It was a relatively relaxing weekend -- and with the local sports schedule ahead this week that's a good thing.
The next six days will be just as busy, if not busier than last week's chock-full slate, as northeast Georgia's baseball and soccer teams wrap their regular season, golf will decide its region champions, tennis begins its state playoff march and track and field standouts look to qualify for the state finals.
And that's not even counting a drop-in by perhaps the state's most well-known coach, as Georgia football head man Mark Richt drops by the Gainesville Civic Center on Tuesday as part of UGA Day -- a night that will allow boosters and alumni a chance to rub elbows with the coach and maybe even ask him a question to two.
The races for the top seed amongst the area's baseball teams has been intense, but the finish line is finally in sight this week -- especially for Buford, which can clinch Region 7-AAA if the Wolves can fend off West Hall on Monday. Buford will face four tough tasks this week, however, as the Spartans are also looking to cement a playoff spot, while the Wolves will take on North Hall on Tuesday. White County follows on Wednesday, and Dawson County will close out the regular season on Friday. All of those teams are either postseason-bound or just on the cusp.
Meanwhile, Region 8-AAAAA will likely go down to the wire this week, as Gainesville hopes to catch Loganville at the wire. The Red Elephants are a game behind the Red Devils and face a key contest at Heritage, Conyers on Monday. Loganville, meanwhile, faces a huge contest with Flowery Branch -- which is looking to cement its postseason spot.
The Falcons can do just that with success against Loganville and in two season-ending contests against Winder-Barrow. All three games could prove huge for the Branch, which is battling the Bulldoggs to clinch state.
Lumpkin County and Stephens County are also in the thick of the 8-AAAA race, and Lumpkin faces a key series with 8-AAAA leader Walnut Grove on Wednesday and Friday.
While a number of playoff races in soccer have already been decided, there are still some region-defining showdowns on tap this week, including in Regions 8-AAAAA, 8-AAAA and 7-AAA.
The Gainesville boys edged out a razor-thin battle of powerhouses on Friday at Johnson and will hope there is still plenty in the tank for Tuesday's showdown with Clarke Central. The second-ranked Red Elephants will host the third-ranked Gladiators knowing that a win would seal a region crown.
The Johnson girls enter Monday's tilt at Lanier knowing that a victory in Sugar Hill would yield an 8-AAAA crown. Considering the Lady Knights started the season 0-5-1, an 11th straight victory would represent perhaps the biggest turnaround of any team this school year.
And in 7-AAA, Dawson County's boys can clinch a championship on Tuesday if they can win at East Hall. The West Hall boys are hoping for some help from their cross-county foes -- a Vikings win on Tuesday combined with a West Hall win on Wednesday would give the Spartans the title. Yet West Hall will also have its hands full when it travels to North Hall on Wednesday.
The area's golf regions will complete their region tournaments this week, looking to clinch outright berths for the state championship tournament or a bid to the state sectionals.
In tennis, 17 area squads will look to progress past the first round, including (in alphabetical order) both Banks County teams, both Buford teams, both Chestatee teams, the Dawson County girls, both Flowery Branch teams, both Gainesville teams, the Jackson County boys, both Jefferson teams, the Lumpkin County girls, both North Hall teams and the White County boys.
And, on the track, the area's top athletes will compete in state sectionals on Saturday, looking to qualify for state meets.
Are you out of breath yet? We hope not, because we've just gotten started on what is certain to be an incredible six-day journey.
AREA SPORTS SCHEDULE, APRIL 21-26
Monday, April 21
Banks County at East Hall
Fannin County at Dawson County
Gainesville at Heritage, Conyers
Habersham Central at Mill Creek
Hart County at Jackson County
Johns Creek at North Forsyth
Loganville at Flowery Branch
Lumpkin County at Johnson
North Hall at White County
Rabun County at Murphy, N.C.
West Hall at Buford
Region 8-A Boys Championships at Jennings Mill, Athens
Forsyth Central at North Hall
Johnson at Lanier
Lakeview Academy at Chestatee
Tuesday, April 22
UGA Day at Gainesville Civic Center, 5 p.m.
North Hall at Buford (make-up)
Lakeview Academy at Towns County
Riverside Military at Tallulah Falls
Region 7-AAA Boys Championships at Chicopee Woods Golf Course, Gainesville
Clarke Central at Gainesville
Dawson County at East Hall
East Jackson at Banks County
Flowery Branch at Apalachee
Franklin County at White County
Habersham Central at Lambert
Lakeview Academy at Athens Academy
Providence Christian at Towns County
Rabun County at Riverside Military
Walton at Buford
Wednesday, April 23
Banks County at Dawson County
Buford at White County
Cedar Shoals at Gainesville
Collins Hill at Habersham Central
Commerce at Jefferson
Flowery Branch at Winder-Barrow
Jackson County at Hart County
Madison County at Chestatee
North Hall at Banks County
Rabun County at West Oak, S.C.
Stephens County at Johnson
Walnut Grove at Lumpkin County
West Forsyth at North Forsyth
West Hall at Fannin County
Fannin County at Union County
Jackson County at Jefferson
Johnson at Lakeview Academy
Lumpkin County at Monroe Area
West Hall at North Hall
Thursday, April 24
Gainesville at Cedar Shoals
Towns County at Lakeview Academy
Winder-Barrow at Flowery Branch
Region 8-AAAAA Championships at Chattahoochee Golf Club, Gainesville
Region 7-AAA Girls Championships at Royal Lakes Golf Club, Chestnut Mountain
First round state tournament matches completed
Friday, April 25
Chestatee at Madison County
Dawson County at Buford
East Hall at North Hall
Fannin County at Banks County
Habersham Central at Norcross
Johnson at Stephens County
Lumpkin County at Walnut Grove
Oglethorpe County at Jackson County
Rabun County at Franklin, N.C.
White County at West Hall
Saturday, April 26
TRACK and FIELD:
Class AAAAA at Loganville
Class AAAA at Carrollton
Class AAA at East Jackson
Class AA at Greater Atlanta Christian
Class A public at Mitchell County