Apalachee at Flowery Branch
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Falcon Field, Flowery Branch
Coaches: Apalachee, Shane Davis; Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw
Records: Apalachee (1-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAAA); Flowery Branch (2-0, 2-0 8-AAAA)
Key players: Apalachee, OL Shaun Hill (6-3, 350 Sr.), OL Nate Holton (6-3, 360 Sr.), OL/LB Javier Crawford (6-0, 225 Sr); Flowery Branch, K/P Will Monday (6-4, 190 Sr.), QB Austin Brown (6-1, 195 Sr.), OL Brandon Keller (6-2, 285 Sr).
Outlook: The Falcons are off to a fast start in their new region with two shutout wins over Madison County (21-0) and Winder-Barrow (28-0). While those wins were impressive, they were against teams now 0-2 on the season that combined to finish 7-13 in 2009.
Now comes a real challenge that could ultimatley have a say in who wins the region.
Apalachee, the No. 8-ranked team in the state, is the defending 8-AAAA champions and won its first 12 games of the season — a streak that took them to the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA state playoffs. The Wildcats are back with a strong team this season and beat Habersham Central 35-7 in their opener, and they’ll be coming to Flowery Branch well rested after a Week 2 bye.
The Wildcats’ offense will be by far the toughest challenge for the Falcons’ defense in this young season. Against the Raiders, running back Zay Henry and quarterback Clint Ashe combined for four touchdowns.
Falcons running back Jeremy Haley has 294 rushing yards and three touchdowns in two games.
Prediction: APALACHEE. This will likely be a close game that could go either way, but because the Wildcats are the defending region champ and will gut out the win.
Chestatee at Johnson
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium
Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; Johnson, Paul Friel.
Records: Chestatee (0-1, 0-1 Region 8A-AAA), Johnson (0-2, 0-0 Region 8B-AAA).
Key players: Chestatee, QB Scott Chewning (5-10, 170 Sr.), RB Montrai Tate (5-10, 155 Jr.), DL Tyler Terry (5-11, 225 Sr.). Johnson, OL/DL David Harkins (6-0, 280 Sr.), TE/DE Cody Lewallen (6-6, 205 Sr.), QB/DB Luke Gilleland (5-10, 175 Jr.).
Outlook: Both teams enter tonight’s game looking for the first win of the season. The War Eagles dropped their season opener 24-13 to West Hall last week, while Johnson has had two tough-to-swallow losses — a rain-shortened 14-0 loss to Jackson County and a 28-21 loss to East Hall last week. Not only did the Knights lose the game, they lost running back Joey Brooks to a concussion.
Johnson sophomore Cedric Harris, who rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns last week, will see plenty of touches against Chestatee, a team also known for its run-first offense. The War Eagles averaged almost 6 yards a carry against West Hall, with Quon Clark leading the way with 81 yards on six carries.
The Knights struggled to stop the run against East Hall and surrendered 240 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a positive for Chestatee, which used a balanced attack (159 yards passing/154 rushing) in the Week 2 loss to West Hall.
Turnovers will be the key to this matchup, as Johnson lost four of the six fumbles it had last week and Chestatee lost both fumbles against West Hall.
Chestatee has won five straight meetings against the Knights by an average of 16.4 points.
Prediction: CHESTATEE. The War Eagles’ ability to air it out in the passing game will be the difference.
Elbert County at East Hall
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: East Hall Stadium, Gainesville
Radio: 99.3 FM
Coaches: Elbert County, Sid Fritts; East Hall, Bryan Gray
Records: Elbert County (1-1, 0-0 Region 8B-AA); East Hall (1-1, 0-0 Region 8A-AA)
Key players: Elbert County, WR/LB Tyshon Dye, K Ty Martin, QB Hunter Blackmon; East Hall, TE/DL Sterling Bailey (6-5, 265 Sr.), RB/DL Chaz Cheeks (6-5, 221 Sr.), WR/DB Chris Johnson (5-10, 170 Sr.).
Outlook: East Hall matched its win total of the last three seasons with their first victory of the season over Johnson, 28-21. Elbert County, under first-year coach Sid Fritts, who led Rome to the state semifinals in 2008, lost 25-23 last week to Wesleyan.
If the Vikings want to compete with the Blue Devils, they’re going to have to hold on to the ball this game. Against the Knights, they fumbled six times, losing three, but were bailed out when Johnson fumbled six times and lost four.
Jamond Witt will need to continue being a spark on offense and special teams for East Hall. He was the difference in last week’s game, rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns and returning a punt 90 yards for another score. He’s currently fourth in the area among rushers with 214 yards on 25 carries, an 8.6 yards per carry average.
Bailey will also need another big game for the Vikings defense. He’s second in the area with 4.5 sacks to go with 15 tackles, while Chaz Cheeks has 2.5 sacks and six tackles.
Prediction: ELBERT COUNTY. The Blue Devils have looked solid under a new and proven coach.
Lakeview Academy at Prince Avenue
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Wolverines Field, Bogart
Coaches: Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn; Prince Avenue, Mark Farriba
Records: Lakeview Academy (1-1); Prince Avenue (1-1, Region 8B-A)
Key players: Lakeview Academy, QB Jackson Wells (6-5, 180 Sr.), RB Nick Drury (5-11, 175 Sr.), RB Trevor Price (5-10, 160 So.). Prince Avenue, RB William McNeely (5-9, 160 Sr.), QB Carl Mattox (5-10, 155 So.), OL/DL Quinn Adamson (6-0, 235 Sr.).
Outlook: These two teams are headed in opposite directions after two weeks of the regular season.
After a 29-0 win against Fellowship Christian in Week 1, the Lions fell 13-0 to King’s Ridge Christian in Week 2. Now, they get a playoff contender from Region 8-A with Prince Avenue.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines rebounded nicely from a 12-point loss to Hebron Christian in Week 1. Last Friday, Prince Avenue topped Georgia Military, 50-0, in Milledgeville.
Prediction: PRINCE AVENUE. The Wolverines are a tough Class A program at home.
Landmark Christian at Riverside
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Maginnis Field
Coaches: Landmark Christian, Kenny Dallas; Riverside Military, Chris Cotter
Records: Landmark Christian (1-1, 0-0 Region 5S-A); Riverside Military (1-2, 0-0 Region 8A-A)
Key players: Landmark Christian, QB Carson Barnett (Sr.), WR Josh Nobles (So.), LB Cassius Price (Sr.). Riverside, QB Michael Gallup (6-0, 160 Fr.), RB Justin Martin (6-1, 175 Fr.), OL/DL Kameron Clingman (6-0, 280 Sr.).
Outlook: Despite playing three games already, the Eagles enter tonight’s game with plenty of unanswered questions.
Atop that list is what to do about an offense that has only scored 10 points in its first three games of the season. The Eagles had a season-low 79 yards of total offense last week against Banks County. While some of that is due to the Leopards’ defense, accounting for only 55 yards rushing and 24 yards passing in a game does not bode well for Riverside heading into tonight’s match up with Landmark Christian.
Despite the 1-1 record, the War Eagles have had solid showings in both contests this year including the Week 1 loss to Aquinas when Barnett threw for more than 300 yards, Nobles had eight catches for more than 150 yards and running back Jake McCurry amassed more than 100 yards from scrimmage. That type of versatility on offense can cause some problems for Riverside, which surrendered 164 yards rushing to Banks County’s Dylan Lackey last week.
To get a win tonight, the Eagles will need strong outings from Gallup and Martin, who has been shut down after his 108-yard performance against Pinecrest Academy to open the season.
These two teams haven’t played each other since 1993 when Landmark, which is 2-0 against Riverside, defeated the Eagles 35-14.
Prediction: LANDMARK CHRISTIAN. The War Eagles’ balanced attack will be too much for the young Eagles to handle.
White County at West Hall
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Spartan Field
Coaches: White County, Gregg Segraves. West Hall, Mike Newton
Records: White County (1-1, 0-0 Region 8A-AAA); West Hall (2-0 0-0 Region 8B-AAA)
Key players: White County, RB/DB Ashely Lowery (6-2, 205 Sr.), QB Cole Segraves (6-4, 200 So.), DL Adam Hooper (6-0, 265 Sr.). West Hall, QB Shunquez Stephens (6-4, 240 Sr.), WR Brandon Fuqua (5-10, 170 Sr.), RB Dre Pou (5-10, 175 Sr.).
Outlook: You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of Oakwood who thought the Spartans would be 2-0 entering tonight’s game. But based on how they’ve looked so far, it’s not hard to imagine a 3-0 start for a team that went winless last year.
Clearly the Spartans have put the 2009 season behind them, and they enter tonight averaging 304.5 yards per game, which is fourth best in the area. Leading the hot start is Stephens, who is completing 64 percent of his passes and has accounted for 544 yards in just two games. Last week against Chestatee, Stephens threw for 154 yards and three touchdowns, all to Fuqua, who is emerging as his favorite target.
Equally as impressive as Stephens has been the play of White County’s sophomore signal caller Segraves, who had 188 yards passing and two touchdowns in a loss to Gainesville last week. Like Stephens, Segraves can also move the Warriors down the field using his legs, and White County calls several plays that utilize his 6-4 frame in the running game.
Of course, the Warriors’ rushing attack is focused on Lowery, who was held to a season-low 12 yards last week, but is likely to crush that total against a defense that gave up 154 yards on the ground last Friday.
White County enters tonight’s game with a four game win streak over the Spartans.
Prediction: WHITE COUNTY. The Warriors rebound from a loss to Gainesville with a big road win.
Westminster at Buford
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
Coaches: Westminster, Gerry Romberg; Buford, Jess Simpson
Records: Westminster (1-1, 0-0 6B-AA); Buford (1-1, 0-0 6A-AA)
Key players: Westminster, RB Ralph David Abernathy IV (5-6, 155 Sr.), LB Dallis Joiner (6-0, 192 Sr.), QB William Lingenfelter (6-0, 155 Sr.). Buford, QB Alex Ross (6-2, 198 Sr.), RB Seon Jones (5-9, 178 Sr.), FB/LB Nathan Staub (6-3, 214 Jr.).
Outlook: If there’s anybody who knows how Jess Simpson feels, it’s Gerry Romberg.
Both coaches led their teams to victory over a top 10 Class AAA team in Week 1, only to watch the schedule get more difficult from there. No. 2 Buford, the three-time defending state champ of Class AA, fell to the new No. 1 Carver-Columbus, 14-0, last week. No. 10 Westminster was shut down by Class AAA’s No. 6 Carrollton.
This will be the second week in a row the Wolves’ defense gets tested by one of the best running backs in the state.
The unit did a good job of keeping Carver’s Isaiah Crowell under wraps in the first half last week, but he busted loose in the final two quarters, rushing for 155 of his 190 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown run.
Abernathy, Westminster’s 5-foot-6 speedster, found little running room last week, totaling 24 yards on five carries as Carrollton outscored the Wildcats 22-0 in the second half.
Prediction: BUFORD. It’s still Buford we’re talking about here, the team that hasn’t lost consecutive games since 1998 — when this year’s senior class was in kindergarten.
Dawson County at Jefferson
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; Jefferson, T. McFerrin
Records: Dawson County (0-2, 0-0 Region 8A-AA); Jefferson (1-1, 0-0 8B-AA)
Key players: Dawson County, OL/DL Zach Johnson (6-3, 300 Sr.), ATH Ethan Brown (6-0, 175 Sr.), RB Eian Perry (5-6, 15 Sr.); Jefferson, FB/DE Zach Allen (6-1, 230 Sr.), TE/DE Hoytes Damons (6-2, 240 Sr.), OG/DT Cody Berryman (5-10, 240, Sr.).
Outlook: Dawson County is coming off a 35-0 loss to Elbert County, while Jefferson lost 24-21 to North Hall.
The Tigers have had limited success in the run game thus far, with Zach Martin leading the way with 54 yards on 17 carries. Eian Perry has 42 yards on 15 carries. The Tigers have no rushing touchdowns this season.
Dawson County quarterback Tyler Dominy has thrown for the Tigers’ only two touchdowns on the season and has completed 25 of his 43 passes for 267 yards, but he also has three interceptions and has been sacked four times. Ethan Brown has eight catches for 123 yards and Bruce Clark has nine for 103 and each have caught a touchdown.
The Tigers are a balanced team, though Dominy has more pass attempts than Dawson County has rushing attempts (40).
The Dragons are led in rushing by Chris Jackson, who has 72 yards on nine carries. Bryant Sherrifs (43 rushing yards) and Zach Allen (37) each have rushed for a touchdown.
Sherrifs has completed 23 of his 34 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns and has one interception. Cole Givens has six receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns, while Hoytes Damons has eight catches for 99 yards.
Prediction: JEFFERSON. Dawson County has struggled in each of the last four seasons and have shown no indication that will change this year while Jefferson has enjoyed success and lost close match last week to North Hall.
Jackson County at Fannin County
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Rebel Stadium, Blue Ridge
Coaches: Jackson County, Billy Kirk. Fannin County, Clark Drennan
Records: Jackson County (2-0, 0-0 Region 8B-AA); Fannin County (2-0, 0-0 Region 8A-AA)
Key players: Jackson County, LB Kelly Moates (5-11, 190 Sr.), ATH Alex Crawford (5-8, 140 Sr.), QB Jalen Banks (6-1, 175 Jr.). Fannin County, QB Trevor Stone (Fr.), WR Ryan Nix (Sr.), RB Garrison Kreis (Sr.).
Outlook: Both the Panthers and Rebels have a strong need to win the first region game of the season. Jackson County is in the stronger subregion, and any region win is going to be necessary if they want to have a shot at the playoffs. Fannin County’s subregion is wide open and a single win could prove the difference between being in a play-in game or being at home come November.
Both of the Panthers wins so far this season have come against Class AAA opponents, but neither Johnson or Walnut Grove has won a game and neither seems likely to have a shot at any postseason play. Similarly, Fannin County has played two Class AAA teams, Gilmer and Pickens, but the Rebels have only one win.
For Jackson County to move to 3-0 on the young season, they’ll have to use their superior athletic ability to overcome a stout Rebels defense which is built to stop the run. If the Panthers can get their passing game going, as Kirk likes to do, they should be able to move the ball and keep its defense rested and off the field.
Prediction: JACKSON COUNTY. With speed on their side, the Panthers offense will overcome a defense based on strength.
North Oconee at Commerce
When: 8 tonight
Where: Commerce Tiger Stadium, Commerce
Coaches: North Oconee, Terry Tuley; Commerce, Steve Savage
Records: North Oconee (1-0, 0-0 8-AA); Commerce (0-2, 0-0 8-A)
Key players: North Oconee, RB/DB Lane Thompson (5-9, 172 Sr.), FB/LB Russ Williams (6-3, 215 Sr.), C Dillan Prather (6-1, 280 Sr.). Commerce, QB Cody Streetman (6-0, 185 Jr.), LB Tyler Adams (5-10, 185 Sr.), LB Josh Swistak (5-9, 190 Jr.).
Outlook: After back-to-back heartbreaking losses against teams from larger classifications and the first 0-2 start since 1994, Commerce is probably ready to pick on somebody its own size. That opportunity, however, won’t come until next week.
The Tigers will be visited this week by North Oconee, a second-round participant in the Class AA playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Each of Commerce’s opponents thus far played in the 2009 postseason: The Tigers fell 17-14 to rival Jefferson in Week 1, and a furious second-half rally fell short in a 31-28 loss to Class AAA Franklin County last week.
Streetman has been a steadying force for Commerce, rushing for 288 yards and five scores through two games. The Tigers, however, struggled defensively against Franklin County’s triple option, surrendering a total of 410 yards.
The Titans were off last week after rolling up nearly 300 rushing yards in a Week 1 win over Arabia Mountain. Thompson and Williams combined for 167 of those yards.
Prediction: COMMERCE. The Tigers haven’t started a season 0-3 since 1992 and after two tough foes, should be prepared for the Titans.
East Jackson at Banks County
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Leopard Stadium, Homer
Coaches: East Jackson, Frank Caputo; Banks County, Blair Armstrong
Records: East Jackson (0-2, 0-0 8B-AA); Banks County (2-0, 0-0 8A-AA)
Key players: East Jackson, QB/DB Cody Gibbs (6-2, 170 Sr.), RB C.J. Allen (5-8, 170 Jr.), C Parker Wilson (5-11, 230 Sr.). Banks County, RB Dylan Lackey (5-10, 175 Sr.), RB/LB Jeremy Greenway (5-9, 185 Sr.), OL/LB Matthew Patton (6-0, 225, Sr.).
Outlook: These two teams may not be as far apart in talent as their records suggest.
East Jackson stepped up in classification, taking on a pair of Class AAA teams to open the season, and paid for it with a pair of losses via late touchdowns. Banks County, meanwhile, rolled over two Class A opponents, Social Circle and Riverside, by a combined score of 58-17.
The return of Lackey has been key to the Leopards’ strong start. After missing most of last season due to injury, the senior leads the area in rushing through two weeks with 309 yards (7.8 per carry). Greenway, Patton and Jameson Flynn are the leaders of the Leopards defense, which held Riverside to 76 yards of total offense last week.
The Eagles should pose a greater challenge, but they struggled to get on track last week against Oconee County, finishing with 177 yards of offense.
Prediction: EAST JACKSON. The Eagles have been toughened by close games against good teams; that proves the difference in a possible 8-AA playoff preview.
Habersham Central at Salem
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Evans/Reid Stadium, Conyers
Coaches: Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham; Salem, John Starr
Records: Habersham Central (0-2, 0-2 Region 8-AAAA), Salem (1-1, 1-1 Region 8-AAAA)
Key players: Habersham Central, QB Kevin Ellison (6-0, 175 Jr.), RB David Griffin (6-0, 180 Sr.), LB Tyler Stinespring (6-1, 185 Sr.). Salem, RB Jahadd Coleman (Jr.), DL Eric Jones (Sr.), QB Jarett Brown (Sr.).
Outlook: A region win is desperately needed by Habersham Central, who is 0-2 and in last place.
One thing is clear, if the Raiders want to get the first win of the season, they’ll have to put more points on the board. The Raiders have been outscored 53-10 in the first two games of 2010 and that kind of offensive output is not making it easier to improve on a 4-6 mark in 2009.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders gave up 35 points to Apalachee in the season opener, and then 18 last week against Cedar Shoals. With an offense that seems to be seeking its way, the defense must make plays to keep Salem in reach. In Cunningham’s 3-4 defense, the linebacker corps is expected to be quick to the ball, make tackles and force turnovers. Whether or not Habersham can bring a win home from Conyers will depend on how well Cunningham and company can accomplish those goals.
There is reason to hope for Habersham Central; the Raiders’ opponents so far this season have a winning record (2-1) compared to the losing record that Salem opponents have (1-3). If quality of opponent means anything, then perhaps the Raiders will have the edge over the Seminoles.
Prediction: SALEM. The Seminoles ability to run the ball and control the clock will keep the Habersham Central defense on the field and Raiders’ points off the board.
Towns County at Copper Basin (Tenn.)
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Cougar Field, Copper Basin, Tenn.
Coaches: Towns County, Kyle Langford; Copper Basin, Tim Kidd
Records: Towns County (0-2, 0-0 Region 8A-A); Copper Basin (3-0, 0-0 Tenn. 5-AA)
Key players: Towns County, RB Noah Calhoun (5-10, 170 Jr.), WR/DB Billy Meier (5-7, 180 Sr.), OL/DL Dylen Nelson (5-11, 305 Sr.). Copper Basin, QB Eric Sisson (Sr.), RB Dylan Boggs (So.), RB Austin Dickey (Sr.).
Outlook: Towns County has given up 49 points through two losses this season, while Copper Basin has scored 133 points through its first three wins. The comparison makes the biggest question of the game obvious: can the experience of the Towns County defense keep the score close enough for the speed of Calhoun to win out late? If the Indians can stay within striking distance, a big play could be enough to notch their first win of the season.
Prediction: COPPER BASIN. The Indians have too many two-way players to withstand a prolonged drive at the hands of the Cougars’ running offense and then step on the field and lead the offense into the end zone.
Hart County at Union County
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville
Coaches: Hart County, Joby Scroggs; Union County, Brian Allison
Records: Hart County (0-1-1, 0-0 Region 8B-AA); Union County (1-1, 0-0 Region 8A-AA)
Key players: Hart County, RB/LB Stephon Eades (6-0, 195 Jr.), QB Landon Beck (6-2, 205 Sr.), WR John Vollrath (6-1, 165 Sr.). Union County, QB/RB Jessie Wright (6-1, 180 Sr.), WR/LB Tyler Thomas (6-1, 205 Sr.), QB T Bentley (6-0, 180 So.).
Outlook: No one has to explain the importance of ball security to the Bulldogs or Panthers.
Hart County turned the ball over twice in the last four minutes of last week’s 21-20 loss to Stephens County, and Union County found itself buried when Lumpkin County returned two first-quarter fumbles for scores.
Hart County entered the season as one of the favorites in the realigned 8-AA and ranked No. 10 in the state. But the Bulldogs haven’t been able to notch a win through two weeks (their opening game ended in a lightning-shortened tie with Franklin County). Tonight will be their first game against a Class AA foe.
The Panthers seem to have found suitable replacements for Blake Gowder and Kolt Owenby, who accounted for most of the team’s offense the last two seasons. Wright and Bentley split reps at quarterback in Allison’s pass-heavy spread offense.
Hart County hasn’t been tested much through the air, but opponents have found room to run. Franklin County’s triple-option chewed up 129 rushing yards in one half in the opener, while Stephens County sophomore Chaz Thorton ran for 177 yards last week.
Prediction: HART COUNTY. The Bulldogs have gone toe-to-toe with 8-AAA playoff contenders, while the Panthers were overmatched against Lumpkin last week.