Teams from south Georgia and Gwinnett County have won state championships in Georgia’s highest classification each season since 1996.
Roswell of Fulton County shared the 2006 title with Peachtree Ridge of Gwinnett in the famous tie game. Otherwise, it’s been total domination for the schools currently housed in regions 1, 7 and 8.
Those still playing are Camden County and Colquitt County from Region 1/south Georgia and North Gwinnett, Norcross, Mill Creek and Parkview from Gwinnett.
Out of luck? That would be Lovejoy and North Cobb, if history holds. Lovejoy is trying to become the first Clayton County team to win a state title since 1987 (Morrow). North Cobb is trying to become the first Cobb team to win since 1967 (Marietta).
What’s significant about 1996? Brookwood became the first Gwinnett County Schools team to win a state title that year. Rapid population growth over the previous decade continued, and the migration of some of DeKalb County’s best coaches to Gwinnett also helped change the landscape of football in the highest classification.
Another thing happened that perhaps was equally as significant. It was the first season that the GHSA expanded the playoffs to 32 teams. This plays into the hands of the strongest regions and those teams that are battled tested in the regular season. With four qualifiers from each region, one door opens when another closes.
It happened in 1997, when defending champion Brookwood was 13-0 but lost in the quarterfinals to Tift County. Third-place Parkview, which would not have made the playoffs under the previous format, wound up with the championship.
In 1999, it happened again with Lowndes, a No. 3 seed. Region 1 champion Colquitt County lost in the quarters while Lowndes won four straight games away from home before beating Brunswick for the title. Peachtree Ridge’s title in 2006 came as a No. 4 seed.
Since 1996, there have been 12 teams seeded No. 3 or No. 4 that made it to the semifinals. Ten of those 12 came from Gwinnett or South Georgia. This year, three have made the quarterfinals – Colquitt County, Mill Creek and Parkview. That’s South Georgia, Gwinnett and Gwinnett.
It’s hard to bet against them.