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High school football previews: Week 6
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Game of the Week: Chestatee at North Hall

East Hall Vikings open subregion play

Gainesville at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood

Radio: 1240-AM

Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; Johnson, Paul Friel

Records: Gainesville (3-1, 0-0 8-AAA South), Johnson (0-4, 0-0)

Key players: Gainesville, QB Deshaun Watson (6-2, 185 So.), DB Joseph Haley (5-10, 185 Sr.), WR Justin Cantrell (6-2, 177 Jr.). Johnson, TE/LB Jose Martinez (6-2, 230 Jr.), RB A.J. Millwood (5-10, 155 Jr.), RB/LB Cedric Harris (6-1, 175 Jr.).

Outlook: Defending Gainesville’s passing game has to be frustrating. Not only does Watson (1,039 yards, 11 touchdowns) have some of the best numbers in the area, but also a deep group of wide receivers.

Stephen Mason, Lahius Leverette, Justin Cantrell and Tray Harrison are all over 200 yards receiving and averaging more than 10 yards per catch. The passing game for Gainesville may be even more vital now with running back Jay Gaudlock out the reminder of the season with a broken leg sustained last Friday against Franklin County. Watson has crossed 300 yards passing in each of the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Knights are looking to shake off last week’s 30-21 loss to Lumpkin County, which signaled the end of crossover play in Region 8-AAA. Despite the loss, Johnson’s running back duo of Millwood and Harris continued to run strong, both going over 100 yards.

Millwood and Harris are both on pace to top 1,000 yards, each currently standing at 519 yards on the ground. Last week, Jamison Owens led the Knights’ defense with 12 tackles.

Prediction: GAINESVILLE. The Red Elephants’ passing game continues to play pitch and catch and gets off to a strong start in subregion play.


Rabun County at East Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: East Hall Stadium, Gainesville

Radio: 550-AM

Coaches: Rabun County, Danny Durham; East Hall, Bryan Gray

Records: Rabun County (2-2, 0-0 8-AA North); East Hall (2-2, 0-0)

Key players: Rabun County, RB Dyllon Crabtree (Sr.), DL/WR Dillon Bleckley (6-1, 192 Sr.), QB Wes Holcombe (So.). East Hall, RB/DB Jamond Witt (5-10, 173 Sr.), RB/DB Austen Mahaffey (5-8, 175 Jr.), OT/DE C.J. White (6-3, 247 Sr.)

Outlook: This season has already been a roller coaster ride for the Vikings, who blasted two County schools to open 2-0, before being dropping consecutive contests to Elbert County and Adairsville.

Now they are back for the first time since week one, opening the 8-AA North subregion schedule against a team that East Hall defeated 42-26 last season.

After two straight losses and a bye week to let it all sink in, the Vikings won’t be taking this team lightly.

The key to slowing the Wildcats tonight will be stopping the running game, which has averaged 120 yards per game, led by Crabtree’s 386 yards on 55 carries.

East Hall will look to do that and set the tone on offense with its own set of running backs in Witt and Mahaffey. Quarterback Cameron Davis is also a threat to run, recording the lone touchdown in the loss to Adairsville.

Prediction: EAST HALL. The Vikings are back home and will be able to control Rabun County’s offense.


West Hall at Walnut Grove

When: 7:30 p.m. tonight

Where: Walnut Grove

Coaches: West Hall, Mike Newton; Walnut Grove, O.J. Soto

Records: West Hall (0-4, 0-0 8-AAA South), Walnut Grove (1-3, 0-0)

Key players: West Hall, QB Chandler Newton (6-1, 190 So.), WR/DB A.J. Stephens (5-8, 165 Sr.), OL/DL Dexter Jackson (6-2, 317 Jr.). Walnut Grove, OL Jay Weldon (6-0, 225 Sr.), QB Jonah Guinn (6-0, 195 Sr.), RB Ty Bennett (5-9, 175 Sr.).

Outlook: West Hall hopes the problems that plagued its offense down the stretch last season don’t show up again this year.

The final three games of subregion play last year, the Spartans were held under 10 points in each game, which proved the difference in not playing for a playoff spot the final week of the regular season.

So far this season that trend has continued for the winless Spartans. West Hall has scored 14 points in three games, and just a lone touchdown in its loss to White County on Sept. 9.

Luckily, West Hall had two weeks to prepare for the beginning of subregion play. Newton says it has been a great opportunity to get back to the basics of the game.

In the Spartans’ last game two weeks ago, Chandler Newton went down with an undisclosed injury, but his coach and father said the quarterback has been cleared to play.

Meanwhile, Walnut Grove is coming off a 48-14 loss to North Hall. Duranta Moman was the Warriors’ leading rusher with 102 yards.

Prediction: WALNUT GROVE. The upstart Warriors have a solid ground game that will keep the Spartans on their heels.


North Oconee at Jefferson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: North Oconee, Terry Tuley; Jefferson, T. McFerrin

Records: North Oconee (4-0, 1-0 8-AA South); Jefferson (4-0, 1-0)

Key players: North Oconee, RB David Pinkerton (5-9, 175 Sr.), RB/SS Nick Colvin (6-1, 180 Jr.), QB Blake Gaubert (6-2, 210 Sr.), Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-3, 200 Jr.), WR Will Puckett (6-3, 190 Sr.), RB Drequn Sewell (5-10, 180 Sr.).

Outlook: This Friday, something’s got to give.

Region 8-AA North opponents North Oconee and Jefferson each come in at 4-0, touting offenses averaging 40 or more points per game. The Dragons win with a high-flying spread offense centered around Shirreffs (47 of 66, 863 yards passing and eight touchdowns), who can throw it all over the field or tuck the ball and run.

The Titans prefer to run. This season they have averaged 286.5 yards per game on the ground. Last week, North Oconee was led by Colvin (157 yards total offense) and Pinkerton (120 yards rushing, two touchdowns) in a 28-20 win against Hart County in Bogart.

That doesn’t mean that the Titans can’t throw when they need to. Blake Gaubert has passed for 542 yards and six scores this season.

This game will come down to whether the Jefferson offense is good enough to score on a North Oconee defense that is yielding just 8 points per game.

Last season, North Oconee won 35-22 in Bogart.

The Dragons will be shorthanded after losing leading receiver Cole Givens. McFerrin confirmed this week that Givens is no longer on the team, but declined to comment further on the situation.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons are at home and will present North Oconee with an offense unlike any the Titans have seen this season.


Decatur at Buford

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Coaches: Decatur, Price Jones; Buford, Jess Simpson

Records: Decatur (2-3, 0-0 6A-AA), Buford (6-0, 0-0 6A-AA)

Key players: Decatur, MLB/FB Chris Hambie (6-0, 220 Sr.), WR Terryon Robinson (5-11, 180 Jr.), DL/OL Sam Jones (5-7, 195 Sr.). Buford, LB/TE Dillon Lee (6-5, 240 Sr.), OL/DL Vadal Alexander (6-6, 340 Sr.), RB Andre Johnson (6-0, 220 Sr.).

Outlook: It’s David versus Goliath at Tom Riden Stadium tonight.

On one sideline is a team, Decatur, that has won just two games this season, both coming against teams with a combined 0-8 record. With the exception of a 57-point outburst against North Springs in the season opener, the Bulldogs have averaged 16.8 points per game.

On the other is Buford, a team considered by many to be the best of any classification in the state. Buford has won games with a dominant defense and an unstoppable run game. Last week, when 20 penalties could have derailed its game against then-No. 6 Lovett, Buford stepped up in both aspects, winning 35-7.

For a team like Decatur that already has problems scoring, points against Buford likely will be hard to come by.

Decatur coach Jones said that, despite the obvious skill level of the opponent, his team is preparing for it like any other game and that they hope to stay competitive.

For Buford, after a game Simpson admitted was not the team’s best, it will be a chance to get back into a groove for the second half of the season.

That doesn’t bode well for Decatur.

Prediction: BUFORD. The Wolves defense will keep Decatur out of the end zone to rebound from last week’s sloppy win.


White County at Lumpkin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Burial Ground, Dahlonega

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

Records: White County (1-3, 8-AAA North), Lumpkin County (3-1, 0-0 8-AAA North)

Key players: White County, RB Ryan Kennedy (5-11, 180 Sr.), LB Dalton Whitfield (6-1, 220 So.), QB Will Brock (6-2, 190 Jr.). Lumpkin County, RB/DB Ian McIntosh (5-10, 185 Sr.), FB/DT Lee Cagle (5-10, 185 Sr.), FB/LB Trevor Eudy (5-8, 200 Sr.).

Outlook: In the last five seasons, Lumpkin County has averaged just 7.6 points per game against the Warriors, losing all five games.

With an improved team this season, however, the Indians are looking to reverse the trend.

With the exception of a 23-2 loss at Monroe Area, Lumpkin County has won its games with a combination of strong running and opportunistic defense.

The Indians have been led by running back McIntosh who has piled up 541 yards and five scores on the ground in just four games. As a team, Lumpkin County has run the ball 130 times, the same number as its opponents, but have amassed 330 more yards. It has also turned the ball over just twice to its opponents’ 12.

And while White County has notched just one victory on the season, two of its losses have been by three points or less, the lone blowout coming to an impressive Gainesville team.

With a strong running attack of their own, the Warriors stand a good chance of matching the Indians blow for blow. Records not withstanding, these are two very comparable teams.

Don’t be surprised if this is a close game.

Prediction: LUMPKIN COUNTY. White County can keep the game close, but McIntosh will be too much in the end.


Banks County at Union County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville

Coaches: Banks County, Philip Jones; Union County, Brian Allison

Records: Banks County (2-2, 0-0 8-AA North); Union County (1-3, 0-0)

Key players: Banks County, RB Dean Ewing (6-1, 210 Sr.), QB Tyler Hubbard (5-9, 150 Sr.), WR/DB Greg Cannon (Jr.). Union County, QB T Bentley (6-0, 190 Jr.), OL/DL Christian Forney (6-0, 240 Sr.), RB/LB Jonathan Hughes (5-10, 170 Jr.).

Outlook: Both teams slide into subregion play on losing streaks, but the season will turn toward the positive for somebody tonight.

Banks County, which has lost two straight, has had two weeks to prepare for tonight’s game after last taking the field in a heartbreaking 27-21 loss to Athens Christian on Sept. 16. The Leopards rallied from a 20-7 halftime deficit in the loss only to give up the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.

Union County has lost three straight since defeating Towns County 20-0 in the season opener. The Panthers, who are breaking in a number of new skill players, have had trouble sustaining a consistent offense. Bentley, a dual-threat at quarterback helms the Panther attack, and the team had to be encouraged by Hughes’ 100-yard rushing output in last week’s 33-15 loss to Lanier.

While the Panthers prefer to spread it around in a controlled passing game, Banks County operates out of a run-heavy offense led by Ewing and Hubbard.

The Leopards have won five of the last six games in this series, which has been played every season since 1984. In all, Banks and Union have met 36 times with Union County holding a 19-17 advantage, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.

Prediction: BANKS COUNTY. The Leopards have the more reliable offense, while the Panthers are yielding more than 32 points per game during their three-game skid.


Athens Christian at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Death Valley, Commerce

Coaches: Athens Christian, Steve Brooks; Commerce, Marvin Justice

Records: Athens Christian (3-2, 1-0 8-A), Commerce (1-3, 0-0 8-A)

Key players: Athens Christian, RB Tyler Wildgoose (6-2, 170 Jr.), QB Zack Resop (6-1, 180 Sr.), Adrian London (6-1, 190 Sr.). Commerce, QB Cody Streetman (6-1, 200 Sr.), FB/LB Chance McClure (6-0, 215 So.), OL/DL Michael Eason (6-1, 230 Jr.)

Outlook: Tonight’s game features two coaches in their first seasons at the helm at their schools.

On the visitor’s side, Brooks is experiencing the turnaround many fans wish to see with the hire of a new coach. The Eagles have won more games through the first five weeks of this season than in all of 2010.

On the home side, Justice is still looking for his Tigers to come together after struggling through their first four games. They have notched just one win so far this season.

Commerce has had little success moving the ball on the ground, which has been a staple in past years. The Tigers have managed only 576 yards and two touchdowns in the running game.

Commerce is looking to change that against a team it has never lost to. The Tigers have defeated Athens Christian all five times the squads have met.

Prediction: COMMERCE. The Tigers get back on the winning track and ground the Eagles.


Dawson County at Fannin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Rebel Stadium, Blue Ridge

Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; Fannin County, Clark Drennan

Records: Dawson County (1-3, 0-0 8-AA North); Fannin County (3-1, 0-0)

Key players: Dawson County, QB Tyler Dominy (6-5, 185 Jr.), WR Bruce Clark (6-4, 190 Jr.), RB/LB Zack Martin (5-10, 190 Sr.). Fannin County, QB Trevor Stone (6-0, 180 So.), RB/DB Blake Henry (5-10, 160 Sr.), RB/DB Peyton Satterfield (6-0, 180 So.).

Outlook: The records might suggest Fannin County has a big advantage in tonight’s subregion opener, but don’t expect Dawson County to believe that.

The Tigers have lost three straight since beginning the season 1-0, falling to a trio of teams with a combined record of 10-2. Two weeks ago, in its most recent game, Dawson County lost 27-22 to Chestatee on a late War Eagles touchdown. The Tigers also share a pair of common opponents with the Rebels: Dawson County defeated Pickens 56-35, while Fannin County needed a last-second Hail Mary and two-point conversion to beat the same team. And both teams absorbed close losses to Gilmer, with the Tigers falling in overtime.

They’ll be the homecoming opponent tonight for Fannin County, which is nothing if not battle-tested. While the Rebels’ wins have come against teams with a combined 4-10 record, Fannin County is already experienced in late-game drama; all four of the Rebels’ games have been decided by 8 points or less.

Tonight they’ll be tasked with slowing a balanced Tigers offense. Dominy has already topped 1,000 yards passing, while Clark, his favorite target, leads the area in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Martin leads the ground game, averaging more than 100 yards per game.

Prediction: DAWSON COUNTY. The Tigers defeated Fannin County last season for the first time in the program’s history and should enter tonight’s game with a confidence that belies their 1-3 record.


Jackson County at Oglethorpe County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Patriot Stadium, Lexington

Coaches: Jackson County, Billy Kirk; Oglethorpe County, Larry Milligan

Records: Jackson County (1-4, 1-1 8-AA South); Oglethorpe County (3-2, 1-1)

Key players: Jackson County, DL Chris Foster (6-2, 240 Jr.), TE/OLB River Bryant (6-3, 305 Jr.), QB Kyle Daniel (6-2, 195 Jr.). Oglethorpe County, QB Kendrick Presley, TB Corey Davenport, WR Shaq Fleming.

Outlook: Jackson County started out the season on a good note with a win over Johnson, but has not faired as well in its last four games.

During the Panthers four-game losing streak, they have been outscored 134-32, including two shut outs.

The Patriots know a thing or two about zeros on the scoreboard as well. Of their first five games, four have ended with no points on the board for one team. Oglethorpe County, however, was the victor in two of those games.

This week, Jackson County will try and slow down the triple-option attack of Oglethorpe County. The Patriots put up 374 rushing yards against an East Jackson team the Panthers lost to two weeks ago.

The Panthers had a hard time slowing down Elbert County’s running backs last week, starting a running clock just 16 minutes into the game after going down 42-0. Slowing down the Patriots is imperative if the Panthers want to win on the road this week.

Prediction: OGLETHORPE COUNTY. Though not a shutout, the Patriots get the ground game going and control this game.


Social Circle at Riverside Military

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Maginnis Field

Coaches: Social Circle, David Seawright; Riverside Military, Sheldon Ward

Records: Social Circle (0-4, 0-1 8-A), Riverside Military (0-5, 0-1)

Key players: Social Circle, LB/OL Kyle McCaleb (5-8, 175 Sr.), DL/OL Shawn Rakestraw (5-9, 220 Sr.), QB/DB Michael Hightower (5-11, 170 Sr.). Riverside Military, RB/DE Marlan Edwards (6-2, 212 Sr.), K/P/DL Victor Salcido (5-11, 222 Sr.), OL/LB John-Mark MacFarlane (5-10, 176 So.).

Outlook: Playing at home tonight is a big deal for the Eagles. This is the first home outing for Riverside Military since its season-opening loss Aug. 19 to Pinecrest Academy at Maginnis Field.

Since then, the Eagles have taken their lumps, losing three straight games without scoring before notching a defensive touchdown last week against George Walton Academy.

Riverside Military has allowed more than 40 points each of the past four games. Turnovers have also been a problem for the Eagles, including five last week against the Bulldogs.

Ward feels like last week’s 42-6 loss may have been a step in the right direction.

"People see the score and think that wasn’t very good," Ward said. "But we had a really good defensive effort."

Offense continues to be a struggle for Riverside. The Eagles finished with less than 1 yard against George Walton, and have 68 rushing yards this season.

Social Circle has also struggled this season, including consecutive shutout losses to Hancock Central, Aquinas and Athens Christian. The only points this season for the Redskins came on a touchdown in week one against Banks County.

Prediction: RIVERSIDE MILITARY. The Eagles may be coming around. This is the Eagles’ perfect opportunity to get their first win against a struggling Social Circle team.


North Cobb Christian at Towns County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee

Coaches: North Cobb Christian, Harry Miles; Towns County, Kyle Langford

Records: North Cobb Christian (1-4); Towns County (0-5)

Key players: North Cobb Christian, QB Alex Ho-on (6-4, 175 Jr.), RB Daniel Gelanos (Sr.), WR Rod Mitchell (Sr.). Towns County, QB Jackson Noblet (5-11, 185 So.), TB Noah Calhoun (5-10, 170 Sr.), WR Zack Stroud (6-1, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: North Cobb Christian is coming off of a double-overtime loss last week to St. Francis. The game looked to be finished in regulation before the Eagles’ kicker missed an extra point in the fourth quarter.

Only one week before, North Cobb Christian blew an 8-point lead in the final three minutes of the game. Closing out games has been a problem this year for a team that only has three wins in school history.

On the other hand, Towns County has been put away early in most of its loses, averaging just over seven points per game.

This week the Indians hope to have big games from Noblet and Calhoun. If this tandem can get going early, Towns County should win easily. If not, the Eagles may have more late-game drama to add to their resume.

Prediction: TOWNS COUNTY. The Indians get their first "W" of the year to end their three-game homestand.


Winder-Barrow at Habersham Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Raider Stadium, Mount Airy

Radio: 99.3-FM

Coaches: Winder-Barrow, David Wagner; Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham

Records: Winder-Barrow (0-4, 0-4 8-AAAA); Habersham Central (3-2, 3-2)

Key players: Winder-Barrow, RB Jamonte Riden (5-11, 187 Sr.), OL/DL Taylor Pineda (6-0, 225 Sr.), QB Christian Hodge (6-0, 190 So.). Habersham Central, QB Kevin Ellison (6-1, 180 Sr.), FB/DE Patrick Burns (6-1, 190 Sr.), OL Austin Allen (6-3, 305 Sr.).

Outlook: Halfway through the Region 8-AAAA schedule, the Raiders are in position to fight for a playoff spot.

But there are still five more games to go, and if the recent history of the region stays true, the Raiders will need to win at least three, if not four, of their last five regular season games to grab their first postseason berth since 2007.

Habersham Central still has to play the last two undefeated teams in the region, Heritage and Flowery Branch, meaning tonight’s game against winless Winder-Barrow is that much more important if the Raiders want to return to state.

The Bulldoggs have averaged just 13 points per game while allowing an average of 41, so on paper this looks to be an easy win. But this is also a team that took Madison County to overtime and lost to Rockdale County by four. Last year, Winder-Barrow fell to Heritage in overtime and stayed with the Raiders late before falling 21-0.

Ellison will once again be key, and the senior, who last week added another six touchdowns, 259 yards rushing and 61 passing to his already historic season, shows no signs of slowing down.

Prediction: HABERSHAM CENTRAL. The Bulldoggs offense can’t keep up with Ellison and the Raiders.

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