Sunday May 29th, 2016 5:26PM

FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS SEMIFINALS: Buford, GHS, North Gwinnett still alive, and kicking

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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While defending state champions Buford (Class AAA) and Gainesville (Class AAAAA) continue their methodical march toward another state finals appearance, North Gwinnett is just one win from its first state title shot since 2007.

But all three will face formidable opponents Friday night in the semifinal round of the state playoffs.

Gainesville may have the toughest job taking on a Tucker squad that is similar to Buford, the only team to knock off the Red Elephants this year. It figures to be a classic showdown between Gainesville's high-powered offense, led by Clemson-commit Deshaun Watson, and a Tucker defense that has allowed just 27 points in the playoffs.

Buford will take on a Callaway squad making its first-ever appearance in the semifinals. The Cavaliers are averaging 48 ppg in the playoffs but the Wolves have not allowed more than 14 points in any game this season.

North Gwinnett, meanwhile, may change its name to the cardiac-kids after thrilling come-from-behind victories the past two weeks. The Bulldogs will face a McEachern team that is making its first semifinals appearance since 1998.

For a look at all of the night's contests involving area teams, simply scroll down. And be sure to check back with Access North Georgia and our Friday Game Night page throughout the night for score updates and game stories and video highlights. You can also check for scores and highlights on our Twitter feed @FridayGameNight


-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Walter H. Cantrell Stadium, Powder Springs
-- NORTH GWINNETT (12-1, No. 3 Region 7-AAAAAA): Defeated Hillgrove 35-31 last week in the quarterfinals
-- McEACHERN (11-2, No. 3 seed Region 4-AAAAAA): Defeated Collins Hill 35-32 last week in the quarterfinals
-- NOTABLE: The Bulldogs continue to display a flare for the dramatic. In the last two rounds of the playoffs, North Gwinnett has erased double-digit deficits. Against Archer they got a field from Michael D'Angola with seven seconds left and last week they scored 14 points in the final 10 minutes, including the game-winner with just 1:13 left. . .One main reason for their comeback ability is the defense, which has forced 10 turnovers in the first three playoff games, including intercepting a Hillgrove pass in the end zone on the final play of the game. The offense has turned those into 52 points. . .The quarterfinal win also snapped a three-game losing streak in the quarterfinal round. They last won a quarterfinal game when they went to the state title game in 2007. . .McEachern also exorcised a few demons late week. The Indians are making their first semifinal appearance since 1998 when they reached the state title game. . .McEachern is now 2-0 against Gwinnett County teams this season beating Brookwood in its season opener. . .C.J. Leggett rushed for 159 yards last week pushing his season total to 1,367 in the season. QB Hayden Sphire was 18-of-29 passing for 175, giving him 2,380 on the season despite missing time this season. . .A win for North Gwinnett would give the Bulldogs their first state title game appearance since 2007 when they lost to Lowndes County.
-- HISTORY: McEachern won the only meeting between the two schools 26-17 in 2011.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Colquitt County vs. Norcross winner in the championship game


-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Hallford Stadium, Clarkston
-- GAINESVILLE (12-1, No. 1 seed Region 8-AAAAA): Defeated Mundy's Mill 42-28 last week in the quarterfinals
-- TUCKER (13-0, No. 1 seed Region 6-AAAAA): Defeated Ware County 29-0 last week in the quarterfinals
-- NOTABLE: Hard to believe two programs as storied as these have never met before tonight. The two programs have combined for 1,212 wins. . .The Red Elephants are making their straight trip to the semifinal round. They last accomplished between 1981-83. . .The Tigers have been one of the most consistent programs in the state in any classification. They have posted 10 or more wins 15 times since their last losing season in 1991. They won the Class AAAA titles in 2008 and 2011. They knocked off last year's state runner-up last week. .It will be a clash of wills, especially when Gainesville has the ball. The Elephants are averaging 49 ppg (40.1 in playoffs) while Tucker has allowed more than 14 points in a game just twice this season. Gainesville has scored 42 or more in 11 of 13 games this season. . .DeShaun Watson again showed his toughness piling 331 total yards and six touchdowns against Mundy's Mill while playing with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.
-- HISTORY: First-ever meeting between the two schools
-- WINNER PLAYS: Creekside vs. Kell winner in the championship game


-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- CALLAWAY (12-1, No. 1 seed Region 4-AAA): Defeated St. Pius 35-21 last week in the quarterfinals
-- BUFORD (12-0, No. 1 seed Region 7-AAA): Defeated Carver (Columbus) 36-6 last week in the quarterfinals
-- NOTABLE: The Wolves are looking for an unprecedented seventh straight trip to the finals. Valdosta went six times in an eight-year period from 1955-62 but no program in Georgia has ever advanced to seven straight championship games in the modern area. . .Callaway is making its first-ever trip to the semifinal round. . .The Cavaliers have put up some big offensive numbers in the playoffs averaging 48.6 ppg in the first three rounds. They have posted 35 or more points in nine of their last 10 games, and 45 or more seven times. . .But this current group of Buford defenders may be the best in school history. They yielded just 48 total yards to Carver last week. The Tigers' only score came on a short field following a Buford turnover. Buford has not allowed more than 14 points in any game this season with four shutouts. . .Buford has won 20 straight home playoff games. The Wolves' last loss at home in the playoffs was to Charlton County in the quarterfinals in 2006.
-- HISTORY: Buford leads series 1-0. The Wolves beat Callaway 52-14 in the second round of the 2010 playoffs.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Washington County vs. Ringgold winner in the championship game
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