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.
Banks County earned its first victory since October 2012, beating Johnson 28-24 Friday in a back-and-forth game in Oakwood.
Jefferson freshman phenom running back Colby Wood is quickly making a name for himself with a tenacious running style, much more assertive than most young running backs.
BUFORD - The Buford Wolves fell behind three times Friday night, but they didn't blink.
West Hall's Tony Lotti didn't want his players to get too high on themselves after soundly defeating county rival Chestatee 31-0 Friday night.
JEFFERSON - Friday night was a battle of two completely different offenses: White County operates by ground, Jackson County by air.
Commerce quarterback Caleb Brooks powered the Tigers to a 36-14 win over Hebron Christian Academy on Friday in Commerce.
Habersham Central suffered a 41-0 shutout loss to Northview in Region 7-AAAAAA play Friday in Duluth.
Union County improved to 2-0 with Friday's 28-7 win over Lumpkin County in Dahlonega.
Gilmer shut out Dawson County 23-0 on Friday in Dawsonville.
Lakeview Academy fell on the road to St. Francis 45-10 on Friday in Alpharetta.
East Hall fell to 0-2 with Friday night's 38-10 loss to Pickens in Jasper.
WINDER - With the star-studded duo of TJ Skelton and Evan Shirreffs on the field for Jefferson, a productive and powerful offense was expected. What was not expected was how the Dragons used almost everybody but Skelton on their way to a 41-7 win over the Winder-Barrow Bulldoggs at W. Clair Harris Stadium in Winder.
COMMERCE - After last Friday's loss, East Jackson Eagles' head coach Gary Hughes said his team had to limit turnovers to stay in games.
Madison County scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to overcome Jackson County 27-21 on Friday in Jefferson.
After 11 straight seasons of futility in season openers, Forsyth Central finally started the schedule off on the right foot.