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Gainesville High gearing up for big game
Spirits high as GHS hosts state semifinal at 7:30 tonight
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Charles Jarrard paints fresh stripes Thursday at City Park Stadium as a Gainesville Parks and Recreation crews prepare the field for the Red Elephants’ Class AAA state semifinal playoff game tonight against Burke County.

There's no doubting Helen Perry's allegiance to Gainesville High School or her excitement about tonight's Class AAA state semifinal playoff game at City Park Stadium.

She's a graduate with other family ties to the Red Elephants, including two sons who are varsity football coaches. She and Kim Davis, Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School assistant principal, lead Gainesville's cheerleaders.

Playoff football is "especially gratifying, exciting and a lot of fun," Perry said.

The school has been gearing up all week for the matchup with Burke County.

In addition to practices, GHS has held a poster contest and cheerleaders have put up posters along Green Street leading to City Park.

"We're giving the top three winners in the student body ... a free ticket to the game," Perry said. "It seems like everybody is real excited and participating."

The last time the Red Elephants played host to a semifinal game was 2009, when they beat Hall County rival Flowery Branch 29-21. They went on to lose the state title game to Peach County.

Logan Brown, a senior and GHS cheerleading captain, remembers that loss — she wasn't cheering then, but was a fan in the stands — and is hoping for a more successful path this time.

She's not looking ahead to the Georgia Dome, however.

It's one game at a time, starting with the Burke County Bears.

"Excitement is building, as the week progresses," Brown said. "Everyone is contributing, helping (the cheerleaders) make posters, for Green Street and the field and to put (up at) the school.

"Even some of the elementary schools have been making posters for us, so it's a big community effort."

Walt Snelling, longtime stadium announcer for the Red Elephants, has high hopes for this year's team.

"I don't know that much about Burke County. They've got a bunch of good athletes, but maybe not quite as many as Sandy Creek had," he said, referring to Gainesville's opponent in last week's quarterfinal victory.

He does believe public support for the Red Elephants is strong.

"The school's fired up, the community is fired up and this old man is fired up," Snelling said. "I'm 75 years old and I didn't think I'd live to see a state championship (at GHS) but ... maybe this is the year."

Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the city is gearing up also for a huge crowd from Burke County, as many as 22 buses. The school is in Waynesboro near the South Carolina line.

"This has been a week of planning and logistics of how to get the buses in and the people unloaded, and where to park the buses," she said.

Meanwhile, enthusiasm has been rampant among students and faculty.

"It's kind of a spirit of determination," Dyers said.

"You're celebrating that you've advanced this far but looking determined to move even further."

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