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Posted: Monday, December 14th 2009 at 10:34pm

Opinion: Weekend's excitement has to rank amongst all-timers

By Morgan Lee Editor
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Gainesville quarterback Blake Sims runs for yardage in Saturday night's Class AAA championship game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. / photo: Lily McGregor
As far as weekends go, this past Friday and Saturday may rank as the most exciting in the history of northeast Georgia high school sports. And it took me until Monday afternoon to finally recover from a 48-hour blitz the likes of we which may not see again for some time to come.

That is not hyperbole, nor a flippant statement. I felt that way Saturday night and still feel the same today. Certainly it is only my opinion, but I may never be able to watch a high school football game with the same interest again. At the very least, I will need several weeks to be able to get over the insane finish that played itself out in the Class AAA championship game at the Georgia Dome.

And that was only part of the weekend’s action, as Buford also cinched its role as football program of the decade on Friday at the Georgia Dome, and North Hall pulled off a unique and somewhat surprising double at the 50th Lanierland basketball tournament.

Back to Saturday, however: What Gainesville so nearly pulled off on Saturday is the reason I cover sports for a living and the reason why so many of us prioritize Fridays, Saturday and Sundays every fall. Anyone watching the game, even someone with no connection to either the Red Elephants or Peach County, must have been amazed by the events of the fourth quarter.

I won’t rehash it too much, but Gainesville’s Blake Sims and Michael Lorentz connected on a game-ending touchdown pass that will be played over and over during Georgia Public Broadcasting championship highlights for years to come. Yet Peach County linebacker Luke Crowell earned his own lifetime highlight just one play later, as the senior broke up the ensuing two-point conversion to seal the win for the Trojans.

It was an awful way to lose for one team and a thrilling method for another and the kind of stuff that you won’t see anywhere else but a sporting event. Rivalries aside, there had to be plenty of fans that don’t bleed Red and White feeling sorry for the Red Elephants, who gave absolutely everything they had trying for the school’s first GHSA title.

It was also the climax of a 16-week prep football season for this writer and one that left me unable to do anything more demanding than pressing buttons on my remote control on Sunday. And while the final play left an empty feeling in so many at the Dome, 2009 was the kind of season of which most fans, players -- and even journalists -- can only dream.

I’m just glad I was along for the ride.

Speaking of which, Buford football fans must be wondering if their championship tour will ever end.

The Wolves claimed their sixth state crown of the decade last weekend, a feat that puts them rare company indeed. Buford's 139 victories since 2000 are the most by any school in one decade, and only Valdosta, with seven championships during the 1960s, has won more titles in a decade.

Buford was always a strong program, but the combination of Dexter Wood -- who took over as football coach in 1995 before stepping into the sole role of athletic director after the 2004 campaign -- and Jess Simpson -- a coach with a five-year record of 68-3 -- has lifted the school to heights almost never before seen. If the next 10 years are even half as good as the last, Buford may have to start using its own version of the “titletown” nickname bestowed upon Valdosta, though the Wolves aren’t in the ballpark yet for total state championships, as the Wildcats still boast 24.

As for titles, North Hall basketball gave its fans their first claim of the season when both clubs won the Lanierland tournament at Flowery Branch.

Both the boys and girls teams knocked off traditional powers in the championship game, as North Hall’s boys took a 67-57 win over East Hall, and North Hall’s girls defeated Gainesville 65-53. The competitiveness of Lanierland teams means that school sweeps have been pretty rare, and it was the North Hall boys first win since 1993.

Each program showed plenty of promise last season, with Benjie Wood’s boys pushing into the Class AAA Sweet 16 and Bryan Richerson’s girls pushing many more experienced teams to the brink despite featuring mostly freshmen in the starting line-up.

Both look to be adding to that promise this campaign, and both share plenty of similarities: the Trojans boys and girls each pride themselves on fast-paced, athletic defense and numerous players who can get the job done on offense. And, as each showed this weekend, the route to the 7-AAA championship could well go through the north end of Hall County this season.

If 2010 is anything like the closing weeks of '09... I'm going need more than just one day on the couch to recover.

-- Morgan Lee is the sports editor for Access North Georgia.
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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