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High school football previews: Week 2

POSTED: September 1, 2011 9:30 p.m.

Chestatee at West Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Spartans Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; West Hall, Mike Newton

Records: Chestatee (0-0, 0-0 8-AAA North), West Hall (0-1, 0-0 8-AAA South)

Key players: Chestatee, RB Quan Clark (5-10, 180 Jr.), DE Garrett Bennett (5-10, 205 Sr.), LB Kyle Perry (5-10, 210 Jr.). West Hall, QB Chandler Newton (6-1, 190 So.), OL/DL Dexter Jackson (6-2, 317 Jr.), OL/LB David English (5-10, 215 Sr.).

Outlook: A week ago, West Hall got its first action of the season in a 47-14 lost at East Hall. The Spartans allowed two blocked punts to be recovered for touchdowns and had a dropped pass intercepted and returned for a score. Needless to say, it wasn’t a positive start.

How they respond in their second game will depend on whether the Spartans can decrease the number of mental mistakes on offense and special teams where they saw a number of miscues.

West Hall will get its chance against a Chestatee team that it beat 24-13 a year ago.

The War Eagles, who will play their first game of the season tonight, have not posted a winning record in four years. They do, however, return an experienced class that could help push them forward.

A strong running game, which West Hall had difficulty stopping last week, could be the difference in the game.

Clark leads Chestatee in that category, hoping to improve on his 2010 season when he led the team with 731 yards rushing.

If he can, Chestatee may find success, not only against West Hall, but also for the rest of the season.

Prediction: CHESTATEE. While West Hall certainly has the potential to win this game, it had too many issues in its first game and only one week to fix them.

Dawson County at Gilmer

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Huff-Mosley Stadium, Elijay

Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; Gilmer, Wesley Tankersley

Records: Dawson County (1-0, 0-0 8-AA); Gilmer (1-0, 0-0 7-AAA)

Key players: Dawson County, QB Tyler Dominy (6-5, 185 Jr.), RB/LB Zack Martin (5-10, 190 Jr.), WR Bruce Clark (6-4, 190 Jr.). Gilmer, DE Derrick Green (6-0, 220 Sr.), RB/DE Ryan Lowery (6-4, 195 Sr.), RB/LB Tanner Davis (6-1, 185 Sr.).

Outlook: Dawson County will face a second straight Region 7-AAA opponent tonight in Gilmer, a team facing its second consecutive 8-AA opponent to start the season.

Both teams won their season openers, but the Tigers will have their hands full trying to advance to 2-0.

“Gilmer brings a very physical team to Friday’s game. We will have to answer the bell when the game starts,” Dawson County coach Jeff Lee said. “Gilmer will not back down. It should be a very entertaining game.”

The Bobcats rolled to a 35-0 victory in last year’s matchup, but Gilmer’s defense looks a little different this season, with the Bobcats having replaced all five of their starting linebackers.

Lee said that he still expects to be going up against a strong defense, especially on the line.

The Tigers will be unleashing their Wing-T/Pistol hybrid offense that worked so well in their 56-35 win over Pickens last Friday in which Dawson County amassed nearly 500 yards of offense.

“Our team, our school and community are excited after last Friday’s victory, but we have stressed to our team that all of that ended at 3:30 this past Monday,” Lee said. “I do think we have responded the way we were hoping to.”

Prediction: GILMER. The Bobcats have the defense to contain the high-powered Dawson County offense.

East Hall at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial, Oakwood

Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; Johnson, Paul Friel

Records: East Hall (1-0, 0-0 8-AA North); Johnson (0-1, 0-0 8-AAA South)

Key players: East Hall, RB/DB Jamond Witt (5-10, 173 Sr.), OT/DE C.J. White (6-3, 247 Sr.), OL/DL Devonte Benton (6-4, 268 Jr.). Johnson, RB Cedric Harris (6-1, 175 Jr.), QB/FS Justin Thomson (6-1, 170 So.), OL/DL Adrian Madera (5-11, 310 Sr.).

Outlook: East Hall came away from last Friday’s 47-14 win over county rival West Hall ready for more.

“The team was excited about the win,” said East Hall coach Bryan Gray. “But they left with a feeling of wanting more and quickly focused on the big challenge that we have this week.”

The challenge this time is another non-region game featuring another Hall County school in Johnson, this time on the road.

“Any time that you play a county team it is important,” Gray said. “We have to continue to grow and focus as a program and this week provides another chance to compete.”

Last year East Hall won 28-21 and finished 3-7 overall, while Johnson posted a 2-8 record.

This season the Knights, coming off of a tough, 20-12 opening season loss to Jackson County, will test the Vikings defense. Johnson had more than 300 rushing yards last week, led by 164 from Cedric Harris and 127 from Millwood.

Prediction: EAST HALL. The Vikings have an explosive running back in Witt, who tallied a pair of touchdowns and 123 yards on just six carries in the opener. There is no reason to think he’ll slow down in game two.

Flowery Branch at Winder-Barrow

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: W. Clair Harris Stadium, Winder

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw; Winder-Barrow, David Wagner

Records: Flowery Branch (1-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAAA); Winder-Barrow (0-1, 0-1)

Key players: Flowery Branch, QB Kanler Coker (6-4, 210 Sr.), WR C.J. Curry (6-3, 210 Sr.), RB Jeremy Haley (5-8, 210 Sr.). Winder-Barrow, QB Christian Hodge (6-0, 190 So.), RB Jamonte Riden (5-11, 187 Sr.), OL/DL Taylor Pineda (6-0, 225 Sr.).

Outlook: Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw and the Falcons won’t be sneaking up on any Region 8-AAAA teams this season, but it might not matter much.

The Falcons head to Winder-Barrow tonight to play a Bulldoggs team on a 15-game losing streak. Last season Flowery Branch won the matchup at Falcons Field 28-0. The Bulldoggs offense has improved this season, evidenced by the 13 points Winder-Barrow scored at Rockdale County, 10 more then the team had scored in the same game last year.

The Bulldoggs run a spread/Wing-T hybrid attack and have an improving quarterback in sophomore Christian Hodge.

But the defense was weakened by a large senior class having graduated, and the Falcons don’t need much of an opening to take advantage of a weakness in the defense.

New Flowery Branch quarterback Kanler Coker found the end zone three times in the season opener, and along with wide receivers Casey Osborne and C.J. Curry and running back Jeremy Haley, the offense looks to be in midseason form.

“We have a lot of experience coming back,” Shaw said after the Madison County game. “And the new players have fit in well.”

Even the Falcons’ second team offense, under sophomore quarterback Jackson McDonald, is adept at scoring. In other words, Flowery Branch is hard to stop.

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. The Bulldoggs offense may have improved, but the Falcons offense looks better, too, and the defense is once again solid, allowing just one touchdown against Madison County last week.

Jackson County at Walnut Grove

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Walnut Grove

Coaches: Jackson County, Billy Kirk; Walnut Grove, O.J. Soto

Records: Jackson County (1-0, 0-0 8-AA South); Walnut Grove (0-1, 0-0 8-AAA South)

Key players: Jackson County, QB Kyle Daniel (6-0, 175 Jr.), RB/DB Dustin Scott (5-8, 135 Jr.), LB Andy Williams (5-11, 210 Sr.). Walnut Grove, QB Jonah Guinn (6-0, 190 Sr.), OL Jay Weldon (6-0, 220 Sr.), WR Demarghaiy Conner (Jr.).

Outlook: For the fourth consecutive season, Jackson County has opened with a win after knocking off Johnson, 20-12, last week. Tonight, the Panthers will look to take the second step toward the program’s first winning season since 1992.

Against Johnson, Jackson County was the beneficiary of a handful of big plays and a bend-but-don’t-break defense.

Despite giving up more than 300 rushing yards, the Panthers were able to keep the Knights at arm’s length, thanks to a pair of turnovers and two scores, including a 95-yard kick return, from Xavier Harper.

Walnut Grove was on the flip side in its 20-0 loss to Morgan County. The Warriors, who won one game last year in their first full varsity season, were burned by 64- and 82-yard touchdown runs in the first half.

It was the first game as head coach for Soto, the former Grayson offensive coordinator.

Prediction: JACKSON COUNTY. They have some weaknesses, but Kirk is making progress in his quest to turn the Panthers into a winning program.

Lakeview Academy at King’s Ridge Christian

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Alpharetta

Coaches: Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn; King’s Ridge Christian, Jeff Pickren

Records: Lakeview Academy (0-1); King’s Ridge Christian (1-0)

Key players: Lakeview Academy, QB/S Matt Askounis (5-11, 175 Sr.), RB/LB Trevor Price (5-10, 160 Jr.), OL/DL Will Kendrick (5-10, 250 Jr.). King’s Ridge Christian, RB Tarez Miller (Fr.), WR Devon Schmitt (Sr.)

Outlook: After a week in which it struggled to gain much offensive traction and had the go-ahead touchdown wiped out by a penalty, Lakeview doesn’t have much time to feel sorry for itself.

The Lions dropped last week’s season opener 6-0 to Fellowship Christian, managing only 108 yards of total offense.

That might’ve been enough, though, had Askounis’ 34-yard touchdown scamper in the final minute of the game not been called back due to a tripping penalty.

Tonight, the Lions will visit King’s Ridge, a team that defeated Lakeview 13-0 last season and that is coming off a 34-0 win over St. Francis. Miller was the catalyst, rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

Lakeview, meanwhile, is working to establish its offensive identity after losing its offensive leaders from last year.

Both teams feature youthful rosters. King’s Ridge has eight seniors and only three juniors, while Lakeview’s 27-man squad features just three seniors and is led by a large junior class, many of whom are starting for the first time.

Prediction: KING’S RIDGE CHRISTIAN. The Tigers came out clicking in Week 1. Yards may not be as easy to come by against Lakeview, but look for King’s Ridge to muster enough offense to get the win.

North Hall at Jefferson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: North Hall, Bob Christmas; Jefferson, T. McFerrin

Records: North Hall (0-0, 0-0 8-AAA North), Jefferson (1-0, 0-0 8-AA South)

Key players: North Hall, RB/LB Imani Cross (6-2, 230 Sr.), OG/DE Cam Howell (5-8, 215 Sr.), C/DT Avery Easton (6-3, 240 Jr.). Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-3, 200 Jr.), WR Will Puckett (6-3, 190 Sr.), WR Cole Givens (6-0, 185 Sr.).

Outlook: Christmas wasn’t satisfied with his team’s 2010 season. It left a bad taste in the mouths of coaches, players and fans alike. Today, he hopes his team will get its first shot of mouthwash in the form of Jefferson.

“We started right away after the season, working to get that taste out of our mouth,” Christmas said. “We worked hard over the summer, and I can sense a bit more urgency this year.”

That sense of urgency will be needed immediately as the Trojans will take on a Jefferson team that already has a 41-14 win over Commerce under its belt.

Jefferson quarterback Bryant Shirreffs passed for 244 yards and two scores, and ran for another two in the Dragons first game.

The Trojans will counter that offensive weapon with a stout defensive front and a renewed focus on the running game on offense. They will be led by running back Imani Cross who, if successful, can help keep the ball out of Shirreff’s hands and methodically moving toward the end zone.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. Jefferson looks to be a stout first test for the Trojans, but a better focus on the ground game will lead North Hall to a close victory.

Riverside Military at Banks County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Leopards Stadium, Homer

Coaches: Riverside Military, Chris Cotter; Banks County, Phillip Jones

Records: Riverside Military (0-2, 0-0 8-A), Banks County (1-0, 0-0 8-AA North)

Key players: Riverside Military, RB/DE Marlan Edwards (6-2, 212 Sr.), K/P/DL Victor Salcido (5-11, 222 Sr.), QB Collin Pettell (6-5, 200 So.). Banks County, QB Tyler Hubbard (5-9, 150 Jr.), RB Dean Ewing (6-1, 200 Sr.), WR/DB Marquaze Maddox (6-0, 165 Sr.).

Outlook: Cotter called a team meeting Monday afternoon to point out the good and bad news for his players after the Eagles’ rocky start. The good is that Riverside doesn’t have to play another Class AAA school this season, which is welcome news after last Friday’s 50-0 loss at Lumpkin County. Cotter said the effort was not up to par in any regard during that game.

The bad news is that Riverside is getting hammered in the turnover battle. So far, the Eagles have turned the ball over 10 times in two games, five interceptions returned for touchdowns and a sack that was scooped and returned for a score by Lumpkin County.

“We might be setting a state record for turnovers,” Cotter said.

And Riverside knows it isn’t going to get any easier with a game against a gritty Leopards squad. Banks County’s Ewing rushed for 120 yards, including the game winner for Jones in his first game as a head coach.

The Leopards’ defense was also strong with three interceptions.

“Banks County is an excellent team,” Cotter said. “They have a solid running game, and we know we’re going to have to get 11 helmets to the football.”

Prediction: BANKS COUNTY. The Leopards are too fundamentally sound on offense for a young Eagles defense to contain.

Union County at Lumpkin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones

Records: Union County (1-0, 0-0 8-AA North), Lumpkin County (1-0, 0-0 8-AAA North)

Key players: Union County, QB T Bentley (6-0, 190 Jr.), RB/LB Ian Petkevich (6-0, 195 Sr.), OL/DL Christian Forney (6-0, 240 Sr.). Lumpkin County, TE/DE B.J. Dorsey (6-3, 235 Sr.), RB/WR/CB Ian McIntosh (5-10, 185 Sr.), QB Logan Moye (6-1, 180 Sr.).

Outlook: So far, Union County and Lumpkin County have scored a combined 70 points and allowed none through one week of action. The Panthers shut out Towns County 20-0, and the Indians prevailed over Riverside 50-0.

Lumpkin County took advantage of a turnover-prone Riverside offense in its game, scoring three defensive touchdowns en route to its highest point total since 2003.

For a team trying to make the playoffs for the first time since that year, it was a good start.
Union County counters with an offense led by an experienced quarterback in Bentley and a defense that returns its leading tackler, Petkevich, from a year ago.

After winning three of four to close the 2010 season and a successful open to 2011, the Panthers are beginning to look like a team on the rise as well. How Bentley can perform against the Indians defense will go a long way to determining whether that growth can continue tonight.

Prediction: LUMPKIN COUNTY. Both teams appear to be improved, but a team as opportunistic as the Indians likely has a strong advantage.

White County at Gainesville

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Bobby Gruhn Field, Gainesville

Radio: 1240-AM

Coaches: White County, Bill Ballard; Gainesville, Bruce Miller

Records: White County (0-1, 0-0 8-AAA North), Gainesville (0-1, 0-0 8-AAA South)

Key players: White County, RB Ryan Kennedy (5-11, 180 Sr.), RB/LB Dalton Whitfield (6-1, 220 So.), OL/DL Dannan Sanderson (6-3, 265 Sr.). Gainesville, QB Deshaun Watson (6-2, 185 So.), RB Rayshon Thomas (5-4, 150 So.), OL/DL Rafael Upchurch (6-0, 270 Sr.)

Outlook: The Red Elephants have plenty of reason to be excited about tonight’s rematch of the 2010 region championship game.

First of all, it’s the home opener for Gainesville and a chance to play in the friendly surroundings of Bobby Gruhn Field for the first time in the regular season. Also, it’s a chance to shake off last week’s shutout at Buford.

“Our kids showed up back to practice on Monday with a great attitude and ready to work,” Miller said. “They’ve really accepted the challenge and trying to get better.”

Meanwhile, White County is coming off a much closer 28-27 loss against East Jackson. A bad snap on an extra point attempt midway through the fourth quarter turned out to be the difference in the game.

The Warriors did have some positive signs from their season opener, considering its amount of youth at all positions. White County outgained East Jackson 312-250 in overall yardage.

“White County isn’t a bad team at all,” Miller said. “They really lost a heartbreaker last week.”

Prediction: GAINESVILLE. The Red Elephants, who won twice against White County last year, get their first win of 2011 with a much better night on offense than in their season opener.

Franklin County at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Death Valley, Commerce

Coaches: Franklin County, Tommy Welch; Commerce, Marvin Justice

Records: Franklin County (0-1, 0-0 8-AAA North) ; Commerce (0-1, 0-0 8-A)

Key players: Franklin County, RB Shaun Pulliam (Sr.), S Ben Cheek (So.), S Ben Cheek (Jr.) . Commerce, QB Cody Streetman (6-1, 200 Sr.), TE/DE Jake Vaughn (6-2, 200 Sr.), DL/OL Micah Eason (6-1, 230 Jr.).

Outlook: Both schools are also coming off losses to their biggest rivals a week ago, are looking for their first wins of the season, and Justice is looking for his first victory as the head man in charge. Needless to say, a win tonight will help turn the season for either program.

Streetman, a four year starter, had a hand in both touchdowns scored last week by the Tigers. He went 5 for 6 through the air, but will need to watch for the Lions ball-hawking safety, Ben Cheek. Cheek had three interceptions a week ago against Hart County.

A big game from Streetman will be imperative in order for Commerce to pick up win number one on the season. As will an improved defensive effort after the Tigers were gouged for nearly 250 passing yards last week. against Jefferson.

Prediction COMMERCE. An aggressive Tiger defense attacks a young Franklin County team and helps ease the pain of last week’s loss.

Habersham Central at Cedar Shoals

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Athens

Coaches: Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham; Cedar Shoals, Dreco Thomas

Records: Habersham Central (1-0, 1-0 8-AAAA) ; Cedar Shoals (0-1, 0-1)

Key players: Habersham Central, QB Kevin Ellison (6-1, 180 Sr.), FB/DE Patrick Burns (6-1, 190 Sr.), OL Austin Allen (6-3, 305 Sr.). Cedar Shoals, FB Adrian Washington (5-11, 210, So.), NT Ricky Clarke (6-1, 290, Jr.), QB Darius Jordan (5-9. 140, Fr.).

Outlook: Last week, the Raiders shocked many with a three-point victory against a talented Apalachee team and look to keep their strong start going against Cedar Shoals tonight.

Cedar Shoals will prove to be a formidable opponent with size. The Jaguars use Anthony Washington as a big part of the offense. He had 104 yards on 13 carries a week ago and will be looking for more against a Raider defense that gave up more than 200 yards on the ground.

Habersham Central proved last week its rushing attack is nothing to be taken lightly with Ellison going for 217 yards on 22 attempts and the team averaged 8.9 yards per carry.

The team that wins the ground game will control the clock and come away with the win.

Prediction: HABERSHAM CENTRAL. Off a big win from last week, the Raiders continue their momentum against the Jaguars.

Towns County at Cherokee

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Cherokee, N.C.

Records: Towns County (0-1); Cherokee Central (0-2)

Key players: Towns County, QB Jackson Noblet (5-11, 185 So.), WR Zack Stroud (6-1, 170 Sr.), TB Noah Calhoun (5-10, 170 Sr.). Cherokee Central, RB Dorian Walkingstick.

Outlook: Neither offense found a way to score in their opening games. The Braves did, however, put points on the board by way of a safety.

The Braves have talent in the offensive backfield. Walkingstick led Western North Carolina with 2,139 yards a year ago.

The 25-man roster at Towns County will try to move the ball more effectively in the Indians’ new spread offense tonight.

Prediction: CHEROKEE. Walkingstick gets his game going early.



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