Playoff tickets on sale at GHS
Tickets for reserved seating for Friday’s playoff game between the top-ranked Gainesville Red Elephants and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe will be on sale from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Gainesville High’s main office.
The last snap has been taken, the last coin has been flipped, and the 2009 regular season is officially in the books. Buford and Commerce had to wait until Saturday to find out who they’d play in the first round, but now the state playoff brackets are finalized.
Buford (9-1, No. 2 6-AA) will play host to Pepperell (9-1, No. 3 7-AA) after the Dragons won a coin toss with Chattooga on Saturday.
The Wolves and Dragons are no stranger to postseason play, but this will be the first meeting between the two schools since 1955, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.
Buford, which won a share of the 6-AA title but took the No. 2 seed by virtue of a three-way tiebreaker, is the two-time defending state champion. Pepperell lost its only game 15-14 to Armuchee on Oct. 2, and has advanced to the state quarterfinals each of the last two seasons.
In Class A, Landmark Christian (6-4, No. 3 5-A) will visit Commerce (6-4 No. 2 8-A) on Friday after defeating Mount Pisgah on Saturday. Tigers coaches got a first-hand look at their opponent Saturday, as a Commerce contingent made the scouting trip to watch the War Eagles earn their ninth consecutive postseason berth.
This will be the 13th straight playoff appearance for Commerce.
7-AAA vs. 6-AAA
Northeast Georgia meets Northwest in the first round this season as Region 7-AAA, including three Hall County teams, squares off with Region 6-AAA.
Region 6 has long been considered a powerhouse in Class AAA, but in recent years, Region 7-AAA has experienced more playoff success. Cartersville, which missed the playoffs this year, is the last 6-AAA team to advance to the state semifinals (2004). Meanwhile, 7-AAA has sent two teams to the semifinals in the last three years. North Hall advanced to the final four in 2006, and Flowery Branch went to the state championship game last season.
This year, the Falcons (7-3, No. 4 7-AAA) open the playoffs with a familiar foe. Friday, they’ll travel to play Ridgeland (9-1, No. 1 6-AAA). In the second round last season, Flowery Branch won on the Panthers’ homefield, 21-14, on a last-minute touchdown pass from Connor Shaw to Robby Boudreau.
Ridgeland claimed its region championship with a 27-25 win over Carrollton on Friday.
Gainesville (10-0, No. 1 7-AAA) and North Hall (8-2, No. 2 7-AAA) will play at home against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold, respectively.
The Red Elephants, who have held the No. 1 state ranking most of the regular season, made a forceful statement with a 49-17 win over Flowery Branch to close the regular season. The Falcons entered the game with the state’s highest-scoring offense, but were harassed by Gainesville throughout the game. The Red Elephants finished with six sacks, including three in the first half by junior linebacker A.J. Johnson. Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (7-3, No. 4 6-AAA) won 14-13 over Cartersville on Friday and enters the playoffs scoring 24 points per game while surrendering 21 per contest.
North Hall finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak, and has scored at least 40 points in three straight. This will be the first trip to the playoffs since 2003 for Ringgold (8-2, No. 3 6-AAA).
Creekview (9-1 No. 3 7-AAA) will play at Carrollton (9-1, No. 2 6-AAA) on Friday.
The biggest show in town
Jefferson High School officials were expecting a big crowd when the Dragons played host to East Jackson on Friday with the Region 8-AA championship line. When they pre-sold more than 3,000 tickets, they knew they were looking at a standing-room only situation.
Jefferson athletics director Tim Corbett estimates around 5,500 were in attendance to watch the Dragons claim their second straight region title with a 35-21 win over the Eagles. According to 2008 Census estimates, the city of Jefferson’s population is 7,911.
"Some of these stories get bigger and bigger every year," Corbett said. "They say we’ve had 10,000 people for some (Jefferson-Commerce games), but after seeing last night, we had people standing all the way around the track, I don’t see how we can hold 10,000.
"This was definitely the biggest crowd in at least a decade."
Not all the news for the Dragons (10-0, No. 1 8-AA) was good. Hoytez Damons, a junior two-way starter at tight end and defensive, was injured and may not be available when Heard County (6-4, No. 4 5-AA) visits Friday for the first round of the playoffs.
Poor Panthers no more
Jackson County opened the 2009 season in historic fashion, starting 3-0 for the first time since 1981. But the Panthers may have notched a more meaningful victory Friday, when they closed the season with a 26-23 win against Stephens County courtesy of a 79-yard touchdown pass from Jalan Banks to Charlie Waycaster in the waning minutes.
The victory was Jackson County’s first in region play since 2006 and gave the Panthers their best record (4-6) since 1997 and their first win in school history over Stephens County.
He can do it all
Gainesville hasn’t needed eye-popping stats from its quarterback to cruise unbeaten through the regular season. But Blake Sims proved again Friday that he’s more than capable of producing numbers in a multitude of roles.
Sims, the Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2008, has done what’s asked of him all season, and in the Red Elephants’ showdown with Flowery Branch on Friday, he was asked to do plenty. The senior finished the game with 11 carries for 134 rushing yards, completed 9 of 12 passes for 145 yards, and caught two passes for 16 yards and a touchdown.
For the season, Sims’ stats break down like this:
583 rushing yards (8.4 per carry), 10 touchdowns
1,547 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 63 percent completions, three interceptions in 168 attempts
Four receptions, 164 yards, three touchdowns
One punt return for a touchdown
42 yards per punt on seven attempts