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High school football: Week 8 previews
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Game of the Week: Riverside Military vs. Union County

Rabun County at Jefferson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Rabun County, Lee Shaw; Jefferson, Ben Hall

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

Key Players: Rabun County, WR/DB Charlie Woerner (6-4, 205 So.); QB Wes Holcombe (6-0, 200 Sr.); WR/DB Alden Wright (6-3, 195 So.). Jefferson, QB Evan Shirreffs (6-3, 195 Jr.); RB Tristen Jackson (5-8, 190 Sr.); DL Tyler Bowen (5-10, 220 Sr.).

Outlook: One of the marquee matchups in Class AA for the entire state matches the fast-rising Wildcats against the defending state champion Dragons. The Wildcats are right in the race for the Region 8-AA title with a game against undefeated Washington-Wilkes on Oct. 18 in Washington. The Dragons need a win tonight to realistically stay in the chase for the region championship.

Rabun County is led by a balanced offensive attack, steered by the senior quarterback Holcombe (956 passing yards, 14 touchdowns). His main targets on the perimeter are Wright (21 catches, 328 yards), senior Jordan Oliver (15 catches, 234 yards) and the rangy Woerner with eight catches for 254 yards (32 yards per catch).

The Wildcats have rushed for 1,499 yards this season, led by Dan Dailey (430 yards) and Woerner (324).

For Jefferson, which is coming off a 21-14 loss to Washington-Wilkes, the quarterback Shirreffs has thrown for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Jackson is its leading rusher with 437 yards on the ground.

White County at Buford

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Coaches: White County, Bill Ballard; Buford, Jess Simpson

Records: White County (4-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA); Buford (5-0, 2-0)

Key Players: White County, RB/LB Dalton Whitfield (6-3, 230 Sr.); DB/WR Will Flowers (5-11, 180 Sr.); QB A.J. Vandiver (So.). Buford, LB Korie Rogers (6-2, 215 Sr.); DB/RB Thomas Wilson (5-11, 185 Sr.); RB/LB Joshua Thomas (6-0, 200 Jr.).

Outlook: Buford is clearly one of the best teams in the state yet again this season. Through their first five games, the Wolves have dominated, outscoring their competition 243-21.

In the past three weeks, the Wolves have yet to surrender a point, recording three consecutive 63-0 victories, including two in region play.

While the defense has been lights out, the Buford offensive attack features a variety of players capable of making plays. In a win over West Hall last week, eight different players scored touchdowns.

White County enters tonight’s game following a week off last Friday night.

The last time out for the Warriors, they shutout a powerful East Hall offensive attack, 6-0. The Warriors are 4-1 overall, with the lone loss coming at home to Blessed Trinity, a playoff team from a season ago.

The Warriors are 2-0 in region play and an upset win over Buford tonight will put them in the driver’s seat to secure one of the top three seeds at season’s end.

Salem at Gainesville

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: City Park Stadium, Gainesville

Coaches: Salem, John Starr; Gainesville, Bruce Miller

Records: Salem (2-4, 1-3 Region 8-AAAAA); Gainesville (5-1, 4-0)

Key Players: Salem, QB Jordan Holloman-Scott (6-0, 190 Sr.); DB Robert Baker (6-3, 190 Sr.); OL/DL Chris Jackson (5-8, 206 Jr.). Gainesville, QB Deshaun Watson (6-3, 195 Sr.); LB Devan Stringer (5-11, 195 Sr.); RB Michael Byrd (5-5, 150 Jr.).

Outlook: Gainesville wraps up a two-game home stand against a Salem team looking to end a two-game losing streak.

After this week, the Red Elephants won’t return to City Park until their Nov. 8 regular season finale against Flowery Branch. That game could end up deciding the region title, as it did last year. Gainesville also has a pair of crucial road games against Clarke Central and Loganville to look forward to in the coming weeks.

But the Red Elephants are proving that they’re not looking ahead to any opponents other than the one at hand.

Led by quarterback Deshaun Watson (1,865 passing yards, 23 TD), wide receiver Jay Gaudlock (696 receiving yards, 8 TD) and running back Michael Byrd (467 rushing yards, 7 TD), they have found an offensive groove their last four games with an average of 54 points per game over the span.

Gainesville’s defense has also been strong, averaging just 4.8 points per game in its last four outings. Junior linebacker J.D. Sosebee has amassed a team-high 75 tackles, with fellow linebacker and Appalachian State commit Devan Stringer not far behind with 61 stops.

Salem is coming off a 33-15 loss to Clarke Central last week and a loss to Flowery Branch the week before. The Seminoles had their best outing of the year on Sept. 20, when they smacked Winder-Barrow for 60 points, including 41 in the second half.

Flowery Branch at Winder-Barrow

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: W. Clair Harris Stadium, Winder

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Chris Griffin; Winder-Barrow, David Wagner

Records: Flowery Branch (4-2, 4-0 Region 8-AAAAA); Winder-Barrow (1-4, 0-3)

Key Players: Flowery Branch, QB Jackson McDonald (6-0, 180 Sr.); OL Andrew Miles (6-5, 280 Sr.); WR/KR A’lencio Graham (5-11, 175 Sr.). Winder-Barrow, S Bradyn Randall (6-2, 185 Jr.); WR Markesio Anderson (6-3, 210 Sr.); RB Chandon Sullivan (6-0, 180 Sr.)

Outlook: Flowery Branch appears to be improving week by week as they prepare for the final stretch of the regular season. The Falcons have won four straight, all in region play, and have outscored opponents 128-41 during the span.

Their trip to Winder-Barrow tonight serves as a final tune-up before they enter a four-week series against Heritage, Clarke Central and Gainesville, all of which are currently in position to make the playoffs.

Flowery Branch looks to continue its recent trend of scoring on big plays. The Falcons scored all of their 42 points against Apalachee last Friday in the first half. The offense accounted for 35 of those points, doing so in just 19 plays with an average of 15 yards per snap.

Winder-Barrow, once the owners of a 31-game losing streak that ended late last season, are currently on a four-game skid after falling to Heritage 23-13 last week.

Despite the loss, it was a defensive improvement for the Bulldoggs after giving up more than 60 points in back-to-back games.

Chestatee at Walnut Grove

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Walnut Grove High, Loganville

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; Walnut Grove, Ben Reaves

Records: Chestatee (4-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAA); Walnut Grove (1-4, 0-2)

Key Players: Chestatee, TE/DL Khalil Cantrell (5-10, 260 Sr.); RB Zac Cheshire (5-7, 140 Sr.); QB Wyatt Burgess (5-11, 155 Sr). Walnut Grove, QB/CB Isaiah Clark (Fr.); SS Triston Bell (6-0, 180 Jr.); OLB Scott Martin (6-0, 175 Jr.).

Outlook: Chestatee sits in a tie atop the Region 8-AAAA standings with Monroe Area after a 2-0 in-region start. Tonight, the War Eagles face a Walnut Grove team that is looking its first region win since 2011.

Chestatee is off to an impressive 4-1 start this season, with wins over Eastside (33-23) and Stephens County (17-0) in region play.

Last week, the War Eagles beat Johnson 48-7 in a game with no region implications.

Offensively, Cheshire has become the go-to back for the War Eagles this season. The senior has 582 yards on just 95 carries — an average of 6.13 yards per carry — with a team-best eight rushing touchdowns.

Blake Buffington and Tray Bryant each have three rushing scores this season for Chestatee.

Defensively, the War Eagles have allowed just seven points in their last two games, managing to shut out Stephens County in their last region contest.

Walnut Grove, meanwhile, is being outscored 176-89 this season, and has losses against Stephens County and Lumpkin County in region play.

Chestatee has won both previous matchups against Walnut Grove. Last season, the War Eagles routed the Warriors, 51-0, in Gainesville.

North Hall at Fannin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Rebel Stadium, Blue Ridge

Coaches: North Hall, Bob Christmas; Fannin County, Greg Chambers

Records: North Hall (5-0, 2-0 Region 7-AAA); Fannin County (1-4, 0-2)

Key Players: North Hall, QB/DB Andrew Smith (5-7, 150 Sr.); RB Zac Little (5-9, 190 Sr.); OL/DL Thomas Marchman (6-4, 260 Sr.). Fannin County, QB Trevor Stone (6-0, 205 Sr.); RB/DB Peyton Satterfield (5-11, 190 Sr.); OL/DL Joseph Sanders (6-3, 240 Sr.).

Outlook: Behind a tenacious running game, fourth-ranked North Hall has worked its way to the top of Region 7-AAA and is currently tied at 2-0 in region play with Buford and White County.

Little has emerged as the Trojans’ leading ball carrier with 461 yards (10 yards per carry) and four touchdowns, while Smith is close behind with 363 rushing yards and eight scores.

North Hall is coming off of a season-high 571 rushing yards in a 56-31 win against East Hall, and has over 2,000 combined rushing yards in just five games. The Trojans have gone over 400 yards on the ground in three games already in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Rebels have struggled mightily with a 35-point loss to White County and 42-point loss to West Hall in region play. Fannin County would need an upset win to keep any hopes of making the postseason alive with games against Buford, East Hall and Dawson County all remaining at the end of the regular season.

Fannin County’s lone win was against bordering Union County, 43-35, on Sept. 6.

Habersham Central at Meadowcreek

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Meadowcreek Community Stadium, Norcross

Coaches: Habersham Central, Michael Pollock; Meadowcreek, George Pugh

Records: Habersham Central (0-6, 0-4 Region 7-AAAAAA); Meadowcreek (0-5, 0-3)

Key Players: Habersham Central, RB Sydnee Mulligan (5-9, 192 Sr.); OL/WR Gunner Hedden (6-0 156 Sr.); RB/DB Brandon Moore (5-11, 160 Sr.). Meadowcreek, RB Ryan Moore (5-10, 194); LB Adeniyi Henderson-Harden (Sr.); WR Kortez Towles (6-1, 175).

Outlook: One team will earn its first victory of the season tonight in Norcross.

Habersham Central hasn’t won since it defeated Meadowcreek 31-12 in Mount Airy last season, a span of nine games.

Meadowcreek, meanwhile, is in the midst of a 54-game losing streak. The school’s last victory was Sept. 5, 2008, when it defeated Duluth 24-14. Prior to that, Meadowcreek lost its previous 49 contests, making the school’s record 1-94 since the start of the 2004 season.

So far this season, neither team has been able to muster much offensive production. The Raiders haven’t scored a touchdown in region play and have managed just two field goals in four games. The Mustangs have scored just three touchdowns through their first five games this season, and were shutout by Mill Creek 47-0 last week.

Tonight’s game is a reprieve for Habersham Central, which has played games against Collins Hill, Peachtree Ridge and Norcross in the past four weeks, with a game against top-ranked North Gwinnett set for next week.

Johnson vs. Clarkston

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: Clarkston, Gary Wansley; Johnson, Jason Roquemore

Records: Clarkston (1-4-1); Johnson (1-5)

Key Players: Clarkston, RB/CB Rooshambi Pacquette (5-8, 180 Sr.); CB Jayson Harrell (5-11, 180 So.); WR/FS Keith Love (6-3, 170 Sr.). Johnson, OL/DL Devan McClay (6-3, 245 Sr.); RB/DB Luis Hernandez (6-1, 185 Sr.); RB/DL Jesse Griggs (5-9, 210 Jr.)

Outlook: Johnson has a pristine opportunity to halt a four-game losing streak when it hosts Clarkson, another non-region team, in Oakwood.

Both teams have gone without a win for more than a month.

The Knights have spent the last two weeks battling local Hall County foes, and they haven’t fared well. They struggled against East Hall’s air-raid offense in a 54-14 loss on Sept. 20, then faced the polar opposite in Chestatee — a run-heavy triple-option offense — and ended up with the same outcome, falling 48-7.

Clarkston proves to be a better matchup for Johnson. The Angoras (the only school in the nation with that mascot) broke a two-game losing streak with a 14-14 tie against a winless Hapeville Charter team last Friday, and have just one win this season against Class A’s Strong Rock Christian.

The two teams met for the first time ever last season, with the Knights holding off Clarkston 31-27 at Hallford Stadium in Clarkston.

Cross Keys at  Lakeview Academy

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jock Horner Field, Gainesville

Coaches: Cross Keys, David Radford; Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn

Records: Cross Keys (1-5); Lakeview Academy (0-5)

Key players: Cross Keys, QB Oluwatomi Adedayo (Sr.); WR Sam McDade (Jr.); DB Patrick Huff (5-7, 180 Sr.). Lakeview Academy, QB Jackson Strickland (5-10, 160 Sr.); RB Drake Hollander (5-10, 170 Sr.); LB Patrick Avery (6-1, 210 Sr.).

Outlook: Cross Keys may have needed time to create a roster of experienced players, but in 2013, the Indians return a number of key players that have played closely with teams like Hebron Christian Academy.

Although the team still struggles, having won just five (including a forfeit win) games since Radford became head coach in 2008, the program is building and can pose a threat to a Lakeview Academy team that is in a rebuilding year after losing a large number of talented seniors from 2012.

Lakeview Academy has some of the pieces necessary to win, including an experienced core of seniors. Despite the strong nucleus of the team, the Lions have yet to find many ways to score this year and are still searching for a win. Cross Keys should be a close battle for Lakeview Academy, but it might be the game that allows the Lions to make plays and earn a victory.

Lumpkin County at Madison County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Red Raider Stadium, Danielsville

Coaches: Lumpkin County, Brad Waggoner; Madison County, Chris Smith

Records: Lumpkin County (1-4, 1-1 Region 8-AAAA), Madison County (2-3, 0-2 Region 8-AAAA)

Key players: Lumpkin County, QB Daniel McCrary (6-1, 175 Sr.); WR/DB Johnathan Gilreath (6-2, 190 Sr.); OL Caleb Stepp (6-1, 280 Sr.). Madison County, LB Dustin Howard (6-1, 210 Sr.); OLB/FB Trey Watkins (5-8, 180 Jr.); TE Beau Gentry (6-1, 170 Jr.).

Outlook: The Indians finally earned their first win of the season against Walnut Grove on Sept. 27 and had a bye week last week to reflect on the win and practice for another region matchup. McCrary and Gilreath began to connect for Lumpkin County, helping the team make plays they hadn’t been able to earlier in the season.

If this chemistry continues, the Indians have a strong chance to come away with a victory against the struggling Red Raiders.

Although Madison County is 2-3, its two wins come from non-region games, and after three consecutive losses, the Red Raiders could be struggling, giving Lumpkin County the advantage.

Commerce vs. Prince Avenue Christian

When: 8 tonight

Where: Tiger Field at Ray Lamb Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Commerce, Michael Brown; Prince Avenue, Jeff Herron

Records: Commerce (4-2, 2-0 Region 8-A); Prince Avenue (5-1, 2-0)

Key Players: Commerce, QB Drew Whitfield (5-9, 175 Sr.); RB/LB Chance McClure (6-1, 215 Sr.); WR/DB Jamir Walton (5-10, 175 Sr.). Prince Avenue, QB/LB Tyson Herron (6-1, 180 Jr.); TE/LB Christian Payne (6-1, 215 Jr.); OL/DL Robert Kraeling (6-8, 240 So.).

Outlook: Commerce is coming off a 22-21 overtime victory against Athens Christian, thanks to an overtime touchdown run from Chance McClure and his two-point conversion attempt to earn the win. The Tigers finished the night with 225 yards on the ground, led by a 79-yard effort from Caleb Brooks.

Walton leads Commerce for the season with 472 yards (4.7 yards per carry), followed by McClure (353 yards, three touchdowns).

McClure also has a team-high on defense with 45 stops.

No. 6 Prince Avenue has coasted through its first two region games with wins against Athens Christian and Athens Academy.