There are just 28 teams still playing in the high school football season, and four of them are right here in northeast Georgia.
The state semifinals will take place this week, and Buford, Gainesville, Jefferson and North Hall will each battle for the right to play in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta -- and three of this week's showdowns will play out over the airwaves of the Jacobs Media family of radio stations.
North Hall will be making just its second state semifinal appearance on Friday when it travels to face St. Pius X in a contest broadcast live on 102.9 FM.
The Trojans (11-2) pounced on state power Peach County in last week's quarterfinal round, 52-10 at The Brickyard in Gainesville. This week will feature North Hall's first playoff road trip of the postseason, however. The Trojans have won 10 straight home playoff games but have yet to pull out a state victory away from The Brickyard.
North Hall will face a St. Pius team coming off a 40-35 defeat of Washington County. The Golden Lions (11-2) will be making their second semifinal appearance in 44 seasons -- the most recent coming in 2006. The Golden Lions base out of the option on offense and are led by fullback Ryan Braswell. The Pius defense also includes Football Bowl Subdivision recruits Nick Glass (Georgia commit) and Nick Ruffin.
The winner will face the winner of Friday's other Class AAA semifinal, as Buford travels to take on Cartersville in a game broadcast live on AM 550.
The third-ranked Wolves (10-3) are coming off an impressive 31-7 defeat of No. 2 Carver, Columbus that saw Buford score 28 unanswered points.
The Wolves will travel to take on a Cartersville squad that pushed past a Thomson program that spent much of the season ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, 21-13, in the quarterfinal round.
The fifth-ranked Purple Hurricanes (13-0) are led by quarterback Brooks Barden, who has thrown for over 2,500 yards, spreading the ball around to numerous playmakers for an offense averaging 33.6 points per game in three playoff victories.
Cartersville is back in the state semifinals for the first time since 2004. Buford is making its sixth straight semifinal appearance.
Gainesville, meanwhile, will be making its first semifinal appearance at the Class AAAAA level after crushing Harris County 64-13 in the quarterfinals. The Red Elephants (10-3) are back in the semifinals for the second straight season and third time in four years and will travel to face a Whitewater team making its first ever semifinal appearance in a game broadcast live on 1240 AM.
The WIldcats (12-1) have only been playing football since 2004 but have made it to state in five of those seasons and have been led by coach Amos McCreary since the school opened.
Whitewater features running back Kendall Conley, who has rushed for 2,041 yards and 36 touchdowns. The Wildcats forced three key turnovers in last week's 24-3 quarterfinal defeat of Allatoona.
Jefferson will be the only area team with a chance to host its semifinal battle, as Greater Atlanta Christian will travel to Memorial Stadium to take on the Dragons (12-1).
Jefferson held off Fitzgerald 53-51 in three overtimes last week to secure a showdown with the Spartans (10-3) -- who edged Early County 27-24 in the quarterfinals.
The contest could present a battle between two dominant quarterbacks, as Jefferson's Bryant Shirreffs faces off with GAC's Rafe Chapple -- who has passed for over 2,000 yards.
The Spartans also feature running back Kyle Scales, who has rushed for over 1,200 yards this season.
Only one win separates each area team from a state championship shot in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Dec. 14-15.
AREA QUARTERFINAL PREP FOOTBALL SCORES, Nov, 30
Jefferson 53, Fitzgerald 51, 3 OT
North Hall 52, Peach County 10
Buford 31, Carver-Columbus 7
Gainesville 64, Harris County 13
Lovejoy 21, North Gwinnett 6
North Cobb 42, Mill Creek 35
SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE For AREA TEAMS, Dec. 7
Gainesville at Whitewater -- Radio: 1240 AM
Buford at Cartersville -- Radio: 550 AM
North Hall at St. Pius -- Radio: 102.9 FM
Greater Atlanta Christian at Jefferson