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This week: High school football state playoffs begin
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For a number of area high school football teams, the end of the regular season last Friday was only the beginning.

The Georgia High School Association state playoffs begin Friday, and at least nine (10 if Commerce qualifies) area teams will be looking to start postseason runs.

In Class AAAAA, Region 8 champion Flowery Branch (8-2) plays Region 5 No. 4-seed North Paulding (7-3) in Flowery Branch. The Falcons secured their first ever No. 1 seed with a 35-34 win over Gainesville on Friday in Flowery Branch. Last season the Falcons entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed and advanced to the third round.

No. 2-seed Gainesville (7-3), on a rare two-game losing skid, looks to get back on track against No. 3-seed Rome (8-2) in Gainesville. The Red Elephants reached the state semifinals last season in Class AAA.

In Class AAAA, No. 2-seed Chestatee (8-2), which finished its most successful regular season with a 48-7 win against Madison County, plays LaGrange (5-5) in Gainesville.

The Class AAA playoff bracket features five area teams, including all four of the playoff teams from Region 7-AAA. Region 7 champion North Hall (8-2), back in the postseason after just missing out last season, plays Woodward Academy in Gainesville; No. 2-seed and 2011 state runner-up Buford (7-3) takes on Cedar Grove; No. 3-seed White County (7-3) plays Blessed Trinity (8-2) for the second time this season in Atlanta (the Titans won 21-19 on Sept. 21); and No. 4-seed Dawson County (6-4) is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and will play St. Pius X (8-2).

Region 8-AAA No. 4-seed Jackson County (6-4) is back in the postseason for the first time since 1992 and will play Cartersville (10-0) in Cartersville.

In Class AA, Region 8 champion Jefferson (9-1) plays Kendrick (5-5) in Jefferson, where the Dragons will be looking to jump start a long playoff run after falling in the first round to eventual state champ Calhoun last season.

Jefferson’s longtime Jackson County rival, and the one team to beat the Dragons this season, Commerce (5-5) entered the final week of the season ranked 11th out of the Class A public schools before falling to Pinecrest Academy 31-21. The Tigers need to be ranked in the top 16 in the final power ranking to advance to the state playoffs under the new system.

HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: West Hall High hosts its seventh-annual early-season duals meet, the Spartan Slam presented by the United States Marine Corps, at 9 a.m. Saturday in Oakwood to help kickoff the 2012-2013 season, which officially begins Friday.

West Hall, Flowery Branch, White County, Dawson County, Jefferson, Lovett, Whitewater, Alpharetta, Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe, Lumpkin County, Central Gwinnett and Mount Vernon Presbyterian will all compete and wrestle a total of five matches.

The teams will be split into pools of four, with the winners of each wrestling each other to determine the top three spots, and the remaining teams wrestling their respective finishers.

The tournament costs $5.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: East Hall is getting an early start to the season, as the Vikings host the 14-team Valhalla Classic on Saturday at East Hall High in Gainesville.

In local team action, the East Hall boys junior varsity team opens the showcase at 11:30 a.m. against Hoover High (Ala.), the Johnson Lady Knights play Jackson High at 2:30 p.m., the Johnson boys play South Gwinnett at 4 p.m., the East Hall girls play Lambert at 7 p.m. and the Vikings conclude the night at 8:30 p.m. against a talented Shiloh squad.

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