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State finals' move to mid-week is official

November 30--  The state championship games will be played on Dec. 11-12 - a Tuesday and Wednesday - because of a conflict with the MLS Cup, the professional soccer championship that is now set for Dec. 8 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The move to mid-week football championships at Mercedes-Benz became official Thursday evening when Atlanta United clinched the MLS Eastern Conference Finals on aggregate goals despite a 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls. Atlanta will be the host team for the MLS Cup.

Anticipating the potential conflict, the GHSA announced the contingency plan before the season. The stadium is not available the following weekend, making mid-week games necessary.

"It's all good," Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin said. "Knowing this far in advance makes it very doable."

The alternative would've been to move the games to high school stadiums, as was done last season, when a winter storm postponed six of the eight games and made playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium impossible. Peach County coach Chad Campbell, whose team is in the Class AAA semifinals this year, would've preferred that over mid-week games.

"I would rather play the game on Friday or Saturday than mid-week just to keep the same routine we've always had," Campbell said. "And to top it off, that's the week of final exams and EOC testing.  I also think attendance will suffer if the games are mid-week."

GHSA executive director Robin Hines said that there are just more pros than cons with playing mid-week games at the Atlanta Falcons' stadium.

"Our membership overwhelmingly wanted to play at the Benz," Hines said. "Going to the schools last year, we lost five TV games to which we were contracted with GPB. We also have sponsors that want to be at the Benz and have that type of exposure. But as much as anything, we want to have a world-class experience for our athletes. It's a big opportunity to play in the best venue in the world. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance for them. If we can provide that for our schools and communities and athletes, we want to do that."

Here is the new schedule for the eight championship games:

Dec. 11 (Tuesday)

10 a.m. - A (public)

1 p.m. - AAA

4:30 p.m. - AAAAA

8 p.m. - AAAAAA

Dec. 12 (Wednesday)

10 a.m. - A (private)

1 p.m. - AA

4:30 p.m. - AAAA

8 p.m. - AAAAAAA

For staff use only.