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High school football previews: Week 2
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Game of the Week: Showdown in Class AAAAA

North Hall at Chestatee

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: War Eagle Stadium

Radio: 102.9-FM

Coaches: North Hall, Bob Christmas; Chestatee, Stan Luttrell

Records: North Hall (0-0, 0-0 7-AAA); Chestatee (0-0, 0-0 8-AAAA)

Key players: North Hall, RB/LB Destin Bennett (6-1, 220 Jr.); OL/DL Avery Easton (6-3, 260 Sr.); QB/LB Bradley Brown (6-2, 205 Sr.). Chestatee, QB/DB Jordan Degraff (6-0, 155 Sr.); RB/DB Quan Clark (5-10, 188 Sr.); RB/WR Brandon Thompson (5-9, 160 Sr.).

Outlook: The North Hall-Chestatee rivalry has lost none of its importance to Christmas or Luttrell. Even though both now play in different classifications with Chestatee’s move up to Class AAAA, the fact that both schools are separated by seven miles makes it just as important to both sets of fans, students, coaches and players.

“I think the only difference is that this game no longer has playoff implications,” Luttrell said.

Christmas says that his running game in the Trojans’ Wing-T offense should remain strong this season, even with 2011 leading rusher Imani Cross (1,700 yards, 24 touchdowns last season) now playing at the University of Nebraska, and potentially playing right away as a true freshman, according to Christmas.

This season, North Hall will feature Kevin Christmas, T.J. Tate and Zac Little at running back, and Bennett and David Epps at fullback.

Meanwhile, North Hall’s coach was able to scout Chestatee during its scrimmage against East Hall two weeks ago. Christmas came away impressed with their team across the board.

“They (Chestatee) probably have the most experienced team they’ve had,” coach Christmas said.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. The Trojans may not have the same firepower as last year in the running game, but have enough backs to make it 10 of 11 in school history against the War Eagles.

East Hall at Chattooga

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Little Big Horn Stadium, Summerville

Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; Chattooga, Clay Livingston

Records: East Hall (0-1, 0-1 Region 7-AAA); Chattooga (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AA)

Key players: East Hall, RB/DB Quay Jarrells (Jr.), QB Devin Watson (So.), OL/DL Devonte Benton (6-5, 263 Sr.). Chattooga, QB Nigel Dickerson (Jr.), RB Ronnell Sims (Sr.), WR Jayden Poarch (Jr.).

Outlook: The season got off to a less-than-ideal start for East Hall last week, as the Vikings took a 42-0 defeat at the hands of region foe Dawson County.

The Vikings will be looking for big improvements tonight when they travel to take on the Indians.

Chattooga finished 5-5 last season, winning its last four. That momentum may have been interrupted though as the Indians lost some key senior leadership from last year’s team and have a new coach at the helm.

East Hall will need to make strides in all facets to even its record. The Vikings were outgained 404-155 in total yardage last week against Dawson County’s high-powered offense.

Watson and Zach Groover split time at quarterback in that game and may continue to do so. Watson provided 37 rushing yards on 14 carries last week, second to Jarrells’ 50 yards on six carries.

Prediction: EAST HALL. Coaches always say a team’s greatest improvement occurs between the first and second week. That should benefit the Vikings and haunt a youthful Indians squad tonight.

Oglethorpe County at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial, Oakwood

Coaches: Oglethorpe County, Larry Milligan; Johnson, Jason Roquemore

Records: Oglethorpe County (0-0, 0-0 8-AA); Johnson (1-0)

Key players: Oglethorpe County, QB Kendrick Presley (5-10, 190 Sr.); DT Casey Pacheco (6-0, 265 Sr.); DE Jay Fleming (6-1, 230 Jr.). Johnson, RB Cedric Harris (6-0, 200 Sr.); OL/DL Mason Borders (6-2, 315 Sr.); TE/LB Jose Martinez (6-1, 210 Sr.).

Outlook: The Knights welcomed in the Roquemore era in Oakwood with a huge win against West Hall last week. Tonight, Johnson has the opportunity to win its first two games for the first time since 2007, when it defeated Jefferson and East Hall.

Johnson’s formula for success is clear. Utilize its massive offensive line to clear out a running lane for Harris (176 yards, two touchdowns last week). With a week open to start the season, Milligan and his Patriots coaching staff were at Billy Ellis Memorial last Friday to scout their first opponent at the Battle of Oakwood. Oglethorpe County’s coach came away impressed with Harris’ ability, and knows slowing him down will be a point of emphasis in order to try and leave South Hall with a victory.

Prediction: JOHNSON. The Knights continue to run the ball efficiently behind their big offensive line and go to 2-0 on the season.

Fellowship Christian at Lakeview Academy

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jock Horner Field, Gainesville

Coaches: Fellowship Christian, Hunter Chadwick; Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn

Records: Fellowship Christian (0-0); Lakeview Academy (0-0)

Key players: Lakeview Academy, WR/DB John Cox (6-0, 180 Sr.); RB/LB Trevor Price (5-10, 165 Sr.); DL/OL Alex Oliver (6-1, 210 Sr.). Fellowship Christian, RB Tyler Hart (5-8, 140 Sr.); OL Chad Davenport (6-0, 225 Sr.); OL Clay Hostetter (6-0, 185 Jr.).

Outlook: Lakeview Academy is expecting big things from its football program this season. A win on opening night could be a sign of good things to come.

Only once have the Lions won their season opener (2010 vs. Fellowship Christian). This time, Lakeview Academy has a substantial edge in terms of experience. Lakeview Academy has 19 returning starters from last year’s 4-4 squad, while Fellowship Christian has only five seniors on the entire roster.

Lakeview Academy and Fellowship Christian have opened the season playing against one another for four seasons now.

Fellowship Christian is coming off a five-win 2011 season, tied for second highest in school history. The Paladins’ last playoff appearance came in 2007 when it made the state quarterfinals, losing 26-13 to Clinch County.

Prediction: LAKEVIEW ACADEMY. This is the Lions’ season to get started headed in the right direction.

Buford at Elbert County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Granite Bowl, Elbert County

Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Elbert County, Sid Fritts

Records: Buford (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); Elbert County (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAA)

Key players: Buford, RB/LB Dontravious Wilson (5-11, 215 Sr.), OL/DL Josh Cardiello (6-4, 285 Sr.), TE/LB Mikey Bart (6-3, 245 Sr.). Elbert County, RB/DB Tyshon Dye (6-0, 205 Sr.), RB/CB Randy Jones (5-8, 175 Sr.), FB K’Taro Cade (6-0, 190 Sr.).

Outlook: The Wolves travel to the storied Granite Bowl for the first time this week in one of the most intriguing Class AAA contests of the season.

Buford and Elbert County met for the first time in the quarterfinals of last year’s Class AA state playoffs and the Wolves rolled to a 49-13 win en route to their fifth consecutive appearance in the state title game. So expect the Blue Devils to be out for revenge when Buford comes to town with a new-look team.

Despite losing 32 seniors and all but three starters from last year’s squad, the Wolves still have plenty of college-bound talent and start the season ranked second in the state.

Sixth-ranked Elbert County, meanwhile, is led by Clemson recruit Tyshon Dye, one of the state’s top running backs, and an experienced offensive line.

Against last season’s loaded Buford defense he managed only 39 yards on 15 carries, but should find more running room tonight.

Prediction: BUFORD. Don’t expect a blowout, but the Wolves are still talented enough to beat one of the state’s best, even on the road.

White County at Habersham Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Raider Stadium, Mount Airy

Radio: 99.3-FM

Coaches: White County, Bill Ballard; Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham

Records: White County (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); Habersham Central (0-0, 0-0 7-AAAAAA)

Key players: White County, RB/LB Dalton Whitfield (6-3, 232 Jr.), QB Will Brock (6-3, 198 Sr.), WR/FS Clay Rider (6-0, 175 Sr.). Habersham Central, RB Sydnee Mulligan (5-9, 190 Jr.), RB Brandt Rinehart (5-11, 195 Sr.), DL/TE Zach Rhyneer (6-3, 280 Sr.).

Outlook: For Class AAA White County, tonight’s game is a chance to test itself against an opponent in the state’s new largest classification.

For Habersham Central, it’s the chance to meld together a new offense to replace Kevin Ellison, who accounted for more than 3,000 yards of total offense last season, before the gauntlet of a Gwinnett-dominated Region 7-AAAAAA. After facing the Warriors, the Raiders travel to old rival Stephens County, followed by the first of eight region games at home against Collins Hill.

Prediction: HABERSHAM CENTRAL. Ellison can’t be replaced, but the Raiders still have the athletes and the big, physical linemen to win their season opener at home.

Jefferson at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Ray Lamb Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Jefferson, T. McFerrin; Commerce, Marvin Justice

Records: Jefferson (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AA); Commerce (0-0, 0-0 8-A)

Key players: Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-2, 215 Sr.), WR McKay Dickens (6-1, 185 Sr.), OLB Wesley Simonton (6-0, 205 Sr.). Commerce, OL/LB Chance McClure (6-1, 215 Jr.), QB Drew Whitfield (5-9, 160 Jr.), FB Jamal Browner (6-0, 220 Sr.).

Outlook: Jefferson will look to make it six consecutive wins in the longstanding Jackson County rivalry — on the heels of 12 straight Commerce wins through 2006 — when the Dragons travel to Commerce tonight for both teams’ season opener.

While it’s not a region game, it’s a chance for both teams to test themselves against a solid opponent — both teams reached the state playoffs last season.

The Dragons return a number of the key pieces from last year’s team that cruised to a 41-14 win, including Shirreffs, one of the top quarterbacks in the region, who compiled nearly 2,300 yards of total offense last season.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons make it six consecutive wins in the rivalry series behind Shirreffs, who McFerrin said has developed even more as a passer thanks to summer 7-on-7 camps.

Dawson County at Lumpkin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega

Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones

Records: Dawson County (1-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAA); Lumpkin County (0-0, 0-0 8-AAAA)

Key players: Dawson County, QB Tyler Dominy (6-4, 178 Sr.), RB/LB Zack Martin (5-11, 225 Sr.), WR/DB Will Anglin (5-10, 170 Sr.). Lumpkin County, QB/DB/P Daniel McCrary (6-1, 175 Jr.), OL/DL Tyler Flatt (6-1, 250 Sr.), RB/FS Gunner Wood (5-9, 160 So.)

Outlook: It only took the Dawson County offense a little over a quarter to find its rhythm last Friday against East Hall.

Dominy attributed much of that to it being the first game of the year, which means the Tigers’ senior-led attack, which scored 42 points in the opener, should only get more tuned up. Next stop, Dahlonega and a date with an old rival in Lumpkin County. The two teams played regularly for years, and after a recent break, will resume the game tonight.

“Everybody’s looking forward to getting this thing going again,” Lee said.

The Indians, behind first-year starter McCrary, will look to move the ball down field while also burning clock and keeping the dangerous Dawson County offense off the field.

Of course, moving the ball won’t be easy going against a Tigers defense that, despite losing two key, senior starters — linebacker Cody Smith and defensive lineman Cale Tallant — in the first quarter, still kept East Hall off the board. Both are out for the season with knee injuries.

“The kids that stepped in and played, they didn’t miss a beat,” Lee said. “We’ll miss them, but the guys stepping in have done a great job.”

Prediction: DAWSON COUNTY. As Dominy and company displayed by scoring 42 points in the opener against what could be a decent defense in East Hall, it’s going to take a lot of points to match the Tigers.

Union County at Towns County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Towns County, Kyle Langford

Records: Union County (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AA); Towns County (0-1, playing non-region schedule)

Key players: Union County, QB T Bentley (6-0, 190 Sr.), FB/DB Clay Burnette (5-8, 165 Sr.), OL/DL Luther Jones (6-0, 275 Sr.). Towns County, RB/LB Wesley Bloodworth (5-10, 230 Sr.), OL/DL Luke Parker (6-3, 275 Sr.), QB Jackson Noblet (5-11, 185 Jr.).

Outlook: Towns County has only beaten Union County once in the history of the rivalry. Both of Towns County’s leading scorers from last season have graduated, and the Indians will count on Cruz Shook and Bloodworth to be strong targets for Noblet. Union County returns two of their leading rushers in Bentley and Johnathan Hughes and one of their leading receivers and tacklers with Burnette.

Prediction: UNION COUNTY. Allison’s Panthers can rely on their experienced skill players to overcome a Towns County team that suffered a loss in its first game of the season.

East Jackson at Banks County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Leopard Stadium, Homer

Coaches: Banks County, Philip Jones; East Jackson, Brian Smith

Records: Banks County (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); East Jackson (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAA)

Key players: Banks County, WR/DB Greg Cannon (6-0, 170 Sr.), RB/DB Wes Faulkner (5-8, 180 Jr.), RB/LB Eli Smallwood (6-0, 200 Sr.). East Jackson, QB Austin Beauchamp (6-0, 215 Jr.), TB T.J. Clay (5-10, 155 Jr.), RB/LB Davante Gresham (5-9, 175 Sr.).

Outlook: East Jackson had problems throwing the ball last season, only winning three games in Smith’s first season as head coach, but one of those wins was against Banks County, and new quarterback Beauchamp seems to have the potential to be a strong passer. Banks County, however, was 7-4 in Jones’ first year as coach, making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Leopards return quarterback Tyler Hubbard to their multiple-I offense and should have progressed significantly with a year’s experience under Jones.

Prediction: EAST JACKSON. It should be close, but the Eagles have made changes from last season that can enable them to beat Banks County again.

Winder-Barrow at Jackson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Panther Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Jackson County, Benji Harrison; Winder-Barrow, David Wagner.

Records: Jackson County (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAA); Winder-Barrow (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAA)

Key players: Jackson County, RB/DB Dustin Scott (5-9, 165 Sr.), OL Josh Ingram (6-3, 275 Sr.), WR Ben Brissey (6-2, 190 Jr.). Winder-Barrow, QB Christian Hodge (Jr.), RB/DB Chad Platt (Sr.), FB Johnny Hester (Jr.)

Outlook: Winder-Barrow has made some adjustments to its offense from the past two losing seasons under Wagner, adding more option plays and using speedy players to score more points. The Bulldoggs have had a month to refine the new offense and make adjustments on defense after an exhibition loss to South Forsyth.

Jackson County is in its first season with Harrison, but the Panthers return all of their offensive leaders from last season and have good size and strength on both lines. They are adapting to a spread offense this season but have experienced players at skill positions.

Prediction: JACKSON COUNTY. Both teams are in the midst of change, but Winder-Barrow has not won a game in two seasons and may not be able to evolve in time to change that.

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