The views of the author may not reflect the views of AllOnGeorgia.
Those who know me know I like football.
Those who know me really well know I love playoff football.
The NFL postseason is something special and ends with one of the biggest spectacles in sports – the Super Bowl.
We haven’t always had playoff football in major college football, but we do now. And, it’s a welcomed addition.
Maybe, just maybe, the field can be expanded sooner rather than later, too, but that’s a different column for a different day.
Today, I’m focusing on playoff football in Georgia, more specifically the postseason in the high-school ranks. It’s playoff time again in the Peach State with win-or-go-home games in all corners of Georgia taking place this weekend and going for the next five weekends.
It used to be that we had region playoffs and then smaller state playoff fields with only the region champions.
Now, we don’t have region playoffs, but rather larger fields for the state playoffs in each of the state’s classifications with multiple teams from the same region in the mix.
Georgia is widely considered one of the best states for prep football in our country, and each year the state playoffs serve as a reminder of why that is a popular opinion.
After all, the deeper we get in the postseason and the closer we get to crowing all the state champions, you see the best of the best in the Peach State rise to the top each and every autumn.
That includes the coaches, the players, the fan bases, the traditions – everything that makes prep football in this state the big deal that it is.
A lot of games will be on the radio. Many games will be on television, most notably all of the state championship games that are held over two days in Atlanta.
It used to be that all the semifinal games were played in the Georgia Dome. Then, it became the state title games that were played at the Dome on a neutral field for the participants.
Either way, this has always been one of my favorite weekends of the year. I have been to Atlanta for the semifinals and also the title games, and it is just plain fun to watch all these teams, their fans and all the community pride come together under one roof for a great showcase of some of the best prep football in any of the 50 states in our great nation.
Now, the championship games are played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium which replaced the Dome as the home of the Atlanta Falcons, the SEC Championship Game and the Peach Bowl.
Of course, last year a winter storm in early December cancelled most of the title games in Atlanta which were going to be played at the Benz for the first time ever and those games had to be played the next week at home sites.
This season, the Super Bowl comes to Atlanta and the Benz, and not many states can say it gets to play its high school state championship games at a Super Bowl venue.
But of course, there are four rounds of playoff games before we even get to the title games, and there will be matchups each step of the way that make the mouth water.
I guarantee you that if you go to any of those games in the home venues, you will feel the electricity in the air and realize that something big and important is about to unfold on the football field.
Some of the best football games I have had the pleasure of covering in my media career took place in these home venues in November, some of them in cold weather when they couldn’t make hot chocolate or coffee fast enough at the concession stands.
I will also always remember that quarterfinal game in 2000 at the old McIntosh County Academy field at the old high school when Joe Tereshinski passed for all those yards for Athens Academy and Jermaine Austin rumbled up and down the field for MCA which ultimately won the battle to send the little school in Darien to the big city in Atlanta to take on almighty Buford in the state semifinals.
I won’t ever forget covering Camden County and Stephenson when the Jaguars had Reggie Ball and Kregg Lumpkin at old DeKalb Memorial Stadium back in 2002 and Camden won on a field that was more mud than grass.
Then, there was the 2003 state title game between Camden and Valdosta in the final game at Cleveland Field before it was renovated. We covered that Camden win on that cold, cold night in Winnersville with a five-man crew that was full of talent and passion for high school football.
I will also never forget that sun-kissed Saturday afternoon in 2006 when Dave Jordan and I drove to Middle Georgia and watched Dublin and Charlton County battle to a 13-13 tie in one heckuva a low-scoring game in the final year that state championship games could end in ties in Georgia.
The next December, we got a little more adventurous and drove to Cairo, along Andrew Smith, a newbie to Peach State football, for the Saturday afternoon state final between the hometown Syrupmakers (what a nickname!) and Carver-Columbus, which then was coached by current Georgia running backs coach Dell McGee who once entertained the Brunswick High job. The Tigers won 16-13 that day, for the record.
As soon as that game ended, we hit the highway and headed to Valdosta, where we watched Lowndes dismantle North Gwinnett in a driving rain at Martin Stadium, also known as the Concrete Palace.
Then, current Camden coach Bob Sphire was in just his second season with the Bulldogs who he quickly turned into a perennial power. That year, the Vikings had an All-American running back named Greg Reid who could do incredible things with a football in his hand.
Of course, there was the memorable march by the Brunswick Pirates to the 1999 state title game which was also played in some rain at Lowndes. The Pirates lost that night, but that Brunswick bunch is still one of the most talented high school teams I have ever seen.
And more recent was the Glynn Academy drive to the state title game in 2015 which included the remarkable comeback at Stockbridge and the semifinal win over Ware at Glynn County Stadium which was full of electricity and people that memorable evening.
Now, here we are again. Another prep season in Georgia has reached the postseason.
The brackets are set for each classification in the state, and it’s time to play the games.
I can’t wait to watch the action unfold all across the state with everything culminating in Atlanta where we will once again crown our state champions.
Bring it on!