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High school football previews: Week 8
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Game of the week: Monroe Area at Gainesville

Curry a kep piece in high-flying Flowery Branch offense

Flowery Branch at Heritage

When: 8 tonight

Where: Evans Memorial Stadium, Conyers

TV, Radio: Georgia Public Broadcast, 550-AM

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw; Heritage, Chad Frazier

Records: Flowery Branch (6-0, 6-0 Region 8-AAAA); Heritage (7-0, 7-0)

Key players: Flowery Branch, QB Kanler Coker (6-4, 210 Sr.), WR C.J. Curry (6-2, 206 Sr.), LB Jacob Allen (6-1, 220 Jr.). Heritage, RB/DB Quami Stanley (5-9, 170 Sr.), LB/TE Chase Alford (6-2, 215 Jr.), QB/DB Ryan Sutton (5-9, 170 So.).

Outlook: When two teams enter a match-up a combined 13-0, there’s no overstating the importance of the game. This one could very well decide if the Falcons have a shot at their first region title in program history.

It’s a game that pits the top offense in the region (Flowery Branch averages 53 points per game, second in the state), against the stingiest defense (Heritage allows 11 points per game).

The Falcons’ balanced attack averages 225 yards per game rushing and 227 passing. Coker is at the helm; last week he accounted for six touchdowns in a 56-31 win over win over Habersham Central.

Heritage, which averages 30 points per game, is led by Stanley, who scored touchdowns last week in a 21-0 win over Winder-Barrow. The Patriots could test the Falcons defense, which allows 12 points and 226 yards per game, for a second straight week.

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. The Patriots’ defensive numbers will take a hit when the Falcons come to Conyers.

North Hall at Lumpkin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega

Coaches: North Hall, Bob Christmas; Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones

Records: North Hall (3-3, 2-0 Region 8-AAA North); Lumpkin County (4-2, 1-1)

Key players: North Hall, RB/LB Imani Cross (6-2, 230 Sr.), RB Caleb Faulkner (5-9, 175 Jr.), WB/CB Eli Gilmer (5-11, 175, Sr.). Lumpkin County, FB/DT Lee Cagle (5-10, 185 Sr), RB/WR/CB Ian McIntosh (5-10, 185 Sr), FB/LB Trevor Eudy (5-8, 200 Sr).

Outlook: Both North Hall and Lumpkin County came off games last week that they’d rather forget. The Indians, after a strong start, fell flat in a 32-6 loss to Franklin County, which had just one win going into the game. The Trojans, while 28-14 victors over White County, played a sloppy game that left Christmas with plenty of issues to correct in practice this week.

Christmas said he didn’t like the ‘mentality’ that his team had in the game. Whatever that mentality was, it contributed to four fumbles on offense and the Trojans’ second-lowest yardage total this season.

And while none of those fumbles resulted in turnovers for North Hall, it will play an opportunistic Lumpkin County team that is plus-13 in turnover margin.

The Indians struggled last week, recording no takeaways and turning the ball over twice. In five games before that, however, they were 4-1 and had recorded 17 takeaways to just two turnovers.

The question is which Lumpkin County team will show up tonight. If it’s the latter, and North Hall struggles to hang on to the football like it did a week ago, a more complete Trojan team could find itself in a dogfight.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. The Trojans rebound from a less-than-stellar performance last week.

Chestatee at Franklin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Ed Bryant Stadium, Carnesville

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; Franklin County, Tommy Welch

Records: Chestatee (3-3, 0-2 Region 8-AAA North); Franklin County (2-4, 1-1)

Key players: Chestatee, RB Quan Clark (5-10, 180 Jr.), DE Garrett Bennett (5-10, 205 Sr), QB Jordan Degraff (6-2, 170 Jr.). Franklin County, LB Austin Starrett (6-3, 220 Sr.), DE/OL B.J. Brown (6-0, 210 Jr.), QB Kevin Harris (6-0, 190 Sr.).

Outlook: Chestatee’s last two games have been a reality check for an offense that was averaging 37.3 points per game.

After going 3-1 in its first four games, scoring 27 or more in each, the War Eagles have combined for just seven in losses to North Hall and Stephens County.

The question is whether the lower totals are a product of stiffer competition, or a result of an offense depleted by injuries.

For all but one quarter in the past two weeks, Chestatee has been without starting quarterback Degraff, who suffered an ankle injury late in the first quarter against North Hall. Leading receiver Tony Fayson is out for the year after tearing a knee ligament against Monroe Area.

The War Eagles’ air attack has suffered accordingly, putting up just 57 yards per game through the air in the last two after averaging 147.3 through the four preceding games.

Luckily, it appears they may get some relief. Luttrell said he expects Degraff to be ready for some playing time on Friday after being a limited participant in practice this week.

Chestatee will play a Franklin County team coming off a big 32-6 win over Lumpkin County a week ago.
Prediction: CHESTATEE. The War Eagles end their losing streak tonight.

Fannin County at East Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: East Hall Stadium, Gainesville

Radio: 1330-AM

Coaches: Fannin County, Greg Chambers; East Hall, Bryan Gray

Records: Fannin County (3-3, 0-2 Region 8-AA North); East Hall (4-2, 2-0)

Key players: 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.). East Hall, RB/DB Jamond Witt (5-10, 173 Sr.), QB Cameron Davis (5-10, 175 So), OL/DL Jeffery Howard (6-1, 235 Sr.).

Outlook: Fannin County comes in to Friday’s contest having lost two straight to open subregion play and still in transition to a new coach after former head coach Clark Drennan was let go prior to last Friday’s game. Chambers, who is also the athletic director, has taken over the coaching duties until a permanent replacement can be found, according to Georgia High School Football Daily.

Regardless of who is at the helm, Gray is prepared for a tough opponent.

“I am very concerned about their entire team,” Gray said. “They are a very physical and disciplined team that will come in here with something to prove after the chaos that they have endured in the last week.”

If East Hall wants that subregion title this season, it will have to get through the Rebels, who are averaging 27 points scored per game but have allowed 29 per contest.

The Vikings have the running game to take advantage, led by senior Witt (654 yards rushing and eight touchdowns), Austen Mahaffey (384 and two scores), and Davis (291 rushing, five touchdowns).

East Hall is averaging 27.5 points per game and allowing 20.2.

Fannin County won 20-7 in Blue Ridge last season.

Prediction: EAST HALL. The Vikings keep momentum going in the right direction.

West Hall at Oconee County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Warriors Stadium, Watkinsville

Coaches: West Hall, Mike Newton; Oconee County, Mitch Olson

Records: West Hall (2-4, 2-0 Region 8-AAA South), Oconee County (2-4, 0-2).

Key players: West Hall, RB A.J. Stephens (5-8, 165 Sr.), QB Chandler Newton (6-1, 190 So.), FB/LB Turk Taylor (5-11, 215 Sr.). Oconee County, QB Connor White (6-4, 180 Sr.), RB Davis Aiken (5-9, 180 Jr.), OL Logan Reach (6-2, 230 Sr.).

Outlook: With a win, the Spartans could further improve their chances of playing for a postseason spot on Nov. 4 in the region playoff. Should West Hall win, it would go to 3-0 in subregion play, while the other two undefeated teams Gainesville and Monroe Area, both 2-0, facing each other tonight in Gainesville.

A win tonight is especially important for West Hall with Monroe Area and Gainesville still looming as the Spartans’ final two games on the regular season schedule.

Tonight’s outing is also a game West Hall has the capacity win, considering its versatility on offense and Oconee County’s struggles on defense; the Warriors allowed school-record 66 points allowed last Friday against Gainesville.

West Hall is led by Stephens, who is the area’s only player with at least 300 yards both rushing and receiving. Chandler Newton has completed almost 50 percent of his passes (39 of 82) for 735 yards. Taylor is the team’s leading defender with 49 tackles.

Meanwhile, Oconee County has to have a win to get back into playoff contention with winnable games against Johnson (0-6, 0-2) and Walnut Grove (1-5, 0-2) left on the schedule. Despite their record, the Warriors have a very strong passing game with senior Connor White (1,267 yards, 11 touchdowns) in charge. His top targets are Jamar Thomas (463 yards) and Keenan Brown (404 yards).

Prediction: WEST HALL. The Spartans’ roster is small, but they get the most out of their talent.

Walnut Grove at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: Walnut Grove, O.J. Soto; Johnson, Paul Friel

Records: Walnut Grove (1-5, 0-2 Region 8-AAA South), Johnson (0-6, 0-2).

Key players: Walnut Grove, OL Jay Weldon (6-0, 225 Sr.), QB Jonah Guinn (6-0, 190 Sr.), RB Tyler Bennett (6-0, 185 Sr.). Johnson, RB Cedric Harris (6-1, 175 Jr.), RB A.J. Millwood (5-10, 155 Jr.), LB Jose Martinez (6-2, 230 Sr.).

Outlook: The Knights’ struggles this season have nothing to do with their offensive production. Johnson has one of the best duos at running back in the area with junior Cedric Harris (147 yards per game) and A.J. Millwood (119 yards per game). Last week, Harris had 207 yards — many coming after first contact — in a 35-21 loss to West Hall.

As a whole, Johnson’s running game is third best in the area with 300 yards per game (6 yards per carry). Rushing yards account for almost 93 percent of its offense.

Meanwhile, Walnut Grove is a little more versatile offensively, but still a run-first offense. Quarterback Guinn (458 yards, two touchdowns), Duronta Momon (334 yards, two touchdowns) and Ty Bennett (325 yards) are the Warriors’ leading ball carriers.

Prediction: JOHNSON. The Knights finally cash in on their tough running game with a win in Oakwood.

North Cobb Christian at Lakeview Academy

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jock Hornor Field, Gainesville

Coaches: North Cobb Christian, Harry Miles; Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn

Records: North Cobb Christian (1-6); Lakeview Academy (1-4)

Key players: North Cobb Christian, QB Alex Ho-on (6-4, 175 Jr.), RB Daniel Gelanos (Sr.), WR Rod Mitchell (Sr.). Lakeview Academy, QB/FS Matt Askounis (5-9, 160 Sr.), WR/DB Ted Reynolds (5-9, 140, Jr.), RB/DB Trevor Price (5-10, 170 Jr.).

Outlook: These two teams could not be more on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Yes, both teams have just one win this season. But it’s the manner in which their games have been played that make this game so interesting.

On one hand, Lakeview Academy, averages just 8.2 points per game, but is allowing a respectable 19.2 on defense. On the other, there is North Cobb Christian, a team scoring 23.2 points per game, but allowing 37.6 on defense. Last week, North Cobb Christian lost to Glascock County 82-48 in the third-highest scoring game in state history.

Lakeview had its highest point total of the season a week ago in a 28-21 loss at River Ridge. The Lions showed an increased big-play capability in the game with a 60-yard touchdown run by Reynolds, as well as a 40-yard touchdown pass from Reynolds to Askounis. That could be a sign that the Lion offense is beginning to improve.

Prediction: LAKEVIEW ACADEMY. The Lions have definitely struggled on offense, but it will have an easier time at home tonight.

Riverside at Athens Christian

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Eagle Field, Athens

Coaches: Riverside, Sheldon Ward; Athens Christian, Steve Brooks

Records: Riverside (1-6, 1-2 Region 8-A); Athens Christian (3-3, 1-1)

Key players: Riverside, QB Colin Pettel (6-5, 200 So.), OL/LB John-Mark MacFarlane (5-10, 176 So.), WR/DB Adrian Humphrey (5-8, 155 Jr.). Athens Christian, QB Zack Resop (6-1, 175 Sr.), LB Adrian London (6-1, 190 Sr.), OL/DL Jordan Pickerel (6-1, 250 Jr.).

Outlook: Both sets of Eagles are tired of the Tigers. Riverside is coming off a 42-0 loss to Commerce last week. Athens Christian had a bye week last Friday, but the week before it also lost to the Tigers 41-0.

The shutout against Commerce was the fourth of the year for Riverside, which has struggled to find balance in its offense. Against the Tigers, Riverside was held to minus-11 yards rushing. The Eagles are 1-3 since Ward took over on an interim basis for Chris Cotter, who resigned in early September.

Athens Christian’s loss to Commerce snapped a three-game winning streak and makes tonight’s game crucial as teams jockey for playoff bids. With four games remaining, Athens Christian is in fourth place, a half game ahead of Riverside and Athens Academy.

Prediction: ATHENS CHRISTIAN. Athens Christian has shown more offensive consistency than Riverside.

Elbert County at Jefferson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Elbert County, Sid Fritts; Jefferson, T. McFerrin

Records: Elbert County (6-0, 3-0 Region 8-AA South); Jefferson (5-1, 2-1)

Key players: Elbert County, RB/OLB Tyshon Dye (6-1, 200 Sr.), QB Robert Huff (6-0, 160 Sr.), WR/DB Tevin Fleming (6-0, 140 Sr.). Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-3, 200 Jr.), WR Will Puckett (6-3, 190 Sr.), RB Tristan Jackson (5-9, 190 S0.).

Outlook: This game asks an age old sports question: Which wins, a great offense or a great defense?

Jefferson has a great offense, averaging 42.2 points per game, less than one point from being first in 8-AA (North Oconee averages 42.7). Shirreffs (1,252 yards passing and 16 touchdowns), has been the steady presence all season, but in last week’s 48-13 win against Oglethorpe County, it was Jackson who led the way with 133 yards rushing on just nine attempts.

This season the Dragons have averaged 397 yards of offense per game, fourth in the area. It’s a balanced attack; 185.3 yards rushing and 212.5 passing.

Elbert County has the top defense in 8-AA, allowing just seven points per game and posting three consecutive shutouts prior to allowing seven points in a 31-7 win over Hart County last week.

The Blue Devils have perfected the ground game on offense, averaging 294 yards rushing and 374 yards total per game. Dye has led the way all season with 108 carries for 905 yards and 13 touchdowns. Elbert County is averaging 36.5 points scored per game.

Prediction: ELBERT COUNTY. Jefferson should make this a closer game than last season, but the Blue Devils are still the dominant team in the subregion.

White County at Stephens County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Reservation, Toccoa

Coaches: White County, Bill Ballard; Stephens County, Travis Noland

Records: White County (1-5, 0-2 Region 8-AAA North); Stephens County (5-1, 2-0)

Key players: White County, RB/DB Ryan Kennedy (5-11, 180 Sr.), RB/LB Dalton Whitfield (6-1, 220 So.), QB Will Brock (6-2, 190 Jr.). Stephens County, RB Chaz Thornton (5-9, 180 Jr.), WR T’omas Colbert (6-0, 180 Jr.), QB Dionte Mayfield (6-0, 180 Jr.).

Outlook: A year after one of the program’s most successful seasons, White County is working its way through a rebuilding year under Ballard.

The Warriors have lost three straight and have struggled to find a consistent source of offense. They should get a boost this week, as leading rusher Ryan Kennedy is expected to return after missing last week’s 28-14 loss to North Hall due to suspension.

This week’s opponent, Stephens County, boasts of the region’s top running games, led by junior Chaz Thornton. He led the Indians with 244 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in a 28-0 win over Chestatee last week.

Stephens County has won five straight since a 29-28 loss to Elbert County (No. 6 Class AA) in the season opener.

Despite being separated by only about 30 miles, last year was the first time White County and Stephens County have met on the football field. White County won, 21-14, en route to the subregion championship. This year, the Indians sit tied atop 8-AAA North with North Hall.

Prediction: STEPHENS COUNTY. The Indians are one of the region’s most talented and consistent teams.

Athens Academy at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Death Valley, Commerce

Coaches: Athens Academy, Michael Gunn; Commerce, Marvin Justice

Records: Athens Academy (4-2, 1-2 Region 8-A); Commerce (3-3, 2-0)

Key players: Athens Academy, QB Lake Lindsey (6-1, 170 Sr.), RB/DB Taylor Allen (5-7, 145 Jr.), LB Blake Callaway (6-0, 205 Sr.). Commerce, QB Cody Streetman (6-1, 200 Sr.), FB/LB Chance McClure (6-0, 215 Jr.), DB/SE Jamir Walton (So.).

Outlook: Before last week, Commerce’s defense had not posted two shutouts in a season since 2006, in which the Tigers lost in the Georgia Dome in the state semifinals.

Commerce is coming off consecutive 41 and 42 point shutouts over Athens Christian and Riverside Military, respectively.

Coach Justice feels his team is starting to click in all aspects of the game after a 1-3 start. The Tiger offense is now averaging more than 220 yards a game, including a 300 yard effort last week.

On the opposite sideline, the Spartans are coming off of a 48-3 win over Social Circle a week ago, their largest scoring output since 2006.

The Tigers carry an undefeated record into tonight’s 8-A matchup against the Spartans and hold an 11-8 series lead over Athens Academy.

Prediction: COMMERCE. Streetman and company’s ground game will prove too much for Athens Academy.

Union County at Dawson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Dawson County, Jeff Lee

Records: Union County (1-5, 0-2 Region 8-AA North); Dawson County (2-4, 1-1)

Key players: Union County, QB T Bentley (6-1, 190 Jr.), RB/LB Ian Petkevich (6-0, 195 Sr.), RB/LB Jonathan Hughes (5-10, 170 Jr.). Dawson County, QB Tyler Dominy (6-5, 185 Jr.), WR Bruce Clark (6-4, 190 Jr.), RB/LB Zack Martin (5-10, 190 Jr.).

Outlook: Dawson County dropped a heartbreaker, 19-14, last week to Banks County, yielding the winning touchdown run in the waning minutes. But the Tigers are still tied for third in 8-AA South and need to bounce back with a win to hold their position in the subregion.

Union County comes in on a five-game losing streak after winning the season opener. The Panthers scored a season-high 20 points in their win over Towns County, but have averaged just 10 points per game since then. They were held to a season-low output last week in a 33-3 loss to East Hall. The Vikings ran for big yards in the win, which surely didn’t escape the Tigers’ attention.

Dawson County has one of the area’s most prolific offenses, averaging 391 yards per game. Martin leads the running game with 107 rushing yards per contest, while Dominy and Clark form a productive pass-and-catch duo. Clark leads the area with 40 receptions, 492 yards and eight touchdowns.

Prediction: DAWSON COUNTY. The Tigers rebound from a difficult loss thanks to a balanced offense.

Towns County at River Ridge

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: River Ridge, Woodstock

Coaches: Towns County, Kyle Langford; River Ridge, Robert Braucht

Records: Towns County (2-0, 1-0 Region 8-AA); River Ridge (5-1)

Key players: Towns County, QB Jackson Noblet (5-11, 185 So.), TB Noah Calhoun (5-10, 170 Sr.), OL/DL Wesley Bloodworth (Jr.). River Ridge, QB John Maisel (Jr.), OLB Malik Moore (Sr.), RB/DB Austin Schwarz (Sr.)

Outlook: A week ago, Towns County came away with its first win in eight games, dating back to last season, with a 33-6 victory over North Cobb Christian. It was the offense’s highest point total this season and the least points scored on the defense since a 50-0 defeat of Hebron Christian in 2008.

The Indians will look to utilize their rushing attack and get Calhoun going early. Last week, Calhoun had three touchdowns, including a 72-yard scamper as the game ended.

The Knights were able to recover a last-minute Lakview onside kick to secure a 28-21 victory last Friday at home. The third-year program is playing its second full varsity season and has more wins this season than in the previous two combined.

Prediction: RIVER RIDGE. A more experinced group of Knights is ready for the second meeting.

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