Just one win separates four area teams from that biggest game of the season and a berth in the Georgia Dome.
Buford, Gainesville, Jefferson and North Hall will all fight their way through state semifinal contests tonight -- and all expect fierce competition.
To read about each team's semifinal showdown, simply scroll down.
SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE FOR AREA TEAMS, Dec. 7
GAINESVILLE at WHITEWATER
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Wildcat Stadium, Fayetteville
-- RADIO: 1240 AM
-- GAINESVILLE (10-3, No. 2 seed Region 8-AAAAA): Defeated Harris County 64-13 in quarterfinal round.
-- WHITEWATER (12-1, No. 1 seed Region 4-AAAAA): Defeated Allatoona 24-3 in quarterfinal round.
-- HISTORY: This is the two teams' first meeting.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Ware County vs. Northside, Warner Robins winner in the Class AAAAA title game
-- NOTABLE: To read our full preview and see a video feature on this contest, click here.
BUFORD at CARTERSVILLE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Weinman Stadium, Cartersville
-- RADIO: 550 AM
-- BUFORD (10-3, No. 2 seed Region 7-AAA): Defeated Carver, Columbus, 31-7 in the quarterfinals.
-- CARTERSVILLE (13-0, No. 1 seed Region 5-AAA): Defeated Thomson 21-13 in the quarterfinals.
-- HISTORY: The two teams have played twice (2006 and '07 regular season), Buford winning each time, including 40-0 in '07.
-- WINNER PLAYS: St. Pius X vs. North Hall winner in the Class AAA title game
-- NOTABLE: To read a feature about Buford's defense continuing to dominate despite a number of new faces, click here. ... Buford is back in the semifinals for the 11th time in 13 years. Cartersville is back in the fourth round of the postseason for the first time since 2004. ... The Purple Hurricanes notched their 600th win in program history last week, a history that includes Class AA titles in 1991 and 1999. ... Cartersville has already posted their third highest win total in a season thanks in large part to a senior class that features 19 players. Yet it is a junior that is putting up the most eye-catching numbers. Quarterback Brooks Barden -- coach Frank Barden's son -- has thrown for 2,672 yards, 38 touchdowns and just two interceptions, pacing an offense that is averaging 40.2 points per game. He has also rushed for 363 yards and five scores and is being recruited by a number of Football Bowl Subdivision programs, including Georgia, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Lousiville and Tennessee. Barden's two interceptions both came in last week's win over a Thomson team ranked at the top of Class AAA for much of the season. His top targets are Hayes Linn (38 receptions, 568 yards, 8 TDs), TL Ford (29 receptions, 537 yards, 9 TDs) and Mark Quattlebaum (29 receptions, 415 yards, 6 TD). Cartersville's top rushers are Brandon Long (589 yards, 12 TDs) and Kalin Heath (517 yards, 11 TDs). ... The Purple Hurricanes will face a Buford defense that, despite replacing nine starters from last season, is allowing just 7.3 points per game -- 9 through three playoff wins (last week's seven points resulted from an offensive turnover). ... Cartersville's defense is led by seniors Bryson Davis (defensive line), Brandon Wells (linebacker) and Josh Cooper (defensive back) on a unit that is allowing just 13.2 ppg. ... Buford has shown it can throw the ball around this season thanks to quarterbacks Taylor Mitchell and Montgomery VanGorder, who are splitting snaps. But the Wolves, who are averaging 39.1 ppg, showed they are still happy to go with their bread-and-butter last week, relying on a power ground game to help seal a quarterfinal victory. ... Cartersville Frank Barden is a Habersham Central graduate.
NORTH HALL at ST. PIUS X
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: George B. Maloof Stadium, Atlanta
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- NORTH HALL (11-2, No. 1 seed Region 7-AAA): Defeated Peach County 52-10 in the quarterfinals.
-- ST. PIUS (11-2, No. 1 seed Region 6-AAA): Defeated Washington County 40-35 in the quarterfinals.
-- HISTORY: St. Pius is 3-0 against North Hall all-time, including two regular season wins (2010 and '11) and a 17-3 second round win in 2009.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Cartersville vs. Buford winner in the Class AAA title game
-- NOTABLE: To see a video feature on North Hall's two 1,000 yard running backs, click here. ... Expect a slugfest in the trenches in this one between two teams that depend on the run game. North Hall employs the wishbone, while St. Pius relies on the triple option. The Trojans have rushed for 4,471 yards (343.9 yards per game), while the Golden Lions have rushed for 3,922 yards (301 yards per game). ... St. Pius features quarterback Jack Spear (797 yards rushing, 4 TDs; 581 yards passing, 5 TDs), a senior in his first season starting that has run the triple option to perfection. A lot of that is because he gets the ball in the hands of senior fullback Ryan Braswell (1,362 yards, 25 TDs). Yet the Golden Lions have plenty of other capable backs, including Branden Mitchell (661 yards, 7 TDs), who had a season-high 164 yards rushing and two catches for 42 yards and a touchdown in the quarterfinal win. St. Pius is averaging 35.2 points per game on offense. ... The Golden Lions face a North Hall defense that is allowing just 13.5 ppg, including just 8.6 ppg and 286.6 yards through three playoff wins. The Trojans are led by safety Andrew Smith (team-high 128 tackles) and inside linebacker Destin Bennett (109 tackles). ... St. Pius' defense is allowing 14.4 ppg and is led by middle linebacker Daniel Crochet (team-high 86 tackles), defensive ends Quincy Nioporte (70 tackles) and Kyle Johnson (61 tackles). St. Pius is allowing 26 ppg through three playoff wins. The Golden Lions also have a Football Bowl Subdivision recruit in the defensive backfield in Nick Ruffin. ... North Hall is scoring 40.7 ppg, including 34.3 through three playoff victories. The Trojans are led by halfbacks TJ Tate (1,059 yards, 13 TDs) and Kevin Christmas (1,038 yards, 8 TDs), while quarterback Bradley Brown (728 yards rushing, 15 TDs; 585 yards passing, 8 TDs) and change-of-pace signal caller Smith (560 yards rushing, 10 TDs; 7 passing TDs on 15 attempts) also provide plenty of big plays. Fullback Zac Little (537 yards rushing, 7 TDs) provides many of the tough yards. ... Both teams feature solid special teams play. ... St. Pius coach Paul Standard says he expects North Hall to outweigh his team on both lines of scrimmage. ... The Golden Lions are gunning for their first state title game appearance since 1968 (a 6-0 defeat of Gainesville). St. Pius last reached the state semifinals in 2006. ... North Hall is playing for its first ever state championship appearance. The Trojans are in their second state semifinal game after last making it in 2007.
GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN at JEFFERSON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
-- GAC (10-3, No. 2 seed Region 6-AA): Defeated Early County 27-24 in the quarterfinals.
-- JEFFERSON (12-1, No. 1 seed Region 8-AA): Defeated Fitzgerald 53-51 in triple overtime in the quarterfinals.
-- HISTORY: GAC is 4-0 against Jefferson, winning four straight regular season games 1996-99.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Calhoun vs. Lamar County winner in the Class AA title game.
-- NOTABLE: To read about Jefferson's playoff surge, click here. ... Jefferson is battling to make the state championship round for the first time since 1977. Greater Atlanta Christian is aiming for its first title game appearance since 2002. Neither program owns a state crown. ... The Dragons spent this week recuperating after last week's three overtime thriller. Jefferson did lose placekicker/punter Chandler Schlutow during the win and will be forced to replace him. ... GAC also won a close contest last week, as the Spartans' kicker Brandon Holzgrefe converted a 19-yard kick to seal the victory and push GAC into the semifinals for the first time since 2002. Holzgrefe is 10-for-10 on field goals this season. ... Both teams utilize balanced offenses, with the Spartans relying on running back Kyle Scales (1,311 yards rushing, 21 TDs) and quarterback Rafe Chappel (2,279 yards passing, 25 TDs; 5 rushing TDs) to lead a group scoring 34.1 points per game. Scales is healthy again after missing a few contests through injury. Peter Whiteneck leads the Spartans in receptions with 53 catches for 906 yards and 12 TDs. Chapple owns the school record for passing yards in a season, touchdowns in a season and completions in a season. Whiteneck also set the record for receptions in a season, while Holzgrefe has made the most field goals in a season. ... Jefferson will counter with a defense yielding just 13.2 ppg. Last week's 51 points was the aberration, almost twice as much as the Dragons' previous season high. Jefferson is led by linebackers Wesley Simonton (team-high 161 tackles) and Kody McDonald (156 tackles). ... GAC's defense is allowing 20 ppg, led by linebackers Paul Carothers (108 tackles) and defensive back Ross Wood (91 tackles, 5 interceptions). ... Jefferson quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (2,036 yards passing, 15 TDs; 1,099 yards rushing, 16 TDs) leads a Dragons offense that is scoring 39 ppg, including 43.3 through three playoff wins. Sammy Williams (811 yards rushing, 12 TDs) and Tristen Jackson (524 yards rushing, 15 TDs) are also dangerous backs, while McKay Dickens (31 receptions, 523 yards, 5 TDs) and Isaiah Blake (28 receptions, 344 yards) lead the receiving corps.