Colquitt County in the Corky Kell Classic. Click on the image attached to this file to see Blachard's kick.
Here comes Buford: The Wolves' assault on Region 7-AAA begins this week at Banks County. Buford (3-1, ranked No. 4 in Class AAA) will play West Hall, Fannin County and White County for the first time this year. Those teams were a combined 9-21 last year. The Wolves are 49-8-2 all-time against their other opponents — Banks County, Dawson County, East Hall and North Hall.
Don't overlook Lanier: The Longhorns have had a great start to its first varsity season. They're 3-1 overall, 1-0 in Region 8-AAAA, after last week's 14-7 win over Madison County. The biggest game in the program's short history is Friday at home against No. 10 Monroe Area.
Biggest rivalries: AJC blogger Jeff Haws listed Brookwood-Parkview (scheduled Friday at Parkview) No. 5 on the state's top 10 high school football rivalries. Valdosta-Lowndes was No. 1. No other Gwinnett rivalry made the list. Which other Gwinnett rivalries should be considered? North-Norcross? Buford-GAC? Parkview-Berkmar? Brookwood-Grayson? Let us know in the comment below.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I like the energy we’re playing with. We’re playing with a lot of speed and passion.” — Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis told the AJC after last week's 20-10 win over Peachtree Ridge.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Hunter Thornton, DE, Parkview: Thornton had 12 total tackles (seven solo/five assists), one tackle for loss, and one fumble recovery in Parkview's 20-18 win at Archer last week. By the way, Thornton also averages 33 yards as Parkview's punter.
Click here to see all of the games scheduled for Gwinnett teams.