Like a lot of places, turkey and all the trimmings, family and friends, various parades and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies are just some of Thanksgiving traditions that are seemingly universal throughout Georgia.
But one event that high school football teams from around the state want to become a tradition every year is a Thanksgiving Day practice, followed by a Black Friday game.
Ten different Gwinnett County teams over five different classifications will get to partake in those particular traditions this Thanksgiving when the Georgia High School Association’s football playoffs reach the quarterfinal round Friday.
“That’s always really cool because you know if you’re practicing on Thanksgiving, you had a pretty good year,” said Dacula head coach Clint Jenkins, whose No. 1 state-ranked Falcons (12-0) will take on defending state champion Lee County in a Class AAAAAA quarterfinal game Friday in Leesburg. “We’re excited about that. No school, just kind of a holiday week. It’s like being the pros, just football. It’s really cool.”
The Falcons, who will be making their fourth trip to the quarterfinals in the last seven years, are one of several tams among Gwinnett’s remaining squads that have become at least somewhat familiar with a Thanksgiving week of football preparation.
Buford (11-1), for example, will be making its 20th straight appearance in the quarterfinal round when it takes on Carrollton in a Class AAAAA round of eight game Friday night at Grisham Stadium in Carrollton.
Third-ranked Grayson (11-1) is another team that will continue a long tradition of Thanksgiving football when it travels to top-ranked Lowndes for a Class AAAAAAA quarterfinal game Friday.
The Rams will be playing in the quarterfinals for the ninth time in the last 13 years, and head coach Adam Carter says it’s a goal he has emphasized to his team since taking the job last offseason.
“That’s the expectation here,” Carter said. “I keep telling our young kids, … the expectation at Grayson is to be playing … Thanksgiving (week). So we’ve got that opportunity, and I’m happy for them. It’ll be a great opportunity for them.”
A few of Gwinnett’s remaining teams are a little less familiar with playing during Thanksgiving week.
Hebron Christian (8-4) will be making its first quarterfinals appearance when it plays at Fellowship Christian in Class A (Private).
Meanwhile, Wesleyan (10-2) will be making its first trip to the quarterfinals since 2016 when it plays Savannah Christian in another Class A (Private) game on Friday, though the Wolves got a bit of a break by getting to host when the Raiders upset the classification’s top seed, Savannah Country Day, last week.
That game is one of only three that will take place inside the county, with Greater Atlanta Christian (11-1) hosting Hart County in Class AAA, while Archer (9-3) travels to the Big Orange Jungle to take on Parkview (11-1) in an all-Gwinnett AAAAAAA battle.
The rest of the county’s quarterfinal delegation wasn’t quite as fortunate, with Grayson and Dacula having to play away form home for their respective games due losing out on the universal coin flips conducted by the GHSA to determine the host team among like seeds.
But Carter says he and his team aren’t bothered by having to hit the road for more than 200 miles.
“It happened to me last year (while coaching at Creekview),” Carter said after Grayson’s second-round win over East Coweta last Friday. “We lost the coin toss, (but) it’ll be a good experience for our kids. We’re going to play a good game and enjoy it. … Hopefullly our kids will enjoy it. We get to practice on Thanksgiving. I’m not really worried about who we’re going to play right now. We’re just going to just enjoy this one and the opportunity to play in Week 13.”