Football Playoff Preview 2012: North Fulton quartet opens playoffs vs. Gwinnett teams

Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Chattahoochee, Milton in hunt for championships



NORTH FULTON, Ga. – Four Class AAAAAA teams from North Fulton will compete in state playoff games Friday night, all against opponents from Gwinnett County.

Alpharetta is the lone one of the four to have earned a home game, with Johns Creek, Chattahoochee and Milton all playing on the road.


Surging Raiders host Hawks

After tying West Forsyth for first in Region 6-AAAAAA, Alpharetta (7-3) is the region’s No. 2 seed and hosts Mill Creek (7-3), the No. 3 team from Region 7.

The Raiders have won six straight after a 1-3 start, with an improved defense teaming with one of the state’s most explosive passing attacks.

The Hawks eked out a win last week over Collins Hill to place third in their region. The victory was their first against a playoff-bound opponent. The Hawks average 37 points a game, but in losses to three of Gwinnett’s top teams, they yielded an average of 42 points.

Mill Creek and Alpharetta opened the same year (2004), and both will be making their third playoff appearances. The Hawks reached the quarterfinals in 2010, while the Raiders are looking for their first playoff victory. 

“I feel good about my team,” Alpharetta coach Jason Dukes said after his team’s win over Johns Creek last week. “I think our chances are as good as anybody’s. We’ve got a talented, hard-working bunch.”


Gladiators face tough opponent

In its first playoff game in the state’s highest classification, Johns Creek will play one of the state’s most consistently successful football programs in recent years.

Over the last seven seasons, North Gwinnett is 76-12, advancing to the second round of the playoffs each of the last six years and reaching the state championship game in 2007.

The Gladiators, meanwhile, are playing just their third full season of football, but are 17-4 the last two seasons, qualifying for the AAAA playoffs last year.

The North Gwinnett Bulldogs (9-1) opened the season with a win over Colquitt County, with their lone loss coming against unbeaten Norcross in mid-September. North Gwinnett features a productive, wide open offense that will challenge a solid but undersized Johns Creek defense.

The Gladiators (8-2) have moved the ball consistently against every team they have faced, and will need a strong effort by the offense to combat a talented opponent.


Unbeaten Norcross awaits Cougars

The Cougars spent four seasons between 2004 and ’09 playing in Region 7-AAAAA, and enjoyed little success, although they did beat Norcross during the ’04 season.

Norcross brings a 10-0 record and a state ranking into Friday’s game, but the Cougars have already knocked off one unbeaten team this season, edging 6-AAAAAA champion West Forsyth 29-28.

“Because we beat West Forsyth, we can tell the kids we can beat Norcross,” Chattahoochee coach Terry Crowder said. “We’re playing as good as anybody in the region.”

Five of the Blue Devils’ victories have come against Gwinnett playoff opponents. Other than an early-season shutout of Parkview, the other four Norcross games against playoff qualifiers were high-scoring games, and the Cougars will need a balanced, productive night on offense to hang with one of the state’s most talented teams.


Eagles avoid Grayson, get Comets

South Gwinnett knocked off Parkview last week to deny the Panthers a Region 8-AAAAAA title and shuffle the standings in the region.

As a result, Milton will play the Comets instead of defending state champion Grayson, which will deny those obsessed with college recruiting a meeting between two of the country’s top prospects.

The Eagles and their standout defensive end Carl Lawson will not have to worry about Robert Nkemdiche and his Grayson teammates, facing a less imposing South Gwinnett squad instead.

The Comets (8-2) lost decisively to both Norcross and Grayson, but closed the season with consecutive wins over Brookwood and Parkview to tie for first in the region and take the No. 2 seed. They may not be Grayson, but any team that survives that region will present a challenge in the playoffs.  

The Eagles (7-3) tied for second in 5-AAAAAA and are the region’s No. 3 seed. Milton features one of the strongest running games in the state, but other than a strong first half against Lassiter, have struggled offensively in their last three games against top tier defenses.

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