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High school football notebook: Region races starting to heat up

Region 8-AA's top two teams to play Friday in Tiger

POSTED: October 6, 2012 2:31 p.m.

Jefferson’s upset win over seventh-ranked Washington-Wilkes on Friday did more than send a message to the rest of the state — it also set up a showdown between Region 8-AA’s two frontrunners at the midway point of the season.

The Dragons, who used dominating defense and a balanced offense to pick apart Washington-Wilkes 31-0, will face upstart Rabun County on Friday in Tiger. Both teams are 2-0 in region and 4-1 overall.

Though Friday’s win was somewhat unexpected, Jefferson has been on a tear since its heartbreaking loss to rival Commerce in the opening week of the season. The Dragons have won four straight since then, dealing North Hall its only loss of the season and crushing Greene County last week, 62-26. Three of the four teams Jefferson has beaten have winning records on the season.

But competing near the top of the region isn’t new for the Dragons, who have missed the playoffs only once since 2000.

Rabun County, on the other hand, is entering unfamiliar territory. In their first year under former Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw, the Wildcats are off to their best start since 1999 and have already equaled their win total from the last two years combined.

Not surprisingly for a Shaw-coached team, Rabun County is finding success with it spread option offense, averaging 34.6 points per game.

The Wildcats can expect a stiff challenge from the Dragons, who held Washington-Wilkes’ high-powered attack to 109 yards of total offense. The Tigers entered the game averaging 42 points per game.

THREE TIED ATOP 7-AAA: Since losing to Jefferson, North Hall has looked nearly unstoppable, bulldozing its way to 107 points and 797 rushing yards in wins over Dawson County and East Hall.

Friday night’s 60-12 win over the Vikings was the Trojans’ highest offensive-output since 2007, when a similarly multi-faceted running game led North Hall to the state semifinals.

The Trojans’ 2-0 start in Region 7-AAA play leaves them tied atop the standings with White County and Buford, who will square off this week in Cleveland.

Both the Warriors and Wolves are battle-tested. Buford defeated Elbert County, a state quarterfinalist last season, in the opening week before falling to Gainesville (No. 7 in Class AAAAA), 19-15. Since that rare regular-season loss, the Wolves have won three straight by a combined score of 167-0, and Gainesville remains the only team to score a touchdown against Buford this season.

White County had Friday off to prepare for the Wolves’ visit and try to get healthy. The Warriors absorbed a hard-fought, 21-19 loss to 10th-ranked Blessed Trinity on Sept. 21, and played East Hall the following week without starting quarterback Will Brock or standout linebacker/running back Dalton Whitfield. Despite the injuries, the Warriors won, 41-12.

STILL ON PACE: When both Flowery Branch and Gainesville took losses in the opening week of the season, some of the luster was seemingly knocked off one of the most anticipated games of the season — the Falcons’ and Red Elephants’ date in the regular season finale.

A few weeks later, though, and the Hall County-based teams are alone atop the Region 8-AAAAA standings.

Gainesville has won five straight and is scoring almost 54 points per game in region play in its first season in Class AAAAA. Flowery Branch’s margins haven’t been quite as overwhelming, but the Falcons, who finished in a three-way for the Region 8-AAAA championship last season, have picked up where they left off, winning four in a row since region play began.

But there’s still a long way to go before the Hall County rivalry is renewed on Nov. 9.

Flowery Branch faces dates against Heritage (Oct. 19) and Clarke Central (Oct. 26) — the teams it split the region title with last year — while Gainesville’s game against Clarke Central looms large on Oct. 19.


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