BUFORD - What a difference a half makes.
CLARKSTON – It shouldn't have ended this way.
CLARKSTON - Gainesville stood toe to toe with Tucker for most of the night in the Class AAAAA state semifinals on Friday at Hallford Stadium in Clarkston. What kept it close was the Red Elephants' remarkable defense for most of the night against the Tigers' vaunted running game.
Deshaun Watson couldn't help but smile.
Gainesville High quarterback Deshaun Watson was named the 2013-2014 Gatorade Georgia Football Player of the Year, according to an announcement made Thursday by The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports.
BUFORD - Buford coach Jess Simpson might have the best backup quarterback in Georgia.
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.
Winder-Barrow overcame an emotional atmosphere on its way to a 24-7 victory over Flowery Branch on Friday night.
White County scored with just 27 seconds left and earned a 34-27 victory over Madison County in a penalty-ridden game Friday in Cleveland.
JEFFERSON - The Jefferson Dragons have shown all year why they are the class of the newly-formed Region 8-AAA by scoring throngs of points and making it tough for opposing offenses to get into Dragon territory, let alone the end zone.
Lumpkin County rode a hot quarterback to a 27-21 win over Franklin County on Friday in Dahlonega.
Every second half possession for both teams resulted in a score, but it wasn't quite enough for Commerce in a 42-27 loss to Prince Avenue on Friday in Bogart.
North Oconee kept North Hall winless with a 42-6 victory on Friday at The Brickyard.
With a safety the only thing on the board for Gainesville through almost two quarters, Toddrick Turner had a hand in a pair of plays that turned the tide.
Union County defeated Oglethorpe County 46-0 as Jacob Rogers' three touchdowns led the Panthers to victory on Friday in Lexington.
Fannin County held off Banks County 30-23 on Friday in Blue Ridge.
Oconee County ran past Jackson County 42-21 on Friday in Watkinsville.
A field goal in overtime lifted Strong Rock Christian to a 10-7 victory over Riverside Military Academy Friday night in Locust Grove.
DAWSONVILLE- West Hall took a huge first step toward a Region 7-AAA playoff spot on Friday.
With the crux of his offensive and defensive schemes sitting injured on the Gainesville bench, even a dominant win over a region opponent couldn't put coach Bruce Miller in a good mood late Friday night.
Johnson's football players posed for an impromptu celebratory shot together, while Knights coach Jason Roquemore was bopping around the field after Friday's game against Riverside Military Academy at Maginnis Field in Gainesville.
JEFFERSON - After a first-possession fumble by the undefeated Jefferson Dragons on Friday night, the annual Battle of Jefferson against Jackson County had all the makings of a great rivalry game: an early turnover, a fired-up crowd and the home team looking to score quickly.