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The biggest high school games for 2010
Which games carry greatest rivalry, biggest implications?
North Hall lost to Gainesville High in September 2009 last season at Bobby Gruhn Field at City Park. When the two meet up this year, it could be a preview of the Region 8-AAA championship. As if the rivalry needed more excitement.

From crosstown rivals to possible playoff previews, these games highlight the 2010 high school football schedule.

This year offers a bevy of games to get any fan excited, especially seeing there are games between two 2009 state finalists, the top two in Class AA, and a former Class AAA power trying to make a name for itself in a higher classification.

While games like those are must-sees, there’s no contest to which matchup is the most important in Hall County: Gainesville vs. North Hall.

Gainesville at North Hall, Sept. 17

When you think of big games in Hall County, the first one that comes to mind is the heated rivalry of Gainesville against North Hall.

With the two teams combining to win the last eight Region 7-AAA championships, the winner of this game usually ends up with the crown, but that’s not the case this year.

Playing in a new region with new rules, the Red Elephants and Trojans both have a strong possibility of making this game a preview of the Nov. 5 region championship, if both win their subregion.

Whether or not that happens won’t take anything away from the magnitude of this annual contest that normally draws the largest crowd of the season. That won’t change this year.

Buford at Carver-Columbus, Sept. 3

As far as tough starts to the season go, it’s tough to argue any team has a more difficult first two games than the three time defending Class AA champions.

The Wolves begin the season against Gainesville, last year’s Class AAA runner-ups, and follow that with a trip to Carver-Columbus, which is playing in Class AA after a long run of dominance in Class AAA. Did we mention Buford and Carver are also Class AA’s preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams? Yeah, this is going to be a good one.

This game could be a preview of the state championship and features one of the best running backs in the state in Carver’s Isaiah Crowell facing a defense that recorded eight shutouts in 2009.

White County at North Hall, Oct. 8

Lost in the mix of all the talk of a North Hall-Gainesville region title game is White County, which has the ability and athletes to possibly dethrone North Hall as the subregion champs.

Sure, the Trojans haven’t lost a subregion game in 22 tries, but the Warriors begin the year full of confidence in their sophomore QB Cole Segraves and senior RB Ashely Lowery.

It’ll be tough for any road team to leave The Brickyard with a win, but if White County manages to do such a thing, it could lead them to a berth in the Region 8-AAA title game.

Apalachee at Flowery Branch, Sept. 17

Although these two teams have never played each other, this matchup is one that could define each one’s season. The Wildcats finished first in Region 8-AAAA last year, and the Falcons could make their presence felt immediately if they knock out the former champs.

Both teams enter the year with new quarterbacks, but Flowery Branch’s new QB Austin Brown is familiar with the Wildcats, having lost to them twice when he was at Habersham Central. Brown will be just one of the several key players who can turn this into the region’s best game of the year.

St. Pius X at North Hall, Sept. 10

Among the Trojans’ first three opponents of the season, and sandwiched in between tough teams in area rivals Jefferson and Gainesville, are the St. Pius X Lions — the Atlanta team that ended their season in the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs last year.

That matchup was the first ever between the two schools, and the Lions won 17-3 in Atlanta.

While this game won’t count in the region standings — the Trojans are in 8-AAA and the Lions 5-AAA — the game will serve as a barometer for if North Hall is a playoff-caliber team this season.

The game is at North Hall and is sure to have a playoff-like feel.

Buford at Gainesville, Aug. 27

This game would have been higher on the list last year, but it’s still one of the best season-opening matchups in the state, seeing it features two area schools that made runs in last year’s state playoffs.

Buford defeated Calhoun 13-10 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for their third consecutive Class AA state title.

The Red Elephants came within two points of a Class AAA state title last year, losing 13-12 to Peach County at the Dome.

Both teams face turnover from the year before,  but both are ranked in the preseason top 10 — The Wolves at No. 1 in AA and Gainesville is  No. 7 in AAA.

Buford is 2-0 in the all-time series, winning in 2004 and 2005.

Buford at Lovett, Sept. 24

Last year, Lovett’s Lions beat Buford in the regular season 28-21 to hand the Wolves their only loss in three seasons.

The Lions’ win also gave them the Region 6-AA championship over the Wolves, though Lovett would go on to lose to 49-41 to Calhoun in the state semifinals, preventing a rematch in the state title game that Buford won for a third-straight time.

This season’s game won’t affect the region standings — 6-AA is now divided into subregions with the Wolves in “A” and the Lions in “B” — but Buford will no doubt be seeking to avenge last season’s loss and add to it’s 5-3 lead in the all-time series.

Flowery Branch at Clarke Central, Nov. 5

This season-ending showdown between Flowery Branch’s Falcons and the Gladiators could be for the Region 8-AAAA title depending on how the two teams fare against prior opponents.

If it turns out this matchup is for a region title, the Gladiators will be gunning for their first since 2003, while Flowery Branch has none in the football program’s nine-year history.

This matchup will still be a “Big Game,” regardless of region implications.

The Falcons were state semifinalists last year, while the Gladiators were state runners-up.

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