It’s been a good run for football in Northeast Georgia.
In the last three years, Hall County has sent four teams to the semifinals, Jefferson has won two region titles, Commerce keeps getting to the playoffs, and Buford, well, Buford has been Buford.
But like good things do, it’s coming to an end — for everybody, of course, except Buford.
For the rest of the area, the offseason’s coming early this year.
It’s already come to Jefferson, where the Dragons had too many new faces in key positions, and, more importantly, too many really good teams in their subregion.
They’ll be joined soon enough by Commerce, then White County, then Flowery Branch, then Gainesville. They could all be done as early as next weekend, though the Red Elephants appear bound for the third round.
Predicted exit: First round
Getting to the playoffs is nothing new for the Tigers, who are back in the postseason for the 14th consecutive season. What’s been rare in recent seasons, however, are playoff wins.
Commerce shook off the first-round blues last season, winning its first playoff game since a trip to the 2006 state semifinals. But the turn-of-the-21st-century dominance, when the Tigers won 10 games or more six times in seven seasons, has faded. Five- to seven-win seasons have become the new norm.
Tonight’s opponent is Bremen, which enters the game 9-1, falling only to No. 6 Darlington.
That means end is near for Steve Savage, the retiring coach who took a proud Tiger tradition and built upon it with 181 wins in 22 seasons, including a state title in 2000.
Predicted exit: Second round
The Warriors, who have never won a state playoff game according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, can win nine games for only the third time in school history tonight. But with LaGrange coming to Cleveland, it won’t be easy, and getting to win No. 10 will be even more difficult.
In two losses to Gainesville this season, the Warriors have proven they can play with top-10 teams. But the fact they lost those games also proved they can’t afford to make mistakes.
Learning to win is a process: first you beat the teams you should beat, then you start beating the good teams, then you beat the best, and maybe most importantly, you start expecting to beat the best.
The Warriors are about halfway there; they can consider a loss in the second round to No. 7 Grady a necessary growing pain.
Predicted exit: Second round
Considering the success the Falcons have had in recent postseasons, no outcome would come as a shock. But last week’s loss to Clarke Central landed Flowery Branch in one of the most unenviable spots in the Class AAAA bracket.
Tonight’s opponent, Southwest DeKalb, may be the best No. 3 seed in the state, but don’t expect the Falcons to lose two in a row. Despite being shutout last week, Flowery Branch moved up and down the field freely.
Unfortunately, the Falcons could get one of the toughest draws of the second round, too, as a trip to Marietta and suddenly powerful Kell awaits. The unbeaten Longhorns have played and beaten three top-10 Class AAAAA teams this year, and they’ll be favored to send the Falcons home for good.
Predicted exit: Quarterfinals
For a team that had to start over at so many positions, a trip to the third round of the playoffs can only be considered a sweeping success. Gainesville will get there through a combination of talent and the luck of the draw.
By winning the 8-AAA championship, the Red Elephants earned the right to play host to 3-7 Haralson County tonight. By way of a fortunate bracket assignment, they’ll face the winner of Cedar Grove and Cartersville in the second round. Both will be beatable.
As will possible third round foes, Burke County and Baldwin. But another trip to the semifinals is probably too much to expect.
Predicted finish: State finals
They’ve won three straight and six of the last 10. Odds are, they’ll be back again.
After all, they’re still Buford.
Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesbholloway.