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Security stepped up for showdown Friday night
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Class AAA playoff semifinal

Who: Flowery Branch at Gainesville
Where: City Park
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $10. At Gainesville, general admission tickets go on sale beginning at 10 a.m. today. At Flowery Branch, tickets can be purchased from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. through Friday in the main office.
Parking: Limited near stadium due to events at Civic Center and Martha Hope Cabin. Parking available at Lakewood Baptist Church, with shuttle bus to stadium.
Tailgate: Gainesville High will hold a tailgate catered by Johnny’s BBQ from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Friday in the Green Street pool parking lot.
Coming Friday: A special section previewing the Duel for the Dome state semifinal, with scouting reports, matchups, lineups and rosters for each team. Only in print editions of The Times, available at retail outlets and news racks throughout Northeast Georgia. To have The Times delivered to your home,  call 770-532-2222 or subscribe here.

Friday’s big game at City Park may not set an attendance record, but officials are preparing for a huge crowd.

Gainesville High School is hiring about 50 percent more off-duty police officers to work the Gainesville-Flowery Branch state semifinal football game than would be used in a regular game at City Park, Red Elephants Athletic Director Wayne Vickery said.

Vickery declined to give the exact number of officers working, but said there will be additional officers to provide security in the stands and help with pedestrian crossings along Green Street.

"I don’t think you can ever have too much security," Vickery said.

Vickery said while he was hopeful there would be no problems with fan behavior, "you never know."

During a regular-season Flowery Branch-Gainesville game at Flowery Branch Nov. 6, officials encountered problems with too many spectators on the sidelines during the game. Vickery noted that shouldn’t be a problem at City Park, where a fence surrounds the field and field passes will be required.

The stands overlooking Bobby Gruhn Field at City Park can fit as many as 6,000 spectators.

Vickery said if the weather is decent, 6,000 to 8,000 people could show up for the game.

He said the biggest game attendance ever at City Park was in the mid-1970s, when a region championship game between Gainesville and Habersham Central drew an overflow crowd. Vickery was not ready to say Friday’s game could eclipse that turnout.

With plenty of standing-room space surrounding the field, officials don’t expect to turn anyone away.

"There will be plenty of tickets," Vickery said.

Vickery encouraged fans to use a parking shuttle that starts running at 5 p.m. Friday at Lakewood Baptist Church and to show up early for the game. The gates will open two and a half hours before the scheduled 7:30 p.m. starting time – a half-hour earlier than usual.

Hall County Sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland said a school resource officer will accompany the Flowery Branch team, and that the county school board has hired two additional officers to work parking at the Hall County School District Offices on Green Street, where some Flowery Branch supporters will park.

Gainesville Police Lt. Carol Martin said regular shift patrol officers and special services officers will be available if needed to back up off-duty officers working security.

"There will be more people there and there will be parking issues, but we expect everybody to be well-behaved," Martin said.

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