By benefit of a coin flip, Gainesville will be back in City Park Stadium for another Friday night.
The Red Elephants won the Saturday-morning coin toss with Sandy Creek, and will host the Patriots at 7:30 p.m. Friday night. That has to be welcome news for coach Bruce Miller and his team, as since 2000, the Red Elephants are 15-3 at home and 1-6 on the road in state playoff games.
And Gainesville will take every advantage it can get against this week’s opponent, the undefeated, two-time defending state champs from Sandy Creek.
The Patriots, who won the Class AAAA state title in 2009 before dropping down to Class AAA and going unbeaten last year, have won 41 consecutive games. Their last loss was a 28-27 double overtime decision to East Coweta in the 2009 season opener, and their last loss to a Class AAA team was four years ago — though the Red Elephants can take heart in the fact that it was against a Hall County team, as North Hall knocked off the Patriots 21-7 in the second round of the 2007 state playoffs. The previous year, Flowery Branch thumped Sandy Creek 45-14 in the first round.
Since the loss to North Hall, the Patriots are 13-1 in the playoffs.
This year, Sandy Creek averages 37.9 points per game while the defense gives up just 8.4 and has five shutouts to its credit. The team advanced with a 42-14 win over Troup on Friday.
The school that produced Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech and Detroit Lions fame has another standout at receiver in senior JaQuay Williams. Williams, an Auburn recruit, and three of his senior classmates have already made pledges to SEC and ACC schools.
Gainesville has its own highly touted recruit in sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson, but the prolific Red Elephant offense faced its first significant challenge in weeks on Friday, fighting to a 16-13 win over Monroe-Albany. It was the first game since the season-opening loss to Buford in which Gainesville didn’t score at least 40 points.
The often overlooked defense did its part, though, and is now giving up 9.6 points per game during the Red Elephants’ 11-game winning streak.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: After a rare playoff stop at home, Flowery Branch is headed back to more familiar territory, meaning anywhere but Falcon Field.
Since their first playoff berth in 2005, the Falcons have played twice as many postseason games on the road (12) as they have at home (six).
Not that they mind. After losing their first two road playoff games, the Falcons have won eight of their last 10.
This week’s opponent, however, could present the stiffest challenge a Flowery Branch team has faced since the 2008 Falcons fell to top-ranked Cairo in the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons will head to Tucker to face the perennially tough Tigers (12-0), who have ranked at or near the top of the Class AAAA polls since preseason.
Tucker, which has advanced to the semifinals in three of the last four seasons, defeated Griffin 46-0 on Friday.
Flowery Branch (11-1) advanced with a 31-21 win over Thomas County Central.
BUFORD GOES STREAKING: After Friday night’s 31-0 win over Jefferson County, Buford is now three wins away from becoming the first team in Georgia High School Association history to win five straight state championships.
That’s the Wolves’ most well-known — and most important streak — but it’s not the only one worth mentioning.
A few others to keep in mind:
- Have won at least 12 games 11 years in a row
- 22 straight playoff wins
- 25 straight wins overall
- 12th straight year in the quarterfinals
Friday the Wolves (12-0) will host Elbert County (11-1).
The Blue Devils, whose only loss came to North Oconee in the 8-AA championship game, are in the midst of their best season since coach T. McFerrin’s final year in 1996.
This year’s team is led by junior running back Tyshon Dye, who already holds offers from Georgia and Clemson, as well as a defense that has five shutouts and yields 9.2 points per game.
Friday’s game will be the first meeting between Buford and Elbert County, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.