White County won’t get a lot of style points for its 6-0 victory over East Hall on Friday, which included a lost fumble at the goal line and a missed extra point, but all that really matters is that the Warriors picked up a critical Region 7-AAA victory.
Running back Dalton Whitfield (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) showed he’s more than just a bruiser, piling up 122 yards on the ground thanks largely to a 73-yard run in the second quarter. Whitfield, who plays linebacker on defense, also helped hold Devin Watson, East Hall’s dual-threat quarterback, to a season-low in yardage.
The battle for the final two playoffs spots in Region 7-AAA was widely expected to be a four-team race between White County, Dawson County, East Hall and West Hall. The Warriors’ victory over the Vikings puts them at 2-0 in region play and gives them a clear inside track on a fourth consecutive trip to the postseason.
AGONIZINGLY CLOSE, AGAIN: East Hall’s playoff hopes took a devastating hit in Friday’s loss to White County. The Vikings, who still must face Buford and North Hall, dropped to 0-2 in the region and will likely need teams like White County and Dawson County to suffer at least one upset in order to climb back into the postseason race.
The Vikings won their three non-region games with ease, outscoring opponents 168-63, but the team has been unable to pull out close region contests.
East Hall’s two region losses have been decided by a total of just eight points. Dawson County put the Vikings in an early hole in the region standings when it pulled out a 29-27 win on Aug. 23 at East Hall Stadium.
WAR EAGLES HAVEN’T LOST A STEP: Despite the loss of last season’s top two rushers — Quan Clark to graduation and A.J. Sijiye to a torn ACL — Chestatee appears to have widened the gap between itself and the majority of the field in Region 8-AAAA.
Defense is proving to be the biggest difference for the War Eagles this season.
Through the first four games of the 2012 campaign, Chestatee allowed 129 points. This year the War Eagles have surrendered only 70 points — 17.5 per game — against the same group of opponents.
The War Eagles’ next two games come against Johnson and Walnut Grove, opponents they will be heavily favored against, before they take on a much-improved, fourth-year Lanier program on Oct. 18 in Sugar Hill.
The Longhorns won their first four games by a combined score of 127-29, before suffering a 56-28 loss on Friday against Monroe Area, the 2012 Region 8-AAAA champion.
A victory against the Longhorns should all but wrap up the region’s No. 2 seed and War Eagles’ second consecutive home playoff game.
DON’T MAKE PLANS FOR NOV. 8: Coming into the season, defending Class AAAAA state champion Gainesville was the clear favorite to do the one thing it failed to do last season: win the Region 8-AAAAA title.
The question was whether Flowery Branch, which denied Gainesville last season by winning its first region championship, would once again stand in the Red Elephants’ way.
There might have been some doubt about whether the meeting between the two teams would have the same stakes when the final week of the regular season rolls around this year, especially after Flowery Branch started 0-2 for the second consecutive season.
Now, Flowery Branch has reeled off three convincing wins and sits tied atop the standings with, of course, Gainesville.
Clarke Central is the only other Region 8-AAAAA team without a loss, but the Gladiators’ haven’t displayed the same level of domination over opponents as the Falcons and Red Elephants.
Midway through the season, it appears as if the two Hall County rivals are headed for another high-stakes showdown at City Park Stadium in early November.