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High school football previews: Week 3
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Game of the Week: Gainesville at Buford

Johnson at North Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Brickyard, Gainesville

Radio: 1330-AM

Coaches: Johnson, Jason Roquemore; North Hall, Bob Christmas

Records: Johnson (2-0); North Hall (1-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA)

Key players: Johnson, RB Cedric Harris (6-0, 200 Sr.); OL/DL Mason Borders (6-2, 315 Sr.); TE/LB Jose Martinez (6-1, 210 Sr.). North Hall, DB/QB Andrew Smith (5-8, 145 Jr.); QB/LB Bradley Brown (6-2, 205 Sr.); RB/DB T.J. Tate (5-9, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: Johnson will be looking to do something tonight that hasn’t happened for a couple of decades — defeat county rival North Hall.

The program’s last win in the series came in 1994, with the last win at North Hall in 1979.

Now, with the Knights having won two straight to open the season and the Trojans 1-0, the two will meet again at The Brickyard for the first time since 2009.

This Johnson team, led by Cedric Harris and his 414 yards rushing, could be a handful for a North Hall team that lost its leading rusher, Imani Cross, to graduation last season.

Christmas said Harris is “the real deal” at running back.

The Knights are also riding high after already winning two more games than 2011’s 0-10 record, but Roquemore said that the players know that 2-0 is still only two wins in a 10-game season, and there’s a lot left to go.

Both teams feature run-heavy attacks, with the Knights basing out of the option and the Trojans the wishbone, which Christmas said they switched to from the Wing-T because this year’s team, with bigger lineman, fit better in what he described as the “old school” offense.

He also said he thought it’d be fun for the players after so many years in the same look. He added that the Trojans are three-deep with quality runners in the backfield, including Tate, a transfer who rushed for 113 yards in last week’s win over Chestatee. North Hall totalled more than 300 yards rushing as a team last week out of the new look.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. The Trojans don’t have a feature back like Harris, but they have enough weapons to keep Harris on the sidelines for long stretches in what could be a tight game.

Flowery Branch at West Forsyth

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: West Forsyth High, Cumming

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Chris Griffin; West Forsyth, Frank Hepler

Records: Flowery Branch (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAA); West Forsyth (1-0, 0-0 Region 6-AAAAAA)

Key players: Flowery Branch, LB Jacob Allen (6-1, 237 Sr.), WR/DB Noel Padmore (6-0, 164 Sr.), QB Jackson McDonald (5-11, 172 Jr.). West Forsyth, QB AJ Erdely (6-3, 200 Sr.); RB Jake Wieczorek (6-0, 190 Sr.); RB/LB Mohamed Camara (6-2, 205 Sr.).

Outlook: The West Forsyth Wolverines showed they could defeat a Region 8-AAAAA Hall County team in last week’s 32-30 win over Gainesville.

The other Region 8-AAAAA Hall County team, Flowery Branch, is up next.

Wolverines coach Hepler said after the game against the Red Elephants that playing a solid opponent, and one that ran a similar spread offense to that of Flowery Branch, would help going into tonight’s match-up.

The Falcons, still working on the offense after replacing many of last year’s starters, will counter with a promising defense, led by Allen, Padmore, Darius Curry, Kris Smith and others, that held a powerful Northside-Warner Robins offense in check for a half before giving way last week. The Wolverines will throw a similarly run-heavy offense at the Falcons on Friday.

First-year Flowery Branch coach Griffin said after the opening week 45-7 loss that the defense, filled with potential Division-I recruits, would have to lead the team this season. While he noted that the offense did have strong moments considering the team they were up against, a lot of work still needs to be done. Northside held Flowery Branch to just 63 rushing yards and 112 through the air.

West Forsyth allowed Gainesville over 400 yards of offense, but did intercept four passes.

Prediction: WEST FORSYTH. The Wolverines have the more established ground game in a match-up that should feature more better defensive efforts for both teams.

Chestatee at West Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Spartan Field, Oakwood

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; West Hall, Tony Lotti

Records: Chestatee (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA); West Hall (0-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAA).

Key players: Chestatee, RB/DB Quan Clark (5-10, 188 Sr.); RB/LB Jay Lyles (5-10, 170 Sr.); WR/DB Tommy McCormack (Sr.). West Hall, OL Blake Manning (6-6, 300 Sr.); QB Zach English (5-11, 175 Jr.); TE/DE Hunter Atkinson (6-6, 230 Jr.).

Outlook: Tonight’s game is huge for both teams as they try to avoid an 0-2 start before region play begins. The Spartans have had two weeks to prepare after a loss to Johnson in the Battle of Oakwood on Aug. 24, while the War Eagles had a first-half lead slip away last Friday against North Hall at War Eagles Field.

West Hall can count on being challenged by the War Eagles rushing game, which put up 210 yards in last Friday’s loss to the Trojans. Clark led the way last week for Chestatee with 115 yards (5.2 per carry), while A.J. Sijiye had a 45-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“Chestatee has very talented backs and experience all over the field,” Lotti said.

Meanwhile, the Spartans unveiled their own talent in the season opener with the junior quarterback English.

Behind a talented offensive line, he orchestrated a second-half rally that fell just short against the Knights.

Despite the 19-13 loss for West Hall, Lotti was pleased coming off that game with the way his team kept battling until the final whistle. This is the Spartans’ second game against a Class AAAA opponent, and will face another next week with Lumpkin County, before jumping into Region 7-AAA play.

“Our kids are getting some really good tests right now before going into a tough region schedule,” Lotti added.
Prediction: WEST HALL. Two weeks to prepare for playing against the War Eagles is a big edge for the Spartans.

Lumpkin County at White County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: White County Stadium, Cleveland

Coaches: Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones; White County, Bill Ballard

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

Key players: 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.). 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.).

Outlook: This rivalry game features two teams that had very different results last Friday night.

Lumpkin County was the second opponent this season to run up against a talented Dawson County team, which shut out the Indians 35-0 a week after blanking East Hall 42-0.

White County, meanwhile, kept Class AAAAAA opponent Habersham Central out of the end zone in a 31-0 win in Mount Airy.

In other words, throw last year’s 31-7 Lumpkin County win in the series out the window.

This Indians team is still trying to find an offensive identity after losing last year’s leaders, Logan Moye and Ian McIntosh, to graduation. If the first game was any indication, this year’s Lumpkin County offense is going to see more out of the passing game and McCrary, which accounted for 43 of the offense’s 50 total yards against the Tigers.

The Warriors, on the other hand, rolled up over 300 yards of offense against the Raiders, led by Brock’s 90 yards and a score, out of the run-heavy option.

The history of the rivalry favors White County, which has won 22 of 32 meetings, including five in a row before last season’s loss in Dahlonega.

Prediction: WHITE COUNTY. The Warriors look like a team on the rise after their dominant display against a team from the state’s largest classification.

Lakeview Academy at Hebron Christian

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Lions Field, Dacula

Coaches: Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn; Hebron Christian, Sal Battaglia

Records: Lakeview Academy (1-0); Hebron Christian (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-A)

Key players: Lakeview Academy, RB/LB Caleb Faulkner (5-10, 170 Sr.); QB/DB Ted Reynolds (6-1, 160 Sr.); RB/LB Trevor Price (5-10, 165 Sr.). Hebron Christian, WR Taylor Matthews (Sr.); LB Jay Wallo (Jr.); DE Seth Kuntz (Sr.).

Outlook: With a competitive series, and an especially tight game last season, Gruhn considers Hebron Christian his program’s biggest rival. After dropping games to Hebron Christian in 2009 and 2010, Lakeview Academy rebounded with a late touchdown to take a 10-7 decision against Hebron last season.

Tonight, Gruhn expects a very talented Hebron Academy squad, which he says returns everyone from last season. A win would give Lakeview Academy its first 2-0 start in program history.

In Lakeview’s opener, Faulkner established himself as a potential leader, rushing for 130 yards and a pair of scores against Fellowship Christian. Reynolds added 95 yards and a touchdown.
Prediction: LAKEVIEW ACADEMY. The Lions continue to stack up the yards rushing in their triple-option attack

Whitefield Academy at Riverside Military

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Maginnis Field

Coaches: Whitefield Academy, Jimmy Fields; Riverside Military, Gary Downs

Records: Whitefield Academy (0-1, 0-0 Region 6-A); Riverside Military (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AA).

Key players: Whitefield Academy, LB Everett Joiner (5-11, 180 Sr.); OL Brennan Saul (Sr.); OL Steven Lemasters (Sr.). Riverside Military, QB Stephen Weschler (Jr.); OL/LB John-Mark MacFarlane (5-11, 190 Sr.); ATH Adrian Humphrey (5-10, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: After a few weeks of open competition, Downs says that Weschler will be his starting quarterback. He won the job over the Eagles’ returning starter junior Collin Pettell.

Downs says that Weschler won the job due to consistency and also showing a desire to be a field leader.

Even though Downs is not running a two-quarterback system, he says that Pettell could also see playing time against Whitefield Academy.

“It’s still close between our two quarterbacks,” Downs said.

With a bye last Friday, Downs was able to head over to Cobb County and scout Whitefield Academy in its 24-8 loss to Pace Academy. Wolfpack quarterback Everett Pollard scored Whitefield’s only touchdown on a 6-yard run, capping an eight-minute drive.

Riverside Military’s first-year coach says that the Eagles’ first game will go a long way to answering some of the unknowns that naturally come with a program that has largely not played together previously.

“It should be a good match-up for us,” Downs said.

Prediction: RIVERSIDE. The Eagles get off to a winning start against a Whitefield Academy squad coming off a loss to Pace Academy.

Banks County at Athens Christian

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Eagle Field, Athens

Coaches: Banks County, Philip Jones; Athens Christian, Steve Brooks

Records: Banks County (1-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); Athens Christian (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-A)

Key players: Banks County, RB/DB Wes Faulkner (5-8, 180 Jr.), QB Tyler Hubbard (5-9, 180 Sr.) WR Greg Cannon (6-0, 170 Sr.). Athens Christian, WR Levi Cummings (Jr.), QB Brett Branton (Jr.), OL Hunter Reynolds (Sr.)

Outlook: The Banks County offense showed what they are capable of last week in a 46-30 win over East Jackson. Faulkner led the team in rushing with 161 yards, but quarterback Hubbard also proved his strength with 133 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

The Leopards were also strong in the passing game, with Noah Trebec and Greg Cannon combining for nine catches, 130 yards and a touchdown. Having a year under their belts with Philip Jones as coach certainly doesn’t hurt, and the momentum gained from winning the season opener will give the Banks County players added confidence going into tonight’s game.

Athens Christian lost their opening game to No. 8 Landmark Christian, 31-7. The Eagles couldn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter, but the offense showed some promise. Cummings recorded 125 yards receiving for Athens Christian, and Branton was 10 for 15 with 125 yards through the air.

Prediction: BANKS COUNTY. The Leopards may not have faced a ranked opponent last week like Athens Christian did, but they have the chemistry and offensive weapons necessary to win.

Commerce at East Jackson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: East Jackson High School, Commerce

Coaches: Commerce, Marvin Justice; East Jackson, Brian Smith

Records: Commerce (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-A); East Jackson (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAA)

Key players: Commerce, RB Jamal Browner (6-0, 220 Sr.), OL/LB Chance McClure (6-1, 215 Jr.), QB Drew Whitefield (5-9, 160 Jr.). East Jackson, QB Austin Beauchamp (6-0, 215 Jr.), WR Drashun Uphadhyay (6-0, 160 Jr.), RB/LB Davante Gresham (5-9, 175 Sr.).

Outlook: For years, Commerce has built its football team around a physical, run-first mentality. That didn’t change when Justice took over the program last season, and from the looks of last week’s win over rival Jefferson, it won’t be changing this fall.

The Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak against their primary rivals with a 22-7 win over the Dragons that featured a punishing ground game and stingy defense. For the game, Commerce had zero pass attempts, but when the running game produces 398 yards on 50 carries, there’s not much reason to try anything different.

Browner, who missed last season with a knee injury, led the ground game with 160 yards on 20 carries, including a 12-yard run that started the scoring and an 8-yard touchdown run that put the game away in the fourth quarter.

Tonight, the Tigers move from old rivals to new ones, taking on cross-town East Jackson in the first meeting between the schools.

The Eagles dropped their opener, 46-30, against Banks County. Beauchamp had a breakout game, passing for 276 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 120 yards and one score in his first start at quarterback.

The East Jackson defense, however, had a difficult time holding up its end and surrendered 468 yards of offense to the Leopards.

Prediction: COMMERCE. The Tigers have talent, momentum and the confidence that comes with a hard-earned season-opening win.

North Forsyth at Dawson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville

Coaches: North Forsyth, Blair Armstrong; Dawson County, Jeff Lee

Records: North Forsyth (1-0, 0-0 Region 6-AAAAAA); Dawson County (2-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAA)

Key players: North Forsyth, RB Jamal Davenport (So.), QB Harris Roberts (6-3, 170 Jr.), K Vince Sciorrotta (5-9, 170 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: North Forsyth, led by former Banks County and Johnson High coach Armstrong, enters tonight’s game on the heel’s of a 10-7 win over rival Forsyth Central that matched the Raiders’ win total from last season after just one game.

Dawson County comes in having utterly dominated in its first two games of the year with a combined point total of 77-0 in shutouts of East Hall and Lumpkin County.

Playing against a team three classifications higher is an altogether different challenge, but the Tigers’ region rival White County showed it was possible in last week’s shutout against Region 7-AAAAAA Habersham Central.

Three straight shutouts for Dawson County would be quite an accomplishment, even with North Forsyth having averaged just nine points per game on offense last season. Regardless, the Tigers have an offense able to keep up should an opponent’s attack break free.

“It will be a very physical game,” said Armstrong. “Dawson has the ability to throw and run very well.”

Dominy followed up his stellar performance against East Hall with four more passing touchdowns and one rushing against Lumpkin County.

The Raiders will counter with Davenport, who rushed for 95 yards on 19 carries last Friday, and a defense that held the Bulldogs to just one score.

Prediction: DAWSON COUNTY. The Tigers have the offensive firepower and defensive prowess to stop a limited North Forsyth squad.

Habersham Central at Stephens County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Reservation, Stephens County

Coaches: Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham; Stephens County, Travis Noland

Records: Habersham Central (0-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAAAAA); Stephens County (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA)

Key players: Habersham Central, RB Sydnee Mulligan (5-11, 190 Jr.), TE/DL Zach Rhyneer (6-3, 280 Sr.), RB Brandt Rinehart (5-11, 190 Sr.). Stephens County, RB Chaz Thornton (5-8, 185 Sr.), WR T’omas Colbert (6-0, 184 Sr.), QB Dionte Mayfield (5-11, 175 Sr.).

Outlook: The Raiders got confirmation last week of what they already suspected: replacing Kevin Ellison won’t be easy.

Ellison, who set school records for season and career rushing yards last fall is now at Georgia Southern, and Habersham Central is searching for a new source of offense. Through one game, it’s been an unsuccessful hunt.

The Raiders, who averaged nearly 40 points per game last season, were shut out last week, gaining only 125 yards in a 31-0 loss to White County. It was the first time Habersham Central had been shut out since the 2007 quarterfinals, and it was the program’s first loss in five games to the Warriors.

This week’s opponent will be more familiar as the Raiders renew their rivalry with Stephens County. Habersham Central hasn’t beaten the Indians since 1996, but the series has been on hiatus since 2008, when realignment left no room on the Raiders’ schedule for out-of-region opponents.

The Indians hold a 25-11-1 all-time advantage and are ranked No. 8 in Class AAAA this season behind a talented senior class. Noland strives for a balanced attack, and with Thornton (2,186 rushing yards last season) and Colbert (eight receptions, 168 yards in a 28-7 win over Franklin County last week) he has ample weapons from which to choose.

Prediction: STEPHENS COUNTY. The Raiders will head into region play next week still seeking their first win.

Jackson County at Jefferson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Jackson County, Benji Harrison; Jefferson, T. McFerrin

Records: Jackson County (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAA); Jefferson (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-AA)

Key players: Jackson County, QB Kyle Daniel (6-2, 190 Sr.), RB Dustin Scott (5-9, 165 Sr.), DT Chris Foster (6-2, 255 Sr.). Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-2, 215 Sr.), LB Kody McDonald (5-11, 165 Sr.), LB Wesley Simonton (6-0, 205 Sr.).

Outlook: After losing the first game of the season to its most-bitter rival, Jefferson must rebound quickly to avoid a second straight loss to an opponent out for a measure of revenge.

Jackson County, which has never defeated its cross-town rival in four meetings, will make the short drive across Highway 129 to Memorial Stadium tonight with some confidence after knocking off Winder-Barrow, 21-10, last week. The win was the first for new coach Benji Harrison, former Flowery Branch offensive coordinator, and featured the offensive balance the coach was known for at his previous stop.

Daniel threw for two scores to receiver Ben Brissey, while Scott, who nearly rushed for 1,000 yards last season, ran for 120 on 16 carries.

The Dragons are coming off a hard-fought loss to Commerce in which they surrendered nearly 400 yards on the ground.

Offensively, Jefferson has one of the area’s top quarterbacks in Shirreffs, but the unit never quite got rolling last week. Shirreffs completed 14 of 24 passes for 131 yards and ran 10 times for 36 yards and a score, but no other Dragon contributed more than 39 yards rushing or receiving.

Both teams will have one more tune-up opportunity after tonight’s game before entering region play.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. As long as the Dragons can mentally rebound from a disappointing start to the season, they have the talent to even their record.

Towns County at Fellowship Christian

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Ray Manus Staduim, Roswell

Coaches: Towns County, Kyle Langford, Fellowship Christian, Hunter Chadwick

Records: Towns County (0-2); Fellowship Christian (0-1, 0-0 Region 6-A)

Key players: 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.). Fellowship Christian, RB Tyler Hart (5-8, 190 Sr.), QB Hunter Bryant (6-4, 215 Jr.), OL/DL Chad Davenport (6-0, 225 Sr.)

Outlook: Towns County and Fellowship Christian are in very similar situations. Neither team has won a game yet, both teams have a significant amount of young players, and both teams are small in numbers, meaning there are many two-way players.

The offensive and defensive lines are the strength for Towns County, which lost to Hayesville (N.C.) in its opener and fell to Union County, 17-14, last week. The Indians have the experienced personnel necessary to create plays with Noblet and Bloodworth, but must find more consistency on offense.

Fellowship Christian only plays 15 to 17 players, and each will see plenty of playing time. Hart is the team’s primary threat in a ground-oriented offense, but the team has weaknesses on the offensive line and will need younger players to step up and fill these essential roles.

Prediction: TOWNS COUNTY. The Indians can use numbers, depth, and skill to their advantage to come away with their first win of the season.

Fannin County at Union County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Mike Colwell Memorial Staduim, Blairsville

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Fannin County, Greg Chambers

Records: Union County (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-AA); Fannin County (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAA)

Key players: Union County, QB T Bentley (6-0, 190 Sr), FB Clay Burnette (5-8, 165 Sr.), DL Luther Jones (6-0, 275 Sr.). Fannin County, RB Peyton Satterfield (6-2, 190 Jr.), QB Trevor Stone (6-1, 200 Jr.), WR Noah O’Neal (6-2, 180 Jr.)

Outlook: Union County squeaked by Towns County last week thanks to a field goal by kicker Eric Hougrand, and Bentley was able to drive the offense with 134 passing yards and 111 on the ground, but the Panthers need to find more sources of consistent production.

Burnette showed flashes of ability to be Union County’s second threat, rushing for 51 yard on five carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run, and Chase Barnett led a spirited defensive effort with 21 tackles.

Fannin County has started the season with two consecutive losses in their first two games after losing their final three games of 2011. The Rebels fell to Murphy (N.C.), 42-13, in their opener and to Gilmer, 45-6, last week.

Prediction: UNION COUNTY. The Panthers should be able to take advantage of a struggling Fannin County defense.

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