This is the most fun time of year to play high school football for those still in the running.
Just like last season, Gainesville's football team will have to find a way to win in enemy territory in order to reach the Class AAAAA state championship game in The Georgia Dome. Buford, meanwhile, can punch its ticket to the Class AAA title contest in the friendly confines of Tom Riden Stadium.
Not even a tender left shoulder on quarterback Deshaun Watson or a potent Mundy's Mill running game could keep Gainesville from earning a win in the state quarterfinals on Friday at City Park Stadium.
The Gainesville Red Elephants are starting to become very comfortable at playing football when the weather turns cold.
BARNESVILLE - Despite being in unfamiliar territory on Friday against Jefferson, Lamar County didn't panic.
BUFORD - It wasn't pretty, but Buford's quarterfinal matchup with fellow state power Carver-Columbus finished in usual fashion - with the Wolves on top.
This isn't uncharted territory for the Gainesville Red Elephants. If anything, the members of Gainesville's football team expected to be here, practicing the week of Thanksgiving and playing in a high-profile quarterfinal matchup on Black Friday.
JEFFERSON - Trailing by three points in the closing minutes of last week's second-round playoff matchup at Heard County, Jefferson's defense was able to do something it hadn't been able to do all game long: Make a stop.
BUFORD - Lately it's almost a given that top-ranked Buford will face Carver-Columbus in the playoffs.
Tickets for Gainesville's Class AAAAA state quarterfinal game Friday against Mundy's Mill will be on sale from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in the school's lobby.
One of the few uncertain moments for top-ranked Buford (12-0) came early Saturday morning with a coin flip to determine home field for Friday's state quarterfinal game against No. 4 Carver-Columbus (11-1).
Out of all the impressive things Gainesville did in its second-round playoff win against South Paulding, it was a brilliant third quarter that stood out the most. The Red Elephants (11-1) scored touchdowns on all four offensive possessions in the third period, while stifling the Spartans' offense, to secure a 51-12 win at City Park Stadium.
TYRONE - Chestatee made major strides during its 2013 season, building a campaign that reached historic levels in the program's short history.
BUFORD - Thomas Wilson scored two touchdowns in just over a minute and Tyler Winslow returned a blocked punt 14 yards as the Buford Wolves blew open what was a close second-round playoff matchup against Woodward Academy on Friday night at Tom Riden Stadium to win 40-7.
ROSWELL - The No. 1-seed Blessed Trinity Titans defeated the No. 2-seed White County Warriors 38-0 in the second round of the AAA state playoffs, Friday night at Titan Field.
BUFORD - For Evyn Cooper, it was all about being the next man up.
HAMILTON – Mikey Gonzalez has carved out his own legacy for Gainesville. His year as the Red Elephants' signal-caller will be remembered for winning huge games with clutch performances.
JEFFERSON - The No. 1-seed Jefferson Dragons put together another dominant performance in the Class AAA state playoffs Friday night at Memorial Stadium, ousting the No. 3-seeded Dodge County Indians, 27-7.
COMMERCE - Once Will Thomas found running room, there was no stopping him.
Gainesville at Harris County
Michael Byrd's joy can be found in watching his two sons playing football for Gainesville High on Fridays in the fall. Part of the excitement is watching his sons, Michael and Chris, following in his footsteps as standouts for the Red Elephants. The other part is just the paternal joy of watching the next generation do what they love.
Children sat around the stage. West Hall football players stood on stage, and the auditorium was full as Tony Lotti took the stage.
Tapped out of energy from a three-hour slugfest and numb from freezing temperatures most of the night, Gainesville's players were still able to celebrate following Friday's playoff opener against Creekview.
Elbert County bested Lumpkin County 28-18 in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs on Friday night in Dahlonega.
BUFORD - Sixteen different players carried the ball as top-ranked Buford racked up 423 rushing yards on 36 carries to defeat Southeast Whitfield 63-0 in the opening round of the Class AAAA playoffs on Friday at Tom Riden Stadium.
HARTWELL - Bryan Gray looked over his team of quiet, disappointed East Hall Vikings and gave them a simple message following their 42-14 loss at Hart County.
The running of Kwon Williams and Tyquan Statham was a perfect analogy for the West Hall football team's mentality on Friday night. Quite simply, the Spartans refused to go down without a fight.
JEFFERSON - With freezing temperatures, it took a little time for the Jefferson Dragons' offense to warm up offensively during its Class AAA state playoff opener against the Franklin County Lions.
Model beat Union County 50-36 in the Class AA state playoff opener Friday in Blairsville.
White County fell to Cartersville, the No. 1 from Region 7-AAAA, 54-0 Friday night in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs at Cartersville.