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Football Notebook: Red Elephants riding momentum into clash with Gladiators
Gainesville’s Josh Holderfield cuts back through Salem defenders for a big game after a catch during the first half of Friday night’s 58-8 win at City Park Stadium. Gainesville (6-1, 4-0 Region 8-AAAAA) visits Clarke Central in Athens this week. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

During a season that has delivered plenty of lopsided outcomes in local action, No. 5 Gainesville High (6-1, 5-0 Region 8-AAAAA) has accounted for more than its fair share of those blowouts.

None of Gainesville’s seven games have been close by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, and the Red Elephants have been on the winning end in six of those contests.

In particular, the Red Elephants’ last five games have produced almost video game-like numbers.

Behind Clemson-bound quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Red
Elephants have outscored opponents 274-27 since suffering a 38-14 loss to Buford on Sept 6.

Those gaudy numbers have helped Big Red remain atop Region 8, but the team has had company in the form of Flowery Branch and Clarke Central.

This week, Region 8 will finally produce some separation at the top.

Gainesville travels to Athens on Friday to face Clarke Central (5-1, 4-0), which hasn’t lost a game since suffering a season-opening defeat at the hands of No. 9 Marist.
The Gladiators haven’t been winning games with the same ease as Gainesville, but they will almost certainly represent the Red Elephants’ toughest test since Buford.

A BIG TEST FOR THE WAR EAGLES: Much like Gainesville, it’s been a while since Chestatee (5-1, 4-0 Region 8-AAAA) ran into an opponent it couldn’t handle.

This week, however, the War Eagles may get their toughest test since their season-opening, 33-15 loss to North Hall.

Chestatee must travel to Sugar Hill on Friday to face a Lanier High program that appears to have grown by leaps and bounds in the school’s fourth year of existence.

The Longhorns (5-1, 2-1) have already matched their win total from 2012, outscoring opponents 167-39 in their five victories. Their lone loss came at the hands of unbeaten, No. 4 Monroe Area, 56-28.

The War Eagles still have to face Monroe Area themselves, meaning Friday’s game with the Longhorns could ultimately end up deciding whether Chestatee secures a home playoff game for the second consecutive season.

Though Chestatee is probably best known for its relentless rushing attack, defense has been the biggest key for the program this season.

The War Eagles have allowed a total of just seven points in their last three games, a stretch that saw them shut out Johnson and Walnut Grove.

Something has to give when Chestatee and Lanier meet Friday night. The War Eagles have not allowed a team to score more than 23 points in a game since the loss to North Hall, while the Longhorns have not scored fewer than 24 points in a game all season.

PERFECT TIMING: West Hall (4-2, 2-1 Region 7-AAA) was off last Friday, and the Spartans’ bye week might not could have come at a better time.

The four games that are most critical to the Spartans’ playoff hopes have been saved for the final leg of the regular season, starting this Friday night when East Hall (3-3, 0-3) comes to Oakwood. The Spartans round out the season with matchups against North Hall, White County and Dawson County.

From the start of the season, West Hall looked strong enough to handle Region 7 opponents like Fannin County and Banks County with relative ease, but like almost every other team in Class AAA, incapable of challenging No. 1 Buford.

That analysis held true to form as the Spartans topped the Rebels and Leopards by a combined total of 97-20, before falling 63-0 to the Wolves.

Now comes the real test for West Hall.

The Spartans look capable of knocking off each of their remaining four opponents — even the Trojans — but nothing is a given.

The final month of the season could easily turn into a series of tightly-contested games in which a handful of plays ultimately decide the Spartans’ postseason fate.

Fortunately for the Spartans, they’ve had a chance to catch a breather ahead of this crucial stretch.