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Murphy: Big game finally here
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Coming this week

Tuesday: Revisiting the Gainesville "baby line." Last season the Red Elephants started four sophomores and a junior on the offensive line. This year they’re all back and leading Gainesville to an undefeated season.

Wednesday: Taking a closer look at the Flowery Branch defensive line, which features a pair of Division-I prospects including defensive end Izaan Cross.

Thursday: Shining some light on some of the unheralded stars of Gainesville and Flowery Branch.

Friday: Game preview, including key players and matchups and predictions.

Saturday: Game report and sports writer Jonathan Zopf’s opinion on the game.

Friday’s Games

East Hall at Pickens

Gilmer at White County

North Hall at Lumpkin County

West Hall at West Forsyth

Athens Christian at Lakeview Academy

Greater Atlanta Christian at Buford

Creekview at Chestatee

Riverside Military at Dawson County

Commerce at Prince Avenue Christian

Banks County at Union County

Jefferson at East Jackson

Stephens County at Jackson County

Hall County high school fans have salivated for a game of this magnitude for a long, long time. The matchup for the ages has finally been set.

When the region schedule came out for the 2008 season, it wasn’t designed specifically to try and set up a battle of two unbeaten teams in region play at the end of the season. But I don’t think anyone’s complaining.

Flowery Branch (8-1, 4-0 Region 7B-AAA) and Class AAA’s sixth-ranked Gainesville (9-0, 4-0) are going to battle it out to decide the Region 7-AAA title in just four days at Bobby Gruhn Field.

Sure, we have big games in Hall County every season. It just seems like the best teams meet up early in the year. Last season Gainesville and North Hall played in September. And the 2005 Gainesville and Flowery Branch game was before the region even had a chance to shake itself out.

But this year’s Gainesville-Flowery Branch game couldn’t have been planned any better. It’s a game of two titans that are crushing opponents with smooth-as-silk offenses, great defensive efforts, and amazing fan support from both schools to give it some extra hype.

The crowd at City Park on Friday should be as good, or better, than any game ever played in Hall County. It should, if nothing else, match a North Hall-Gainesville game. It will certainly have the atmosphere of a playoff game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the stadium packed to capacity way before sundown.

Gainesville and Flowery Branch have two of the best fan bases for football in northeast Georgia.

The stakes in this game are what really make it special. Flowery Branch is scratching to earn its first region title in school history. The Falcons have been close the past couple of years with the subregion title, but just haven’t been able to get over the hump.

The Red Elephants are wanting to add to the school’s rich football tradition with a fourth region title since 2002.

I don’t think anyone knows who has the upper hand in this game. It’s that close. That’s why everyone is going to want to be there to see it first hand. There are going to be two teams slugging it out for four quarters to see who opens the playoffs at home as the region champs, and who has to travel for the first round of state.

I don’t care who is playing in the rest of the state in Week 11 of the regular season. This is the best matchup for fans to watch in all of the Peach state. This game is just as important as the Region 7-AAAAA title game between Peachtree Ridge and North Gwinnett right down the road on Friday in Suwanee.

Flowery Branch-Gainesville is going to be like Northside-Lowndes, Brookwood-Parkview, Clarke Central-Cedar Shoals, or any other great rivalry you care to interject, all wrapped into one.

When Gainesville and Flowery Branch play it’s going to be a huge deal. That’s why Jonathan Zopf and Katie B. Davis from the Times’ sports department are going to make a week-long breakdown of the game. They’ll take a look at individual players, unsung heroes, compelling matchups, and even get the fans’ take.

On Friday, everyone in the sports department will get to throw their two-cents in and pick who they feel is going to come out on top. I’m still up in the air. I’d love to see a back-and-forth battle for four quarters that is decided on the final play of the game. It would only be appropriate for a game of such magnitude to have a Hollywood ending.

If you want to let me know who I should pick, just sent me an e-mail. I want this week to be one all high school football fans in Hall County can enjoy.

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