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This week: Flowery Branch, Gainesville ready for football rematch
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As the temperature drops, the air gets a little nippier and the Christmas trees begin appearing, thoughts of indoor sports begin running through sports fans heads: namely basketball.

Unless, of course you’re in Hall County where this week, two local high school football teams will play each other in the Class AAA state semifinals.

Top-ranked Gainesville and Region 7-AAA’s No. 4 seed Flowery Branch will face off at 7:30 p.m. Friday night on Bobby Gruhn Field for a chance to play in the state title game at the Georgia Dome.

The Red Elephants (13-0) earned their way into the game with a 32-19 win against defending state champion Cairo in the quarterfinals. Teryan Rucker led the way for Gainesville in the win rushing for 161 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons (10-3) won their quarterfinal game in thrilling fashion scoring 14 points in nine minutes and taking the lead with only 30 seconds remaining in the game to upset Region 2-AAA champions Carver-Columbus 35-33.

Flowery Branch quarterback Connor Shaw catapulted the Falcons into their second straight state semifinal game finishing the game 18-of-27 passing for 242 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 65 yards and four scores.

Gainesville and Flowery Branch met in the two teams’ regular season final with the Red Elephants coming out on top 49-17.

In that game, Gainesville senior quarterback Blake Sims threw for 145 yards, rushed for another 134, and started the Red Elephants’ scoring barrage with a 17-yard catch off a reverse from Tai-ler Jones. Jones finished with eight catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

On the opposing side, Connor Shaw finished with 329 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Friday night will mark the first time in the history of football in Hall County that two teams have met in the state playoffs.

If, however, witnessing the brand of history that will be played outside isn’t your thing, then witnessing it inside is possible as the 50th annual Lanierland Tournament begins this week.

The tournament itself will start Dec. 4 at Lakeview Academy, but will be a little different than in year’s past.

“We added a day to have consolation games from the semifinals,” Ross Davis said.

In that regard, the tournament semifinals will be played on a Thursday — Dec. 10 — with the consolation games being played Dec. 11 and the finals Dec. 12. The tournament’s final three days will be played at Flowery Branch High School.

In other sports, Georgia Tech and Clemson will face off at 8 p.m. Saturday in Tampa for the ACC championship.

Both teams are coming off tough losses to their in-state rivals. No. 7 Tech, which played host to Georgia at Bobby Dodd Stadium, lost 30-24 and No. 18 Clemson lost to South Carolina 34-17 in Columbia.

The Falcons, fresh off a rallying 20-17 win against Tampa Bay in which both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner were injured, play host to Philadelphia at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Falcons are fighting for a wild card berth into the playoffs sitting in second in the NFC South behind undefeated New Orleans, which plays New England tonight.

The Hawks play host to Toronto and New York this week before travelling to Dallas to end the week. The Thrashers play host to the Panthers and Islanders before travelling to Carolina to once again take on the Panthers to end their week.

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