Fall Football

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High School Rivalries Heatin# Up
the world was bracing for technology meltdown as Y2K approached, Britney Spears was still relatively unknown and #Star Wars# returned to movie theaters after a 20-year absence.

In that nearly four-year span, the world has dramatically changed, but the winning percentage in Lilburn#s #Big Orange Jungle# has remained the same # perfect.

#I#ve been hosting #Gwinnett Prep Rally# for three years and I#ve never seen them lose a game,# said county television host Rob Petrone. #I wouldn#t even know how to react if I did see them lose.#

Now a vague memory, few would have guessed that their 28-14 loss to Brunswick High December 3, 1999 would have set the state#s second-longest all-time winning streak in motion. From there, Parkview decisively beat McEachern in the 2000 season opener and have only been challenged by a handful of teams since, rattling off a 45-0 record.

#To think that a team could win at a pace like that is amazing,# said Gwinnett Daily Post sports editor Todd Cline, dean of the county sportswriters. #People statewide look up to that program and definitely know who (head coach) Cecil Flowe is. He#s become the #go-to# guy for anyone in the media.#

Last December, Parkview knocked off neighboring rival Brookwood in the AAAAA state title game to win its third consecutive state championship. Incredibly, the Panthers achieved this after graduating arguably the greatest impact player in Georgia high school history # Jeff Francouer # the previous spring.

#Last year was almost a formality,# said Daily Post sportswriter Corey Clark. #It was like, #who could challenge them?# Last year#s senior class was the best senior class in the history of Gwinnett football.#

In 2003, though, the pundits # and the other schools # believe the challenge could be met. Parkview again graduated an impressive assemblage of talent on the offensive line alone, including University of Georgia football signee Zeb McKinsey, Clemson signee Brandon Pilgrim and Florida State signee David Overmeyer. Also graduated are Tim Gustafson, Sean Dawkins, Dustin Wade and Joey Sturdivant, the offensive nucleus of the 2000-2002 state championship teams.

#This year they could truly be challenged,# Clark said. #They could (win another 15 and championship) but it will be much tougher. They#ll have to win games in the fourth quarter.#

Cline said, # I would be a little surprised if they won another 15. I would think they would lose one, maybe two, in the regular season.#

The Panthers still return solid college prospects for the 2003 season, including standout running back Brad Lester, quarterback Todd Faulkner and defensive back Greg Sudderth. Clark said, #Brad Lester, with the possible exception of Buford#s Darius Walker, will be the best running back in the county.#

After missing out of the playoffs in 2001, Brookwood returned with a vengeance under new head coach Mark Crews last season. The Broncos lost only two games in 2002 # both to Parkview # and return the best backfield in the region. Chris Covington and Antonio Lamar both were 1000-yard rushers in 2002. Also, as Clark points out, #Brookwood is the one school not intimidated by Parkview.# Among the other schools in Region 8-AAAAA, Clark and Cline predict South Gwinnett to return to the playoffs. After those three teams, Cline said, #it#s a toss-up for the fourth playoff spot.# North Gwinnett made the playoffs for the first time in 2002 in the #large school# classification, while such perennial playoff teams as Dacula and Collins Hill were left out of the playoffs.

After three years as head coach, Bill Krieger left Shiloh following a disappointing 2002 season and was replaced by former Duluth standout Robert Matthews. Matthews was North#s offensive coordinator last season and this will be the first head-coaching job for the 25-year-old.

In the smaller regions, the prospects for a state championship contender are no less promising. Buford has not go