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High school notebook: White County closing in on subregion title
Gainesville clicking on offense
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White County needs just one win to end two years of frustration.

As a result of Friday night’s 21-14 victory over Stephens County, the Warriors (6-1, 3-0) sit alone atop Region 8A-AAA with two weeks left in subregion play. A win over Chestatee this week would clinch first place in subregion, a berth in the region title game and a spot in the state playoffs.

The Warriors, who are off to their best start since 1981, according to Georgia High School Football Historians Association archives, had winning records each of the last two years, but fell short of the postseason. Now, they’re at the doorstep of securing a berth thanks to hard-fought wins in three straight weeks over fellow subregion contenders Lumpkin County (21-14), North Hall (18-12) and Stephens County (21-14).

White County’s only loss this season came against No. 8 Gainesville on Sept. 3. As the Nov. 5 championship date draws nearer, a rematch between the two appears likely.

BIG RED FINDING A GROOVE: It’s not like Gainesville has struggled this season; it just had a lot to live up to.

The Red Elephants (6-1, 3-0 8B-AAA) cruised to back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons the last two seasons, winning almost always by laughable margins. The points have been somewhat tougher to come by this season — until the last three weeks, that is.

Gainesville won three of its first four, averaging a solid, if not spectacular, 24.5 points per game.

But in their last three wins, including Friday night’s 49-17 blowout of Class AAA’s ninth-ranked Monroe Area, the Red Elephants are scoring 50.7 per game.

They’re doing so by finding uses for a variety of resources, most prominently freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson and senior linebacker/running back A.J. Johnson.

Watson, who just recently turned 15, is one of the area’s leading quarterbacks with more than 1,200 passing yards, 10 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions. Johnson is a future Division-I linebacker committed to Tennessee, who doubles as a running threat in Gainesville’s version of the wildcat offense.

His three scores Friday night give him seven on the season.

Mix in healthy doses of running backs Markece Robertson and Devon Pierce, as well as receivers Michael Lorentz, Keyontra Harrison and Stephen Mason, and the Red Elephants are beginning to look like a force in Class AAA.

TRIBAL WARFARE: The Lumpkin County Indians (5-2, 2-1) and Stephens County Indians (5-2, 2-1) will battle this week in a crucial 8A-AAA game that could have far-reaching postseason implications.

The two tribes are tied for second in the North subregion standings, and second place is where teams in the North want to be.

Because while a third-place spot will get you into the region play-in games on Nov. 5, a second-place spot will most likely land an easier opponent.

In the 2 vs. 3 subregion crossover games that ultimately determine who’s in and who’s out of the playoffs, the third-place finisher from the North will most likely draw Monroe Area (6-1, 2-1).

Meanwhile, the second-place finisher will face either Oconee County, West Hall, Johnson or Walnut Grove.

All four teams are tied with 1-2 subregion records, and none have more than three wins through seven games.

FIGHTING FOR THIRD: While the jumble at third place in Region 8B-AAA may take the length of the season to sort out, the North Hall and Franklin County matchup this week will play a big role in determining 8A-AAA’s order.

The winner will enter final week of subregion play tied for third place with the loser of the Stephens County-Lumpkin County game.

Making matters more interesting — particularly if Lumpkin County wins this week — North Hall and Stephens County will play Oct. 29, just before the region play-in games.

MAKING A STAND: It seems the Flowery Branch defense has again tightened the reins.

After opening the season with back-to-back shutouts, the Falcons (7-0, 7-0 8-AAAA) were gashed for 560 rushing yards in a 52-35 win over defending region champ Apalachee.

But since then, the defense has grown increasingly stingy, culminating in Friday’s 31-7 win over Heritage in which the only touchdown Flowery Branch surrendered came off the offense — an incomplete lateral that was returned for a score.

In their four post-Apalachee games, the Falcons have limited opponents to 138.5 rushing yards per game, and in their last two games, that number shrinks to 93.

The sixth-ranked Falcons play at Loganville (5-2, 5-2) this week, while the anticipated matchup with No. 2 Clarke Central set for Nov. 5 still looms large.

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