Sunday February 7th, 2016 10:15AM

Stretch run begins for winter sports schedule

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Judging from the weather outside it may not be easy to believe, but the winter sports schedule is rapidly approaching its conclusion.

High school basketball has just two weeks left in the regular season; wrestling will begin its final push toward the state traditionals this week; and swimming's state championships come up next weekend.

In the meantime there are plenty of key battles left and a number of them will take place this week.

There was some huge news last week that caught us by surprise when longtime North Hall football coach Bob Christmas announced he was leaving the program he has built from almost nothing into one of the state's most consistent winners.

Christmas, who is returning to a program he turned into a state champ in Virginia, took time to sit down with us and talk about the Trojans, football and his future and we will bring that video interview to you this week.

Speaking of football, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris will be in town on Thursday to talk to area coaches for Gainesville Parks and Recreation's annual coaches dinner.

As far as the contests go, there are plenty to keep us entertained this week, including key basketball battles in Regions 8-AAAAA, 8-AAAA, 7-AAA, 8-AA and 8-A.

The race for first place in 7-AAA may be a one-team sprint for Buford, in both boys and girls, but the competition for every other spot is hot and heavy and could come down to the wire. East Hall and Dawson County have split regular season contests and are both 7-3 in 7-AAA and tied for second, with White County just a game behind. All three teams have a full slate of games this week.

The girls side of 7-AAA is even more convoluted with Dawson County, Banks County, North Hall and White County all within a game of each other for second place.

In Region 8-AAAA, Johnson's boys suffered a rare setback over the weekend, falling at Eastside, and while the Knights bounced back with a non-region win over West Hall on Saturday, Johnson will want to get back on track in 8-AAAA -- in which the Knights will face Monroe Area and Chestatee.

Speaking of Chestatee, the Lady War Eagles are quietly putting together an incredible season and will test themselves in a key game at Stephens County on Tuesday in Toccoa.

Gainesville's girls are also looking to solidify a strong season and local rival Flowery Branch will look to derail a little piece of that when the two square off on Friday.

Also starting on Friday the area's top wrestlers will look to begin their ascent toward individual titles, as the area individual tournaments get underway. They will be followed next weekend by sectionals and the state tournament the week after that.

There are plenty of northeast Georgia grapplers capable of grabbing titles, including Buford's Chip Ness and Commerce's Chance McClure, who will be gunning for their fourth straight championships.

This week is just the start of something big.


Tuesday, Jan. 28
East Hall at West Hall
Banks County at Dawson County
White County at Buford
North Hall at Fannin County
Monroe Area at Johnson
Chestatee at Stephens County
Flowery Branch at Clarke Central
Cedar Shoals at Gainesville
Lakeview Academy at Pinecrest Academy
Towns County at Commerce
Jefferson at Union County
Madison County at Lumpkin County
Morgan County at Jackson County
Norcross at Habersham Central
Chattahoochee at North Forsyth
Riverside Military at Rabun County
Hart County at East Jackson

Thursday, Jan. 30
Johnson at Chestatee

Friday, Jan. 31
North Hall at West Hall
Buford at Dawson County
East Hall at Fannin County
Banks County at White County
Gainesville at Flowery Branch
Lakeview Academy at Towns County
Riverside at Jefferson (boys)
Lumpkin County at Walnut Grove
North Oconee at Jackson County
North Forsyth at Lambert
Rabun County at Union County
East Jackson at Oconee County

Area traditional tournaments
8-AAAAA at CW Davis Middle School (hosted by Flowery Branch)
4-AAA at Elbert County
4-AA at Greater Atlanta Christian
4-A at Commerce

Saturday, Feb. 1
North Hall at Jefferson
Chestatee at Pickens
West Hall at Pace Academy
Loganville at Flowery Branch
Lakeview Academy at Lumpkin County
Morgan County at Buford
Commerce at Tallulah Falls
Towns County at Pinecrest Academy
Lovett at Riverside Military
Winder-Barrow at East Jackson

Area traditional tournaments
8-AAAAA at CW Davis Middle School (hosted by Flowery Branch)
8-AAAA at Chestatee
4-AAA at Elbert County
4-AA at Greater Atlanta Christian
4-A at Commerce
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