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High school football previews: Week 4
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Johnson at East Hall

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Viking Stadium, Gainesville
Coaches: Johnson, Jason Roquemore; East Hall, Bryan Gray
Records: Johnson (2-2, non region schedule); East Hall (2-1, 0-1 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.). East Hall, FB/LB Edward Vergara (5-5, 162 Jr.), OL/DL Devonte Benton (6-5, 263 Sr.), RB/CB Austin Mahaffey (Sr.).
Outlook: This game features a pair of teams intent on running the football.
Johnson features the area leader in rushing yards, Harris (100 carries, 622 yards and seven touchdowns), and an explosive second option in Luis Hernandez (seven carries for 227 yards and three touchdowns).
East Hall’s leader, Vergara, has rushed for 189 yards and two scores on 27 carries, but running backs Quay Jarrells (23 for 161) and Mahaffey (24 for 158 and three scores), along with quarterback Devin Watson (26 for 127) are also dangerous.
Last week, with Mahaffey rushing for over 100 yards, and five surpassed 50 yards rushing in a 50-20 win over East Jackson, the Vikings second consecutive win.
Johnson, which is already playing its fifth game of the season (both teams played in “Zero Week,”) lost its second straight last week, 27-13 to North Murray, after opening with a pair of wins.
While Johnson holds a 21-12-1 advantage overall against East Hall dating back to 1958 (courtesy of the Georgia Football Historians Association), the Vikings have won two consecutive games in the series, including a 41-17 win last season.
Prediction: EAST HALL. The Vikings offense looks dangerous, and should compliment an already solid defense.

Apalachee at Gainesville

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: City Park Stadium, Gainesville
Radio: 1240-AM
Coaches: Apalachee, Shane Davis; Gainesville, Bruce Miller
Records: Apalachee (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAA); Gainesville (2-1, 1-0)
Key players: Apalachee, DE Johnny Thompson (6-3,205 Sr.); LB Rakim Peters (6-2, 225 Sr.); RB Eric Tanner (5-10, 200 Sr.). Gainesville, QB Deshaun Watson (6-3, 195 Jr.); WR Tray Harrison (5-7, 150 Sr.); LB Devan Stringer (5-11, 180 Jr.).
Outlook: The Red Elephants certainly made a statement last week in their Class AAAAA debut. Watson threw for seven touchdowns and completed all 18 pass attempts for 350 yards — all in the opening half — in a 69-0 win against Winder-Barrow. Gainesville’s defense was just as good, holding the Bulldoggs to negative yardage for the game.
For the season, Watson had completed 61 of 88 passes for 861 yards and 12 touchdowns. Gainesville’s quarterback is also the team’s leading rusher with 42 carries for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
Rodney Lackey had two scores for the Red Elephants last week, and now sits at a team-high 226 yards on 17 receptions for the year.
Harrison caught three of Watson’s touchdowns last week, and now has 185 receiving yards on the season.
Stringer leads the Red Elephants’ hard-hitting defense with 35 tackles and one sack. Jadarius Sosebee is second with 28 stops for Gainesville.
This week, Apalachee presents a bit more of a challenge. Running an offense out of the Wing-T, Tanner is the leading back with 321 yards and three touchdowns. Zay Henry, a wingback, has 193 yards and a touchdown.
Following a 31-21 loss to Greater Atlanta Christian on Sept. 7, Apalachee had two weeks to prepare for its region opener against Gainesville.
Prediction: GAINESVILLE. The Red Elephants are clicking on both sides of the ball and are going to be hard to compete with this fall.

Loganville at Flowery Branch

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Falcon Field, Flowery Branch
Radio: 1330-AM
Coaches: Loganville, Eric Godfree; Flowery Branch, Chris Griffin
Records: Loganville (1-2, 0-1 Region 8-AAAAA); Flowery Branch (1-2, 1-0)
Key players: Loganville, RB Bernard Merriweather (5-11, 205 Sr.), QB Josh Laughlin (6-0, 205 Jr.), LB/RB Evan Messer (5-8, 205 Sr.). Flowery Branch, RB Justin Curry (5-11, 180 So.), LB Jacob Allen (6-1, 237 Sr.), QB Jackson McDonald (5-11, 172 Jr.).
Outlook: Flowery Branch is looking to even up its overall record and, more importantly, stay undefeated in region play today against Loganville.
Like Cedar Shoals the week before (a 45-27 win), the Red Devils have been a middle-of-the-pack team in the region the last few years, and a team that Griffin said before the season is capable of knocking off one of the favorites.
Loganville came up short last week against one of the region favorites, Clarke Central, in a 40-6 loss, the Red Devils second game this season scoring less than 10 points.
On offense Loganville is running a quarterback-by-commitee, said Godfree, led by Laughlin (8 for 21, 68 yards passing and three scores) and Tony White. A third starting quarterback, Royce Harrison, has been out with an injury. Bernard leads the running game, with 36 carries for 265 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, Messer has been a key with
26 tackles.
The Falcons defense looks to be another tough test for Loganville. Godfree said the linebackers, led by Allen (39 tackles) and Kris Smith (28), and Darius Curry in the secondary with 22 tackles will be as good as they’ll see all season.
The Red Devils will also see an offense that has finally had a chance to flex its muscle. After the outburst against Cedar Shoals, the Falcons offensive leaders are starting to show, led by Justin Curry (337 yards rushing, third in area, and one score), McDonald (48 for 69 passing for 406 yards and four scores; 183 yards rushing and two touchdowns) and Jamaad Stephens (13 catches for 177 yards and two scores).
Flowery Branch has defeated Loganville in region play the last two seasons.
Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. The Falcons offense is finally clicking and the Red Devils’ is still a work in progress.

West Hall at Banks County

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Leopard Stadium, Homer
Coaches: Banks County, Philip Jones; West Hall, Tony Lotti
Records: Banks County (1-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); West Hall (1-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAA)
Key players: Banks County, QB Tyler Hubbard (5-9, 180 Sr.), RB/DB Wes Faulkner (5-8, 180 Jr.), WR/DB Greg Cannon (6-0, 170 Sr.). West Hall, OL Blake Manning (6-6, 300 Sr.); QB Zach English (5-11, 175 Jr.); RB/LB Isiah Rowe (6-2, 215 So.).
Outlook: This game features two teams with identical records going in different directions as the region schedule begins.
West Hall is coming off its first win of the season (27-11 against Lumpkin County) and Banks County is coming off two consecutive losses.
If there’s anything to at least dent the momentum for the Spartans and their first-year coach, it’s that senior defensive lineman Damien Millsap is likely done for the season after breaking his leg very early against the Indians.
“My heart’s broken for him, he’s a senior and he’s worked so hard,” said Lotti, who added that there is a small chance he could be back for the final game.
“We can’t fill his shoes, we just go on to the next plan.”
A plan that has worked so far, as other players stepped in and held the Indians to just 11 points. So far this season, West Hall has held opponents to just 267 yards of offense per game, including 52.7 passing.
The Spartans offense also shined in the win, with Rowe (138 yards rushing through three games) establishing himself as a legitimate backfield threat along with Ty Statham, among others, and English showing his skills in the passing game with three passing scores, after recording just one in the first two games.
Banks County will be looking to get the offense, which scored 46 points to open the season against East Jackson but just 21 points combined in the next two games, on track.
Prediction: WEST HALL. It won’t be easy, but the Spartans have the momentum to grab a crucial region win on the road.

Eastside at Chestatee

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: War Eagle Stadium, Gainesville
Coaches: Eastside, Rick Hurst; Chestatee, Stan Luttrell
Records: Eastside (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA); Chestatee (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA)
Key players: Eastside, QB Demario Terrell (Jr.), LB Marcus Griffieth (6-1, 185 Sr.), WR Chase Chancey (6-0, 175 Sr.). Chestatee, RB Quan Clark (5-10, 188 Sr.), QB Jordan Degraff (6-0, 155 Sr.), RB/LB Jay Lyles (5-10, 170 Sr.).
Outlook: Hoping to snap a playoff drought that stretches back to 2006, Chestatee enters region play squaring off against a fellow postseason contender.
Eastside went 5-5 last season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. In their three games this year, the Eagles are outscoring opponents 22-13, including a 24-10 loss to Class AAAAAA Alcovy last week.
The offense operates from a hurry-up, no-huddle, led by Terrell, who has thrown for 455 yards in the last two weeks.
Chestatee will counter with an offense that leans heavily on the running game, led by Clark’s 114 rushing yards per game. The War Eagles, who are coming off a bye week, defeated West Hall, 42-21, two week ago. They are rushing for 225 yards per contest while giving up 195 per game on the ground and 73 per game through the air.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools.
Prediction: EASTSIDE. Chestatee can keep it close if the running game is successful, but ultimately Eastside’s stingy defense will make the difference.

Lakeview Academy at Pinecrest Academy

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Pinecrest Academy Stadium, Cumming
Coaches: Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn; Pinecrest Academy, Todd Winter.
Records: Lakeview Academy (2-0, nonregion schedule); Pinecrest Academy (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-A)
Key players: Lakeview Academy, RB Caleb Faulkner (5-10, 170 Sr.), QB Ted Reynolds (6-1, 160 Sr.), RB Trevor Price (5-10, 165 Sr.). Pinecrest Academy, QB Jimmy Strom (Sr.), RB John Paul Metz (Sr.), WR Zach Guard (Sr.).
Outlook: For the first time in school history, Lakeview Academy is 2-0 to start the season after shutting out Hebron Christian 42-0 on Sept. 7. The Lions have figured out how to generate offense and are led by Faulkner, who has the second-best rushing numbers in the area right now with 260 yards and four touchdowns, and Reynolds with 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Lakeview Academy is second in the area in terms of points scored per game and points allowed per game, a significant improvement from last year’s team that lost to Fellowship Christian and only squeaked by Hebron Christian.
Lakeview Academy faces Pinecrest for the first time in the history of the two programs, and Pinecrest Academy is coming off of a 56-27 win over Mount Vernon Presbyterian last Saturday, when quarterback Strom set a school record with 201 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
The Paladins’ other leading rusher, John Paul Metz, ran for 144 yards and two scores in the win.
Pinecrest runs a triple-option offense, but when the Paladins choose to pass, Guard is Strom’s primary target.
Prediction: LAKEVIEW ACADEMY. The Lions have momentum from a 2-0 start, and they possess some of the leading rushers in the area that can lead them to another win.

Riverside Military at Washington-Wilkes

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Tiger Stadium, Washington
Coaches: Riverside Military, Gary Downs; Washington-Wilkes, Robby Robinson
Records: Riverside Military (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-AA); Washington-Wilkes (3-0, 0-0)
Key players: Riverside Military, OLB Montana Ogbu (6-0, 190 Sr.); OL/MLB John-Mark MacFarlane (5-11, 190); RB/DB Gage Bolden (5-10, 160 Sr.). Washington-Wilkes, QB Buck Robinson (Sr.); RB Tomarkus Young (Jr.); WR/LB Brian Hardigree (Sr.).
Outlook: Riverside Military’s first region game may also be its hardest. The Tigers have stormed to three wins by a 115-6 margin, including a 21-6 win against Class A’s seventh-ranked Lincoln County.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have struggled in their first two outings, losing by a combined 65-0 margin.
Washington-Wilkes is showing signs of returning to prominence as one of the small-classification powers out of East Georgia. The Tigers’ win against Lincoln County was its first since 2006. Washington-Wilkes is off to its first 3-0 start since 2000, the same season it finished 14-1 and played for a state title.
Robinson is the man behind the Tigers’ balanced offensive attack, averaging more than 200 yards per game. Against Lincoln County, he completed 15 of 26 passes for 187 yards and two scores. Meanwhile, Young had 19 carries for 117 yards against a stingy Lincoln County defense.
Washington-Wilkes also has a stout defense, which hasn’t allowed a point outside of the Lincoln County rivalry contest.
Prediction: WASHINGTON-WILKES. The Tigers are too balanced on offense against a young defense.

Rabun County at Commerce

When: 8 tonight
Where: Ray Lamb Stadium, Commerce
Coaches: Rabun County, Lee Shaw; Commerce, Marvin Justice
Records: Rabun County (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-AA); Commerce (3-0, 0-0 Region 8-A)
Key players: Rabun County, QB Wes Holcombe (6-0, 170 Jr.), WR/DB Charlie Woerner (6-4, 190 Fr.), LB Hunter O’Shields (Sr.). Commerce, RB/DB Terrick Ramsey (5-9, 165 Sr.), RB Jamal Browner (6-0, 220 Sr.), OL/LB Chance McClure (6-1, 215 Jr.).
Outlook: With the area’s top rushing game and a defense that isn’t far from the top, Commerce is off to its first 3-0 start in six years.
The Tigers are coming off back-to-back 28-14 wins over East Jackson and Banks County, and while they don’t have any blowouts on their resume, each of their wins have come against opponents from higher classifications. They’ll get a chance to knock off a fourth larger school tonight. Rabun County has outscored opponents 65-13 in its first two weeks under Shaw, who previously helped build Flowery Branch into a perennial playoff team. It appears the Wildcats have taken to their new coach’s spread option offense with aplomb, averaging 190 passing yards and 183.5 rushing yards per game. Holcombe leads the team with 372 passing yards and 176 yards on the ground.
For Commerce, big-play threat Ramsey is second in the area in rushing yards (338) despite carrying only 21 times. Browner and quarterback Drew Whitfield get the bulk of the carries for the Tigers’ grinding option offense.
Defensively, the Tigers give up just 203 yards per game.
Prediction: COMMERCE. The Tigers frustrate yet another opponent by dominating time of possession in the second half.

Habersham Central at Mountain View

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Mountain View Stadium, Lawrenceville
Coaches: Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham; Mountain View, Doug Giancone.
Records: Habersham Central (0-3, 0-1 Region 7-AAAAAA); Mountain View (1-2, 0-1).
Key players: Habersham Central, RB Sydnee Mulligan (5-11, 190 Jr.), TE/DL Zach Rhyneer (6-3, 280 Sr.), QB Jake Tench (5-11, 175 Sr.). Mountain View, RB Marvin Elam, DL William Tuider, RB/WR/P Chris Bartlett.
Outlook: Habersham Central has faced struggles so far this season after losing a significant number of seniors to graduation last year, and the season only seems to get tougher as the Raiders continue. The offense has only generated eight total points through three games, although quarterback Tench is 14 for 27 with 148 yards passing, and Mulligan has 25 carries for 99 yards and the sole touchdown for Habersham Central.
The Raiders’ defense allows an average of 42 points per game and has yet to see the performances expected by some of the team’s experienced players.
Mountain View defeated Pebblebrook in Week 2 but has faced two other challenges in Archer and Mill Creek to begin the season. The offense is led by Elam with 173 yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries. Tuider leads the defense with 15 solo tackles and 16 assists.
The Bears rely on Bartlett to be a utility player and will turn to him at times in the run and pass game in addition to him assuming the role of punter.
Prediction: MOUNTAIN VIEW. Habersham Central’s lack of experience in many positions will continue to hurt it in what can be considered a rebuilding year for the Raiders.

East Jackson at Jackson County

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Panther Stadium, Jefferson
Coaches: East Jackson, Brian Smith; Jackson County, Benji Harrison
Records: East Jackson (0-3, 0-0 Region 8-AAA); Jackson County (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAA)
Key players: East Jackson, QB Austin Beauchamp (6-0, 205 Jr.), WR/DB Drashun Uphadhyay (6-0, 160 Jr.), WR Casey Reed (6-0, 170 Jr.). Jackson County, QB Kyle Daniel (6-2, 190 Sr.), WR Xavier Harper (6-1, 180 Jr.), RB/DB Dustin Scott (5-9, 165 Sr.).
Outlook: In their third game under Harrison, Jackson County found its offensive stride in a 39-21 win over Athens Christian last week with new weapons emerging at key positions.
Daniel is now third in the area in passing yards after last week’s 325-yard performance, while Harper’s 10-catch, 217-yard night vaulted him to second in the area in receiving yards. And Scott is averaging more than 100 yards of total offense per game after nearly rushing for 1,000 yards last season.
Jackson County will have a chance to extend its offensive prosperity and win back-to-back games for the first time since the beginning of the 2010 season against East Jackson, which is surrendering 41.3 points per game.
The Eagles have been hurt primarily on the ground, falling to run-first teams Banks County, Commerce and East Hall to open the season.
Beauchamp is the focal point of the Eagles’ offense, leading the team in rushing and passing yards.
This game will be the region opener for both teams. East Jackson has won each of the two previous contests, including a 21-12 victory last season.
Prediction: JACKSON COUNTY. The Panthers have the ability to win in a shootout if need be.

Lumpkin County at Monroe Area

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: The Purple Pit, Monroe
Coaches: Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones; Monroe Area, Matt Fligg.
Records: Lumpkin County (0-3, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA); Monroe Area (3-0, 0-0).
Key players: Lumpkin County, LB/TE Logan Head (6-2, 200 Sr.), QB Daniel McCrary (6-1, 175 Jr.), OL/DL Tyler Flatt (6-1, 250 Sr.). Monroe Area, QB Stanton Truitt (Jr.), RB Kwan Brooks (Jr.), WR Michael Gallup (Jr.).
Outlook: Lumpkin County has yet to win a game and will need to rely on their defense, which includes Head, Timmy Summersett, and other strong tacklers in the area, for any chance of stopping Monroe Area. Head and Summersett have 15 tackles each so far this season, including two tackles for loss by Summersett.
The offense, which has struggled to put up points this season, averaging just 5.6 points per game, is led by McCrary and running back Jonathan Gilreath.
Monroe Area has beaten Lumpkin County in each of the teams’ three meetings over the past two years, and this year’s Purple Hurricanes squad is averaging 56 points per game. Monroe Area is led by Truitt and Brooks, who each had over 200 yards in last week’s 62-14 blowout win over Oconee County.
Tonight’s game is the region opener for both teams.
Prediction: MONROE AREA. Truitt has adapted well to his new role at quarterback at Monroe Area and will send the Indians into week five still looking for a win.

Rabun Gap at Towns County

When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee
Coaches: Rabun Gap, Dale Earnhardt; Towns County, Kyle Langford.
Records: Rabun Gap (0-4, playing non-region schedule); Towns County (0-4, playing non-region schedule).
Key players: Rabun Gap, QB Dallas Earnhardt (6-0, 170 Fr.), RB Gerrio Rahming (5-10, 180 Jr.), DB Justin Powell (5-9, 150 Jr.). Towns County, RB Wesley Bloodworth (5-10, 230 Sr.), WR Cruz Shook (5-9, 160 So.), CB Brett Barrett (5-11, 170 Jr.).
Outlook: Towns County is led by a core of young players who have shown that they can compete in close games, such as a 17-14 loss to Union County in week three, but they have not been able to put up the kinds of numbers that they need to start winning.
The team lacked depth at the beginning of the season in many positions, and it has yet to be seen if the Indians have consistent starters in some places. They have trouble generating generous amounts of offense and have not seen the same performance level from some starters that they have in the past couple of seasons.
Towns County will continue to turn to Bloodworth and Shook to try and score points, but the team must find a way to win.
Rabun Gap is only in their second season with a varsity program and has already faced a few tough teams from North Carolina. The team has yet to win a game this season, but the starters in this young team are already seeing some success. Earnhardt is 38 for 71 for 336 yards with two touchdowns on the season, and Rahming has 538 yards and four touchdowns on 95 carries.
The Rabun Gap defense is led by Powell with 24 tackles so far and turns to him for leadership.
Prediction: RABUN GAP. Although the team is extremely young, it has lost to some difficult opponents and appears to have the talent to overcome this Towns County team.

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