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HS Football Previews: Week 1
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Gainesville at Grayson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Grayson High School, Loganville

Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; Grayson, Mickey Conn

Records: Gainesville (0-0); Grayson (0-0)

Key players: Gainesville, QB Mikey Gonzalez (5-9, 160 Sr.), LB J.D. Sosebee (6-0, 245 Sr.), WR Rodney Lackey (5-10, 165 Sr.). Grayson, RB Cameryn Brent (5-8, 190 Jr.); QB Chase Brice (6-3, 190 So.), WR Cedric Asseh (6-2, 180 Sr.).

Outlook: “Life after Deshaun,” as one Gainesville assistant coach dubbed it, officially begins tonight.
The Red Elephants will see their first regular-season action without longtime star quarterback Deshaun Watson — expected to play for Clemson on Saturday against Georgia — when they travel to Loganville to take on Grayson.

New starting quarterback Mikey Gonzalez and the Red Elephants offense looked sharp in a 47-21 scrimmage win against White County on Aug. 15, but Grayson is expected to present a much tougher test. The Rams’ 4-6 record last season was uncharacteristic for a program that won 10 or more games each year from 2007-’12, including the Class AAAAA state championship in 2011.

Even in a rebuilding year, Grayson’s defense allowed a modest 20 points per game in one of the toughest regions in the state, 8-AAAAAA.

On the other side of the ball, Gainesville’s defense will need to slow down Rams junior running back Cameryn Brent, who totaled 1,128 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in his first year as a starter.
The Rams also boast size and speed in the passing game, including 6-foot-2 senior wide receiver Cedric Asseh, a Miami (Ohio) commit.

East Hall at Wesleyan

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Wesleyan High School, Peachtree Corners

Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; Wesleyan, Franklin Pridgen

Records: East Hall (0-0), Wesleyan (1-0)

Key players: East Hall, QB/DB Devin Watson (5-11, 185 Sr.), DL Alan Silva (5-10, 240 Sr.), RB/WR Jacques Ash (5-11, 190 Sr.). Wesleyan, RB/DB Josh Garrard (5-9, 175 Jr.), LB Ollis Robinson (6-0, 200 Sr.)

Outlook: East Hall quarterback Devin Watson showed he already has good rapport with his receivers when he completed 14 of 23 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ scrimmage with Chestatee last week.

Wesleyan already has a regular season game under its belt, after defeating Class A opponent Walker 45-7 on Friday, but it will take more than that for the Wolves to convince skeptics that they are a markedly better team than the one that finished 2-9 last season.

Berkmar at Buford

When: 7:30 tonight 

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Berkmar, Jonathan Sanks

Records: Buford (1-0), Berkmar (0-1)

Key players: Buford, TE/DE Isaac Nauta (6-4, 244 Jr.), RB/LB Joshua Thomas (6-1, 208 Sr.), FB/LB Austin Smith (6-4, 225 Sr.). Berkmar, LB/RB Jamal Wise (5-11, 203 Sr.), QB Jadarrius Warner (6-3, 185 Sr.), DB Kevin Grier (5-10, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: Buford appears poised to extend Berkmar’s losing streak, while continuing its own winning streak.
The Patriots have dropped eight consecutive contests since starting the 2013 season 3-0. Berkmar totaled a mere 49 points over the final seven contests of the 2013 season, then fell to Newton 48-21 in the season opener last week.

Meanwhile, Buford hasn’t lost a game on the field since falling to Gainesville 19-15 on Sept. 7, 2012. The Wolves were later forced to forfeit a pair of contests from the 2012 season due to an ineligible player.

Officially, Buford’s winning steak stands at 26 games after a season-opening 17-0 victory over Trinity Christian Academy of Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday.

The Wolves offense averaged 47 points per game last season en route to breaking the state record for points in a single season. After being contained by Trinity last week, Buford’s scoring attack should get back up to speed tonight against a Berkmar defense that returns only four starters from last season.

Banks County at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Commerce High School, Commerce

Coaches: Banks County, Biff Parson; Commerce, Mike Brown

Records: Banks County (0-0), Commerce (0-0)

Key players: Banks, WR/DB Malcolm Mitchell (5-9, 165 Sr.), QB/RB Trevae Cain (6-0, 205 Jr.). Commerce, DL Derek Benoit (6-2, 240 Sr.), RB/DB Cole Chancey (5-10, 175 So.).
Outlook: Banks County is looking for its first victory since Oct. 19, 2012, while Commerce seeks to follow up on a 7-4 finish in 2013 — its best since going 7-5 in 2009.
Commerce will be aided by the return of nine starters on the defensive side of the ball. Though the Tigers only bring back four starters on offense, one of them is junior quarterback Caleb Brooks.

Jefferson at Winder-Barrow

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Winder-Barrow High, Winder

Coaches: Jefferson, Ben Hall; Winder-Barrow, Heath Webb

Records: Jefferson (1-0), Winder-Barrow (0-0)

Key players: Jefferson, QB Evan Shirreffs (6-5, 195 Sr.), DB Tradd Porter (6-0, 180 Sr.). Winder-Barrow, RB Cece Green (5-10, 185 Jr.), OL Joey Junius (6-1, 274 Sr.).

Outlook: Jefferson will be looking for a stronger challenge after dismantling Rabun County 50-14 last week, but Winder-Barrow will need to show significant improvement from 2013 in order to provide any kind of test.
The Bulldogs went 2-8 last season and were held to 14 or fewer points in seven of their 10 games.

Dawson County at Forsyth Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Forsyth Central High School, Cumming

Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; Forsyth Central, Shane Williamson

Records: Dawson County (0-0), Forsyth Central (0-0)

Key players: Dawson County, QB Zack Buchan (6-2, 180 Sr.), OL Corbin Thomas (5-9, 260 Sr.). Forsyth Central, QB Aubrey Blackman (5-10, 160 Jr.), TE Patrick Little (6-4, 185 Sr.)

Outlook: Despite going just 2-8 last season, Forsyth Central gave Dawson County a run for its money in their head-to-head meeting. Dawson County won the matchup 23-20 and brought back seven starters from that squad on each side of the ball this year, including quarterback Zack Buchan. The Tigers appear strong enough to pick up their third straight win over the Bulldogs.

Union County at Towns County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Towns County High School, Hiawassee

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Towns County, Bill Barnhart

Records: Union County (0-0); Towns County (0-0)

Key players: Union County, QB Joseph Mancuso (6-3, 195 Jr.), LB/RB Chase Barnett (5-11, 190 Sr.). Towns County, FB/DB Cruz Shook (5-9, 205 Sr.), OL/LB Kyle Davis (5-10, 210 Sr.).

Outlook: Towns County had a difficult time containing Union County’s spread offense in the Panthers’ 41-14 win last year.

That figures to be the case again this season.

Union County quarterback Joseph Mancuso (2,689 passing yards, 435 rushing yards, 33 total TDs) developed into one of the most prolic passers in the state over the course of the 2013 season and should be even more polished as a junior this year. He has his entire receiver corps from last year back in the fold, including senior Jacob Rogers, who hauled in 66 receptions for 1,044 receiving yards and 10 TDs.

The Indians finished strong last year with wins in four of their last five games, but continuity could be an issue. Bill Barnhart replaced Blair Harrison as coach in the offseason, becoming the Indians’ third in three years.

Habersham Central at Rabun County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Rabun County High, Clayton

Coaches: Habersham Central, Michael Pollock; Rabun County, Lee Shaw

Records: Habersham Central (0-0), Rabun County (0-1)

Key players: Habersham Central, QB Bennett Black (6-1, 185 Sr.), RB Michael Babers (5-10, 205 So.); Rabun County, RB/WR Charlie Woerner (6-5, 220 Jr.), QB Collin Grant (Sr.).

Outlook: As much as Rabun County needs to bounce back from a blowout loss to Jefferson last week, Habersham Central needs a positive start to the 2014 season even more.

The Raiders went 0-10 last season and are just 1-19 over the past two seasons.

As a Class AAAAAA school, Habersham Central has a numbers advantage over Class AA Rabun County, but the Wildcats are coming off a 2013 campaign in which they averaged 39 points per game and earned a spot in the state playoffs.

Madison County at Jackson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jackson County High, Jefferson

Coaches: Jackson County, Benji Harrison; Madison County, Chris Smith

Records: Jackson County (0-0), Madison County (1-0)

Key players: Jackson County, QB Jacob Lewis (6-1, 180 Sr.). WR/TE Adrian Parsons (6-4, 190 Sr.); Madison County, TE/DB Malik Freeman (6-0, 215 Sr.), QB/DB Cade Hancock (Sr.).

Outlook: Madison County got an early confidence boost with a dominant 31-3 victory over Johnson last week.
Jackson County’s offense, on the other hand, won’t be so easy to contain. Panthers quarterback Jacob Lewis passed for 2,579 yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior last year and added another 463 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

Although Lewis no longer has talented receiver Xavier Harper (Kennesaw State) to throw to, the Panthers’ aerial attack will test opposing defenses this season.

Riverside Military Academy at Fellowship Christian

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Fellowship Christian, Roswell

Coaches: Riverside Military, Gary Downs; Fellowship Christian, Al Morrell

Records: Riverside Military (0-0), Fellowship Christian (1-0)

Key players: Riverside Military, QB Hunter Sims (5-9, 185, So.), C/MLB Cole Garcia (6-2, 230), S/WR J.J. McCalston (6-0, 180, Sr.); Fellowship Christian, QB Shane Young (6-1, 190 Sr.), RB Andrew Minkert (So.)

Outlook: Give Paladins head coach Al Morrell credit for turning around a program that recorded three 2-8 seasons in the past four seasons before he came to Roswell in 2013. Now Fellowship Christian (5-5 in 2013) will hope to springboard its recent success into the chance to play playoff football for the first time since 2007.

A win over Riverside would give Fellowship Christian a solid start to a five-game home stretch, including three region games. Look for Riverside to tinker with their triple option offensive setup as they look to find what works before entering their first year in a competitive Region 8-AAAA.

Pickens at White County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: White County High, Cleveland

Coaches: Pickens, Chris Parker; White County, Bill Ballard

Records: Pickens (0-0), White County (0-0)

Key players: White County, CB Maurice Sutton (6-0, 195 Sr.), OL/TE Sean Freeman (6-1, 220 Sr.); Pickens QB Marcus Byrd (6-1, 199 Jr.)

Outlook: White County’s pass defense will face a serious test when Pickens and junior quarterback Marcus Byrd comes to Cleveland. The Warriors will rely on Sutton to minimize the damage through the air if they want to deal a non-region loss to the Dragons (6-4 in 2013).

Lakeview Academy at East Jackson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: East Jackson High School, Commerce

Coaches: Lakeview, Matthew Gruhn; East Jackson, Gary Hughes

Records: Lakeview (0-0); East Jackson (0-1)

Key players: Lakeview, QB/DB David Abee (6-1, 170, Sr.), OL/DL Kyle Larsen (6-1, 190), RB/DB/KR Tae Turner (5-10, 155, Jr.); East Jackson, QB/DB Cody Hardwick ( Jr.), RB Taylor Murphy (Sr.), LB Michael Seagraves (Sr.)

Outlook: This could be an up-for-grabs non-region contest as the Lions open their season and the Eagles play their second contest of the year. Lakeview will be looking for momentum early in the season as it jumps back into region play in the third game of 2014.

This could be a high-scoring battle if quarterback David Abee and running back Tae Turner are able to get the Lions going early. East Jackson surrendered at least 38 points, including a 66-spot, in a six-game stretch of a 1-9 campaign in 2013.

The Eagles are 1-20 since the start of the 2012 season.

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