Friday night, a number of area football teams did more than just grab another win, they took a step forward as a program.
Lakeview Academy (6-2) put an exclamation point on its best season in program history with a 34-0 win over Towns County to finish the Lions’ first-ever winning season. The wins record may not last too long if the team continues on this trajectory though, as Lakeview Academy coach Matthew Gruhn said he would like to get back to a region schedule — and a full 10-game season — after next season if the number of players in the program remains high.
While Jackson County (6-3, 4-2 8-AAA) still has a regular season game remaining, the players are already assured of at least two more games after clinching the program’s first state playoff berth since 1992 with Friday night’s 33-28 victory over Elbert County. The Panthers finish the regular season next Friday against Morgan County in Madison.
Two more area teams with rich histories of success returned to prominence by wrapping up region titles Friday.
North Hall (8-1, 6-0 7-AAA) clinched the program’s fourth region title and first since 2007 with a 42-7 win against Banks County on Friday at The Brickyard. The Trojans finish the regular season next Friday against preseason region favorite Buford (6-3, 4-2), which had to forfeit two region games for playing an academically ineligible player two weeks ago, allowing North Hall to clinch the No. 1 seed regardless of the outcome of Friday’s game at Tom Riden Stadium.
Jefferson (8-1, 6-0 8-AA), the only team to have beaten North Hall this season, wrapped up a region title, its first since 2009, with a 35-7 win over Riverside Military. The Dragons finish the regular season Friday in Jefferson against a Union County team (6-3, 3-3) fighting for a playoff spot.
AREA PLAYMAKERS KEEP IT UP: White County wide receiver Andrew Bergin has developed a reputation as a big play threat this season. Entering Friday’s game against West Hall, the senior had hauled in just 14 receptions throughout the season, but had already accumulated 451 yards and nine touchdowns, good for a 32.2 yards per catch average.
He further solidified his big-play reputation in the 42-7 win over West Hall when he hauled in a 56-yard touchdown catch, his 10th touchdown reception of the season.
While Bergin has become known for making the most of limited opportunities, Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson has been throwing pass after pass without any finding the hands of an opponent.
With his 18 of 23 performance passing the ball Friday against Loganville, Watson has now gone seven games without throwing an interception and has yet to throw a pick in Region 8-AAAAA play. Watson threw seven interceptions and five touchdowns in the first two games of the season against West Forsyth and Buford. Since then, the Clemson recruit has thrown the ball 164 times, compiled 1,864 yards and thrown 27 touchdown passes without recording another interception.
MUCH TO BE DECIDED: The final week of the regular season includes a number of important games, maybe none more so than Gainesville (7-2, 6-1) against Flowery Branch (7-2, 7-0) at Falcon Field.
Despite the Red Elephants loss to Loganville on Friday, they can still win a Region 8-AAAAA title with a win over the Hall County rival Falcons, who can clinch the program’s first No. 1 seed with a win over Gainesville.
And Johnson’s game may not have postseason implications, but the Knights (5-4) can secure their first winning season since 2004 with a win Friday over Heritage-Catoosa in Ringgold.