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High school football previews: Week 4
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Game of the Week: Flowery Branch at Cedar Shoals

Holloway: Gainesville's blessing on the sidelines

East Jackson at East Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Viking Stadium, Gainesville

Coaches: East Jackson, Brian Smith; East Hall, Bryan Gray

Records: East Jackson (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-AAA); East Hall (1-1, 0-1 Region 7-AAA)

Key players: East Jackson, QB Austin Beauchamp (6-0, 215 Jr.), WR Drashun Uphadhyay (6-0, 160 Jr.), RB/LB Davante Gresham (5-9, 175 Sr.). East Hall, FB Edward Vergara (5-5, 162 Jr.), OL/DL Devonte Benton (6-5, 263 Sr.), LB/RB Xavier Hughey (6-2, 198 Sr.).

Outlook: East Hall finally plays its home opener tonight and is looking to grab a winning record.

The Vikings took a break last week on the heels of a 29-21 win at Chattooga on Aug. 31. East Jackson fell to Commerce 28-14 last week in what was a step back for the Eagles’ offense, which totaled just 130 yards a week after scoring 30 points (along with three touchdowns and 276 yards passing for Beauchamp) in a loss to Banks County.

East Hall is still looking for a key offensive player to replace last year’s star in Jamond Witt, but in the win over Chattooga Vergara surpassed 100 yards rushing and scored twice as the Vikings put up 28 second-half points.

Still, East Hall’s defense, including Benton and Hughey, will look to lead the way against East Jackson’s passing attack. It is the first meeting between the two schools, which were actually on opposite sides of Region 8-AA the past two seasons. Both moved up to AAA this season.

Prediction: EAST HALL. The Vikings are well-rested and should be fired up to finally play a home game.

Lumpkin County at West Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Spartan Field, Oakwood

Radio: AM 1330

Coaches: Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones; West Hall, Tony Lotti

Records: Lumpkin County (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA); West Hall (0-2, 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.). 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: Both teams are still trying to figure out a winning formula this season, although the Spartans might be a little closer.

West Hall let Chestatee run away in the second half for a 42-21 win last Friday, two weeks after Johnson held off the Spartans 19-13.

English has led West Hall on offense, passing for 247 yards and a touchdown (and three interceptions), and rushing for 80 yards and another score.

Senior wide receiver Chase Jarrard has been English’s favorite target with 137 receiving yards, third in the area, and a score.

The West Hall defense has had mixed results. The Spartans have allowed just 39 passing yards per game but 286 rushing.

Lumpkin County, which has scored just one touchdown this season, doesn’t look to have the firepower to break the Spartans defensively. Instead, the Indians will try and improve a defense that has allowed over 30 points in each of its losses this season.

Prediction: WEST HALL. The Spartans appear to be figuring out their new system under Lotti, and the third time should be a charm.

Gainesville at Winder-Barrow

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: W. Clair Harris Stadium, Winder

Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; Winder-Barrow, David Wagner

Records: Gainesville (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAA); Winder-Barrow (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAA)

Key players: Gainesville, QB Deshaun Watson (6-3, 195 Jr.); DB Fred Payne (5-11, 180 Sr.); LB Devan Stringer (5-11, 180 Jr.); Winder-Barrow, RB/DB Chandon Sullivan (5-10, 165 Jr.); LB Tyree Tanner (5-11, 225 Sr.); QB Christian Hodge (6-0, 200 Jr.).

Outlook: The Red Elephants should be well prepared for Region 8-AAAAA. Gainesville is coming off a huge win against Buford last Friday, the first loss for the Wolves at home since 2006 to Charlton County. Winder-Barrow is a program at the other end of the spectrum.

With last Friday’s 58-14 loss to Monroe Area, Winder-Barrow has dropped 26 straight games. Meadowcreek (40 games) is the only GHSA school with a longer current losing streak. Running out of a Wing-T primarily, Sullivan is the Bulldoggs’ leader with 84 yards so far. Beginning their push for a fifth consecutive region championship, the Red Elephants are led again on offense by Watson, who has 512 passing yards (five touchdowns) and 173 rushing (two touchdowns). Gainesville is second in the area with 402 yards of offense per game. Meanwhile, Stringer is just one off the area leader with 29 tackles through two games. Last week, Gainesville allowed just 65 rushing yards to Buford in a 19-15 win. Gainesville has won 24 of 30 games in school history against Winder-Barrow, with a tie between the two in 1991.

Prediction: GAINESVILLE. The Red Elephants are much too powerful on offense for the Bulldoggs.

Jefferson at North Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Brickyard

Radio: 102.9-FM

Coaches: Jefferson, T. McFerrin; North Hall, Bob Christmas

Records: Jefferson (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-AA); North Hall (2-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA)

Key players: Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-2, 215 Sr.); LB Wesley Simonton (6-0, 205 Sr.); RB Sammy Williams (So.); North Hall, RB T.J. Tate (5-8, 165 Sr.); DB/QB Andrew Smith (5-8, 145 Jr.); RB/LB Destin Bennett (6-1, 220 Jr.).
Outlook: Even though Jefferson and North Hall are not traditional rivals, the two have made a habit of playing close games in recent seasons. North Hall topped Jefferson 24-21 in 2010 at The Brickyard, while the Dragons won 38-28 last season at Jefferson Memorial.

The Trojans are finding success in their first season working out of a wishbone offense, compiling 597 rushing yards through the first two games. Tate is leading the way with 195 yards and five rushing touchdowns, three last week in the first quarter against Johnson. Smith is second on the team with 103 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Jefferson got back on track last week behind 119 rushing yards and a touchdown from sophomore Williams in a win against Jackson County. Simonton had 14 tackles (two for a loss) and four sacks in the game.Jefferson lost its season opener to Commerce 22-7 on Aug. 31.

Jefferson has won 8 of 10 all-time meetings against North Hall dating back to 1960.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. The wishbone offense is working well for the Trojans.

Riverside Military at Georgia Military

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Davenport Field, Milledgeville

Coaches: Riverside Military, Gary Downs; Georgia Military, Brad Owens

Records: Riverside Military (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-AA); Georgia Military (2-0, 0-0 Region 7-A)

Key players: Riverside Military, QB Stephen Weschler (Jr.); RB/DB Gage Bolden (5-10, 160 Sr.); OL/LB John-Mark MacFarlane (5-11, 190 Jr.). Georgia Military, LB/RB Taylor Payne (5-9, 175 Sr.); RB/LB Colby Lawrence (5-7, 185 Jr.); OL/DL Mason Thompson (6-1, 205 Sr.).

Outlook: The Riverside Military and Georgia Military rivalry is one that goes back over a century, but these two schools haven’t faced one another in 13 years. In the past, the two schools passed a trophy off to the winner of each meeting. However, since they haven’t met since 1999, the trophy for the ‘Military Bowl’ has remained with the school in Milledgeville since the last game.

Part of the break in the rivalry had to do with Riverside Military moving into the Georgia Independent Schools Association, where it stayed from 2002-2007. Owens said his own school also fell off in terms of competitiveness for a while.

To mark the occasion, Owens says that the local National Guard will carry the trophy out before the game.

“We want to make a big to-do about this game,” Owens said.

So far, Georgia Military is off to a fast start, winning games against Harlem and Glascock County. Last week, Payne led the Bulldogs with three touchdowns in the 42-26 win against Glascock County.

The Eagles lost their season opener to Whitefield Academy 41-0 last Friday at Maginnis Field.

Riverside Military holds a 14-9-3 edge in the series against Georgia Military.

Prediction: GEORGIA MILITARY. The Bulldogs are off to a good start behind a sound ground game.

Hancock Central at Buford

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tom Riden Stadium

Coaches: Hancock Central, Zachary Harris; Buford, Jess Simpson

Records: Hancock Central (2-0, 0-0 Region 7-A); Buford (1-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAA)

Key players: Hancock Central, RB Deonte Franklin (5-10, 190 Sr.); RB Kameron Mayweather (5-9, 180 Sr.); LB Justin Rocker (5-10, 195 Sr.). Buford, TE/LB Korie Rogers (6-2, 210 Jr.); TE Mikey Bart (6-3, 245 Sr.); OL/DL Josh Cardiello (6-4, 285 Sr.).

Outlook: Harris isn’t allowing for any false assumptions as he brings his Bulldogs to Buford for the first meeting between the two schools. Even though the Wolves have struggled running and are battered a bit on the offensive line, it’s still Buford, winner of four state titles since 2007.

“We watched two game films of Buford and they are big, fast, strong and committed to winning,” Harris said.

Last week, Buford ran for only 65 yards in a 19-15 loss to Gainesville, its first loss at Tom Riden Stadium since 2006. The Wolves are averaging just 16 points through two games, including a Week 1 win against Elbert County.

Meanwhile, Hancock Central is off to its fastest start since 2006, also the last time it made the postseason.

Running out of the Wing-T, Franklin has led the team with 349 rushing yards and five touchdowns in wins against Randolph-Clay and East Laurens.

Prediction: BUFORD. It’s hard to keep a good team down for long.

North Murray at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: North Murray, David Gann; Johnson, Jason Roquemore

Records: North Murray (2-0, 0-0 Region 5-AAA); Johnson (2-1)

Key players: North Murray, QB Brady Swilling (6-2, 190 Sr.), RB Jacob Mays (6-2, 215 Sr.), LB John Chastain (5-11, 240 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’ fourth game of the young season pits them against an opponent with a similar recent history.

Like Johnson, North Murray went 0-10 last season. And, like the Knights, the Mountaineers started 2-0 this season.

Johnson suffered its first loss last week, 55-7 against North Hall, and will now turn around and try to do the same for North Murray, which held off Dade County 57-44 last week.

The one constant for the Knights this season has been Harris, who leads the area by a wide margin with 531 yards rushing on 90 carries, with an area-best seven touchdowns. Fellow running back A.J. Millwood, a slot back in the new triple-option offense, has run for 101 yards. The Knights have averaged nearly 260 yards rushing and 20 points per game.

Prediction: JOHNSON. The Knights were knocked back last Friday, which Roquemore said was the best thing that could have happened, and should be improved after having learned from their mistakes.

White County at Fannin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Rebel Stadium, Blue Ridge

Coaches: White County, Bill Ballard; Fannin County, Greg Chambers

Records: White County (2-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); Fannin County (0-3, 0-0 Region 8-AAA)

Key players: White County, QB Will Brock (6-3, 198 Sr.), RB/LB Dalton Whitfield (6-3, 232 Jr.), RB/OLB Will Stonecypher (5-11, 180 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: Off to its first 2-0 start in three years, White County opens region play tonight hoping to go 3-0 for the first time since 1975, according to Georgia High School Football Historians Association archives.

The Warriors have dominated in their first two games, defeating Habersham Central, 31-0, in the season opener and Lumpkin County, 34-7, last week. No defense in Northeast Georgia has performed as well statistically; White County leads the area with only 129 yards and 3.5 points allowed per game.

Whitfield and Stonecypher are big reasons why. Whitfield registered 20 tackles last week, while Stonecypher leads the area with five sacks through two games.

The Warriors offense also opened up some last week, with Brock rushing and passing for over 100 yards. Senior Jeffery Scoggin, who hauled in five catches for 80 yards and two scores, was his preferred target.

Prediction: WHITE COUNTY. The Warriors are clicking in Year 2 under Ballard and should win convincingly for the third straight week.

Dawson County at Forsyth Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Forsyth County Stadium, Cumming

Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; Forsyth Central, Chris Bennett

Records: Dawson County (2-1, 1-0 Region 7-AAA); Forsyth Central (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAAAA)

Key players: Dawson County, QB Tyler Dominy (6-4, 178 Sr.), RB/LB Zack Martin (5-11, 225 Sr.), WR/DB/KR Chris Sayler (5-9, 160 Jr.). Forsyth Central, QB Michael Branigan (5-10, 171 Jr.), RB/LB Shay Hollis (6-0, 205 Jr.), RB Nathan Alvarado (Jr.).

Outlook: Dawson County’s dreams of an unbeaten season were dashed last week in heartbreaking fashion, as the Tigers let a 14-point lead become a 35-28 loss in the final four minutes against Class AAAAAA North Forsyth.

For revenge, the Tigers will have to settle for Forsyth Central, a Class AAAAA school that has lost six straight going back to last season and hasn’t had a winning record since 2001. The Bulldogs lost, 10-7, to North Forsyth in the season opener and were beaten soundly, 41-14, while yielding four touchdown passes to South Forsyth last week. The Tigers haven’t had any trouble scoring, led by Dominy and a deep and versatile stable of receivers. Sayler, who has eight receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns on the season, also scored twice last week on kickoff returns of more than 90 yards.

Prediction: DAWSON COUNTY. As long as the Tigers can shake off last week’s disappointment, they should return to region play next week with a 3-1 record.

Athens Christian at Jackson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Panthers Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Jackson County, Benji Harrison; Athens Christian, Chris Williams

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

Key players: Jackson County, RB/DB Dustin Scott (5-9, 165 Sr.), DT Chris Foster (6-2, 265 Sr.), QB Kyle Daniel (6-2, 190 Sr.). Athens Christian, OL/DL Hunter Reynolds (5-10, 200 Sr.), RB/LB Malik Sims (6-0, 220 Sr.), RB/DB Austin Italia (5-9, 175 Sr.)

Outlook: Jackson County looks to come back from a loss to rival Jefferson last week and will be led by Scott, who has recorded 181 yards rushing on 26 attempts so far this season, along with four receptions from quarterback Daniel for 99 yards and a touchdown. Daniel has completed 17 of 34 passes for 208 yards and three scores with only one interception.

The Jackson County offense averages 226.5 total yards per game with 120 yards rushing and 106.5 yards passing.

The Panthers’ defense is led by Foster, who has 22 tackles with two tackles for loss this season. Foster is joined by Daivon Ledford, who also has 22 tackles with one tackle for loss. Athens Christian defeated Banks County last week for the first time in the schools’ three all-time meetings and was led by Italia, who had 13 carries for 105 yards. The defense is led by Reynolds and held Banks County to just seven points last week.

Prediction: ATHENS CHRISTIAN. The Panthers’ defense may be a strength of the team, but they won’t be able to stop an Athens Christian offense that scored 22 points against Banks County last week.

Banks County at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Ray Lamb Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Banks County, Philip Jones; Commerce, Marvin Justice

Records: Banks County (1-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); Commerce (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-A)

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.). Commerce, RB Jamal Browner (6-0, 220 Sr.), OL/LB Chance McClure (6-1, 215 Jr.), RB/DB Terrick Ramsey (5-9, 165 Sr.).

Outlook: Sticking to its well-established script, Commerce is winning with ball-control offense and stingy defense.
The Tigers, who lead the area in rushing yards, have outgained their opponents on the ground 767-155 through two games, pulling away to win close games in the second half each week.

In both games, time of possession has been crucial. In a 28-14 win over East Jackson last week, the Tigers had the ball for 19 of 24 minutes in the second half. A week earlier, they put away Jefferson by maintaining possession for 10 minutes, 41 seconds in the fourth quarter.

Browner is third in the area with 259 rushing yards on 40 carries, while Ramsey has broken touchdown runs of at least 60 yards in each game.

Prediction: COMMERCE. The Tigers should be able to take advantage of a defense that has given up three 100-yard rushers through two games.

Andrews (N.C.) at Union County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Andrews, Avery Cutshaw

Records: Union County (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-AA); Andrews (2-1)

Key players: Union County, QB T Bentley (6-0, 190 Sr.), WR Lalo Rivera (Sr.), OL/DL Chase Barnett (So.). Andrews, RB Jacob Moore (5-10, 155 So.); LB Collin Gillespie (5-9, 150 Jr.); ILB Jacob Whitaker (6-0, 220 So.).

Outlook: So far this season for Union County, T Bentley is 22 for 36 passing with 361 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception. He has 185 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown and is the force behind the fourth-best offense in the area. Union County averages 167 yards rushing and 180.5 yards passing for an average of 347.5 yards of total offense per game. Lalo Rivera is becoming one of Bentley’s main targets with seven receptions for 108 yards over their first two games.

Prediction: UNION COUNTY. The Panthers’ defense will hold down Andrews and lead Union County to its first 3-0 start since 2008.

Towns County at Rabun County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger

Coaches: Towns County, Kyle Langford; Rabun County, Lee Shaw

Records: Towns County (0-3); Rabun County (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-AA)

Key players: Towns County, RB/LB Wesley Bloodworth (5-10, 230 Sr.), WR/DB Cruz Shook (5-9, 160 So.), QB Joseph Gibson (Sr.). Rabun County, QB Wes Holcombe (6-0, 170 Jr.), WR/DB Charlie Woerner (6-4, 190 Fr.) RB/LB Dan Dailey (Jr.).

Outlook: Towns County has stayed competitive in each game this season, but has yet to cash in enough offense to come away victorious. Though the defense has held each opponent to 20 points or less, the Indians have yet to score more than 14.

Shook stepped forward last week with a pair of touchdown catches from Gibson, a transfer from Hardaway High in Columbus.

Rabun County played its first game of the season — and first under Shaw — last week and defeated Hayesville (N.C.), 20-6. Shaw, who led Flowery Branch to four straight double-digit-win seasons before departing for his alma mater, has installed the spread option offense that was so successful with the Falcons and is seeing results early. Holcombe threw for 168 yards and ran for 128 yards and a score last week.

Woerner also made an impression, catching four passes for 59 yards, and registering five tackles and two interceptions in his varsity debut.

Prediction: RABUN COUNTY. The Indians are having a hard time mustering points, while the Wildcats are hot out of the gate.

Collins Hill at Habersham Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: John Larry Black Memorial Stadium; Mount Airy

Coaches: Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham; Collins Hill, Kevin Reach

Records: Habersham Central (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAAAAA); Collins Hill (1-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAAAAA)

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.). Collins Hill, QB Brett Sheehan (6-3, 190 Sr.), RB Tyler Henderson (5-10, 175 Jr.), LB Daniel Fish (6-2, 210 Sr.).

Outlook: Habersham Central opened the season against two difficult north Georgia teams, but the Raiders have not been able to find the offensive production they had hoped for from their young squad. New Raiders quarterback Jake Tench is 14 for 27 with 148 yards passing, and Mulligan has 25 carries for 99 yards and the only touchdown Habersham Central has scored this season.

Prediction: COLLINS HILL. The Eagles are used to playing tough teams in Gwinnett, and Habersham Central is just getting used to playing at the highest classification in the state.

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