At this time last season, Gainesville High appeared to be a football team in free fall.
The high school football state playoffs begin this Friday for the state's five largest classifications. The postseason will stretch across the next five weeks, with the state championship games being played Dec. 13-14 inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Quarterback Daniel McCrary and wide receiver Johnathan Gilreath ended their careers at Lumpkin County on a particularly high note on Friday in the regular season finale, even though making the playoffs was out of the question.
For the second straight year, Gainesville faced a surging Flowery Branch team in the fourth quarter with a region title on the line.
North Hall came into Friday night's game with chance to emerge as Region 7-AAA champs. But with a 42-14 win, top-ranked Buford showed why it's considered by many to be the frontrunner not only for the region, but for a second-straight state title as well.
DAWSONVILLE - Tony Lotti had an important phone call to make.
Lumpkin County ended its season with a 31-28 upset win over Stephens County, the No. 4 seed in Region 8-AAAA, on Friday in Toccoa.
Chestatee finished its regular season and tuned up for the state playoffs Friday with a 42-0 win over Madison County at War Eagle Stadium.
Luis Sanchez's game-winning field goal with four seconds left lifted Jackson County past Morgan County 38-35 on Friday in Jefferson, sending the Panthers to the Class AAA state playoffs for the second straight year.
Devan Stringer had every reason to smile after Gainesville claimed the Region 8-AAAAA title on its own home field Friday.
Riverside Military Academy capped its season with a 30-26 win over Greene County.
White County used a wide range of players to work its way to a 38-13 win over Banks County on Friday in Homer.
CUMMING - Commerce had several close spots go its way as it converted first downs in crucial situations and finished with a total time of possession of 34:29 in a 24-14 victory over Pinecrest Academy on Friday at The Paladins' field.
Towns County beat Hebron Christian 34-19 in its season finale Friday in Dacula.
Flowery Branch earned its first Region 8-AAAAA victory of the season on Friday, beating Cedar Shoals 17-7 in Athens.
Stephens County kept North Hall winless with a 48-19 win Friday in Toccoa.
Tae Turner's five touchdowns powered Lakeview Academy to its first region win in school history, a 38-3 victory over Providence Christian on Friday at Jock Hornor Field in Gainesville.
Habersham Centrall fell on the road Friday to Alpharetta 52-3 as the Raiders continue to struggle in Region 7-AAAAAA, falling to 0-5 on the year.
George Walton defeated Towns County 48-28 as ihe Indians fell to 1-4 on Friday in Monroe.
Union County ran up a 52-19 win over Social Circle on Friday in Blairsville.
Commerce defeated Athens Christian 10-7 on Friday in Athens.
Franklin County held off Banks County 22-21 on Friday night in Homer.
BETHLEHEM - Gainesville coach Bruce Miller hit a big milestone Friday night.
BUFORD - Buford opened Region 8-AAAA play with a 42-10 victory over White County at home on Friday night.
CARROLLTON - It took a little longer than he anticipated, but Ed Dudley has registered victory No. 1 as the head coach of the Carrollton High School football team.
With Devin Watson in shorts on the sideline Friday night, East Hall didn't have the firepower to keep up with Jackson County.
Flowery Branch made a number of costly mistakes Friday against Heritage.
Lumpkin County lost a tight contest on the road to Our Lady of Mercy on Friday, 42-35 in Fayetteville.
Commerce used late heroics to pull out a 27-20 victory over Athens Academy on Friday at Ray Lamb Stadium.