Game of the week: West Hall travels to Johnson for Battle of Oakwood
East Hall at Dawson County
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; Dawson County, Jeff Lee
Records: East Hall (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); Dawson County (0-0, 0-0 7-AAA)
Key players: East Hall, OL/DL Devonte Benton (6-5, 263 Sr.), RB/LB Xavier Hughey (6-2, 198 Sr.), OT Braden Jarrard (6-5, 247 Sr.). Dawson County, QB Tyler Dominy (6-4, 178 Sr.), RB/LB Zack Martin (5-11, 225 Sr.), WR/DB Bruce Clark (6-4, 210 Sr.).
Outlook: This Region 7-AAA opener, originally scheduled for later in the year but moved up at the request of the coaches, will be an important barometer for both teams.
Dawson County comes in with high expectations after returning 17 starters off of last season’s 5-5 team, while East Hall returns much of the defense but has to replace last season’s two leading rushers.
That doesn’t mean the Tigers are expecting a repeat of last season’s 49-7 win in Dawsonville.
“They feel the same way we do, that both of us have a legitimate shot at winding up in that top four in our region,” Lee said. “It being the first game, and the first region game, it should be a very interesting game.”
While East Hall will need senior Austen Mahaffey and a stable of younger running backs to step up to replace last season’s leader in Jamond Witt, Dawson County is expecting more production this season junior Chris Sayler and Cody Lamar in a backfield that already returns a 1,200-yard rusher in Zack Martin and a potent dual-threat in Dominy.
The key to the matchup, then, could be the Tigers’ spread attack against the Vikings’ experienced defense.
East Hall allowed 25 points per game last season on defense and held half of its opponents under 20 points.
Prediction: DAWSON COUNTY. East Hall might be better at defending the Tigers’ attack after seeing it last season, but the Vikings don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with a likely state-bound Dawson County team.
Towns County at Hayesville (N.C.)
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Hayesville High, Hayesville, N.C.
Coaches: Towns County, Kyle Langford; Hayesville, Ernie Hughes
Records: Towns County (0-0); Hayesville (0-1)
Key players: Towns County, QB Jackson Noblet (5-11, 185 Sr.), RB/LB Wesley Bloodworth (5-10, 230 Sr.), CB Brett Barrett (5-11, 170 Jr.). Hayesville, OL/LB Kyle Vardo (6-0, 215 Sr.), QB Zach Wall (6-1, 170 Sr.), FB/NG Dylan Williams (6-2, 235 Sr.).
Outlook: Towns County will be looking for only its second win against rival Hayesville High, which, while across the North Carolina state line, is less than 10 miles from Hiawassee.
Langford said the fans are very familiar with one another, but the teams are still trying to figure each other out.
While Langford was able to get a good glimpse of first-year coach Hughes’ team during the Yellow Jackets’ season-opening loss last Friday to a much bigger Johnson Central team, 39-7, all Hughes has seen from Towns County is the scrimmage against Dawson County, in which the Indians used multiple offensive sets.
While Langford said that running out of the I-formation is the heart and soul of the Indians offense, he added they would do whatever needed to win.
Regardless of the formation, Towns County will need Noblet and Bloodworth to be factors. Noblet is recovering from a separated shoulder and is questionable for tonight’s game, although Langford said he’d be out there for pregame to test his arm. On defense, the Indians will need to stop the dynamic Wall, also a baseball star, and Williams, a tough runner to bring down, Langford said.
Hughes said his team won’t try to surprise anyone on offense, as they will primarily run the ball out of the double wing. Hayesville defeated Towns County 21-6 in Hiawassee last season.
Prediction: HAYESVILLE. The Yellow Jackets have one of the region’s better athletes in Wall, according to Langford, and should ride their physical style to a win.