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's defense held Stephens County to 46 total yards and only allowed the Indians to cross midfield once as the top-ranked Wolves captured their first championship in Region 8-AAAA with a 56-0 victory on Friday in Toccoa.
Monroe Area bested Chestatee 41-28 on Friday to cap a disappointing season for both teams at Monroe.
HOMER - West Hall coach Tony Lotti got a muted response when he told his team to get excited for next week's decisive region battle against Lumpkin County.
When Gainesville needed a lift late in Friday's contest against Loganville, hard-hitting defensive back Toddrick Turner was more than happy to oblige.
Lakeview Academy fell to Prince Avenue Christian 49-10 on Friday at Jock Hornor Field in Gainesville.
The Knights came just short of a win on Friday in Oakwood, falling to Franklin County 14-13 at Billy Ellis Stadium.
No. 4 Jefferson stayed unbeaten with a 28-16 victory over Oconee County on Friday in Jefferson.
Habersham Central ended a 21-game losing streak over three seasons by beating North Forsyth 42-7 on on Friday in Mount Airy.
White County closed in on a playoff spot in Region 8-AAAA with a 51-22 win on Friday in Monroe.
Union County rolled up a 42-27 win over Riverside Military Academy in an offensive shootout Friday at Maginnis Field in Gainesville.
Flowery Branch rallied for the winning touchdown with less than a minute to play to upset Salem 7-6 on Friday night and stay alive in the Region 8-AAAAA playoff hunt.
After dropping its first seven games this season, the North Hall football team has a winning streak and bragging rights.
Top-ranked Buford continued its run of one-side victories, shutting out Madison County 44-0 on Friday at Tom Riden Stadium.
Lumpkin County set up a showdown against West Hall for the Region 7-AAA title by beating Dawson Couty 42-19 on Friday in Dahlonega.
A North Georgia snowstorm wasn't enough to stop East Hall from trudging past Fannin County, 38-20 on Friday in Blue Ridge.