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HS football previews: Week 11
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Gainesville at Flowery Branch

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Falcon Field, Flowery Branch

Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; Flowery Branch, Chris Griffin

Records: Gainesville (7-2, 7-1 Region 8-AAAAA); Flowery Branch (5-4, 4-4)

Key players: Gainesville, QB Mikey Gonzalez (5-9, 165 Sr.); WR Messiah Dorsey (5-11, 180 Jr.); LB J.D. Sosebee (6-0, 220 Sr.). Flowery Branch, RB Jeremiah Goss (5-9, 200 So.); LB Cole Ford (6-0, 215 Sr.); LB/TE Zack Smith (5-11, 220 Sr.).

Outlook: While this year’s matchup of cross-county rivals lacks the same playoff implications it had in years past, it still means a whole lot to the players.

Traditionally a close game of Hall County’s two largest schools, the last time this game was decided by more than 10 points was the Red Elephants’ 49-17 win over the Falcons during the 2009 regular season.

Gainesville and Flowery Branch would meet just a month later that season in the Class AAA state semifinals, a 29-21 win for the Red Elephants at City Park Stadium.

This year, Gainesville is a lock for the second seed for the postseason behind region champion Lanier in 8-AAAAA. The Red Elephants will open the playoffs at City Park Stadium on Nov. 14.

Flowery Branch still has a slim chance of making the postseason. The Falcons have to beat the Red Elephants, along with a Salem loss to Cedar Shoals in order to make the postseason. Flowery Branch has the head-to-head tiebreaker against Salem after a late fourth-quarter touchdown and 7-6 win on Oct. 31 in Conyers.

Gonzalez has had a remarkable senior year for the Red Elephants, throwing for 2,206 yards and 25 touchdowns. Dorsey, Rodney Lackey and Chris Williamson are all over 500 receiving yards for the Red Elephants’ offense.

For Gainesville, Sosebee is one of the area’s leading defenders with 108 tackles from his linebacker spot. Kash Jones and Jamel Dabney each have 70 tackles for the Red Elephants.

Ford leads an improved Falcons defense with 77 stops, while Smith has 62 tackles.

Goss leads Flowery Branch’s offensive attack, rushing for 839 yards and seven scores, while Jasen Johnson has 538 yards and five touchdowns rushing.

Jefferson at Hart County

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Pete Herndon Stadium, Hartwell

Coaches: Jefferson, Ben Hall; Hart County, William DeVane

Records: Jefferson (9-0, 5-0 Region 8-AAA); Hart County (9-0, 5-0)

Key players: Jefferson, QB Evan Shirreffs (6-4, 195 Sr.); RB Sammy Williams (5-6, 165 Sr.); DB Tradd Porter (6-0, 180 Sr.). Hart County, QB Cameron Fouch (6-0, 180 Sr.); WR Anthony Turner (6-4, 200 Jr.); RB/DB Keenan Dillon (5-7, 175 Sr.).

Outlook: Even with an undefeated record, the fourth-ranked Dragons have to win in order to lock up the region championship Friday night.

If the seventh-ranked Bulldogs win, they go into the postseason as region champion and the No. 1 seed. Jefferson and Hart County have already locked up the top two postseason spots in 8-AAA, and will both open the postseason playing in their respective home stadiums on Nov. 14.

Jefferson’s offense is steered by Shirreffs with 1,841 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. Dalton Hill is the Dragons’ leading receiver with 33 catches for 841 yards, while Skelton has 30 catches for 625 yards. Williams has taken control of Jefferson’s running attack with 1,015 yards and 15 scores.

Jefferson has only played Hart County twice previously. The Dragons won the last meeting 57-29 in 2011.

For Hart County, Fouch has completed 64 percent of his throws for 1,998 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Bulldogs have a relatively balanced offensive attack, rushing for 1,752 yards and passing for 2,031.

The rangy Turner is Hart County’s leading receiver with 27 catches for 557 yards and six touchdowns. Dillon is its leading rusher with 489 yards and seven touchdowns.

White County at North Hall

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: The Brickyard, Gainesville

Coaches: White County, Bill Ballard; North Hall, David Bishop

Records: White County (5-4, 3-3 Region 8-AAAA); North Hall (2-7, 2-4 Region 8-AAAA)

Key players: White County, RB/CB Maurice Sutton (6-0, 190 Sr.); RB/LB Sam Turner (5-11, 205 Sr.); DE/WR/TE Tucker Cook (6-3, 195 Sr.). North Hall, QB/DB Drew Atha (5-11, 170 Jr.); RB/DB Maddox Turner (So.); DB/WR Sam Jackson (5-11, 150 Jr.).

Outlook: The Warriors’ consecutive victories against Chestatee and Monroe Area have put them on the verge of making the postseason as Region 8-AAAA’s No. 4 seed. Now a win against North Hall or a Madison County loss to North Oconee would likely punch their playoff ticket.

Meanwhile, the Trojans have earned victories against Monroe Area and Chestatee to rebound from an 0-7 start and are looking to make it a three-game winning streak heading into the offseason.

Atha had an interception, threw for 92 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 47 yards and another score in last week’s rivalry triumph against the War Eagles.

The Warriors have hit the 50-point mark in consecutive games, but they’re allowing 29.4 points per contest.

Banks County at East Hall

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: East Hall Stadium, Gainesville

Coaches: Banks County, Biff Parson; East Hall, Bryan Gray

Records: Banks County (5-4, 2-3 Region 7-AAA); East Hall (5-4, 3-2)

Key players: Banks County, WR/CB Zez Steeple (5-9, 145 Jr.); RB/QB/LB Trevae Cain (Jr.); QB/FS Griffin Goodwin (So.). East Hall, East Hall, QB/DB Devin Watson (5-11, 181); WR/P Junior Lee (6-0, 205 Sr.); MLB/TE Ronnie Peebles (5-11, 190).

Outlook: East Hall is in line for its first playoff appearance since 2005, regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game.

However, the Vikings would like to win to make it a No. 3 postseason seed, to avoid the Region 8-AAA champion (winner of tonight’s Jefferson vs. Hart County game) in the opening round of the postseason on Nov. 14.

The senior quarterback Watson has been the catalyst for the Vikings, throwing for 1,558 yards and 13 throwing touchdowns, while rushing for another 646 yards. Two weeks ago, Watson had four touchdowns in a region win against Franklin County.

Watson spreads out his throws between Junior Lee (19 catches, 397 yards), Rex Purgason (31 catches, 357 yards) and Jacquen Hopkins (24 catches for 211 yards), among others. Jacques Ash is East Hall’s leading rusher with 118 carries for 669 yards and seven touchdowns.

Ronnie Peebles is East Hall’s top tackler with 62 stops and has forced three fumbles.

Banks County, which is coming off a 23-7 loss against West Hall, is in the running with Fannin County (4-5, 2-3) for the final playoff spot from the region.

Buford at Stephens County

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: The Reservation, Toccoa

Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Stephens County, Frank Barden

Records: Buford (9-0, 6-0 Region 8-AAAA); Stephens County (7-2, 5-1)

Key players: Buford, RB/LB Joshua Thomas (5-11, 200 Sr.); TE Isaac Nauta (6-4, 240 Jr.); WR/DB David Curry (6-0, 195 Sr.). Stephens County, QB Mason Long (6-0, 185 Sr.); RB/OLB Desmond Wheeler (5-9, 210 Sr.); WR Isaiah Mighell (6-4, 165 Sr.).

Outlook: The Indians have become a region contender in Barden’s first season as coach.

Top-ranked Buford can take the Region 8-AAAA title outright with a win, while a loss would likely leave the Wolves in a three-way tie for first with Stephens County and North Oconee.

The Indians saw their six-game winning streak snapped last week in a 21-14 overtime loss to North Oconee, a team the Wolves defeated 58-3 a week earlier.

Buford, meanwhile, has outscored region opponents 305-32. The Wolves have hit the 50-point mark five times overall this season while also shutting out four opponents. Wolves opponents are averaging a mere 5.8 points and 42 rushing yards per contest.

Stephens County has scored at least 30 points seven times, including hitting the 40-point mark in three games.

Long has thrown for 1,280 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for another 531 yards and eight touchdowns.

Wheeler has rushed for 1,045 yards and 14 touchdowns, and Mighell has tallied 717 yards and 11 touchdowns receiving.

Union County vs. Washington-Wilkes

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Mike Colwell Stadium, Blairsville

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Washington-Wilkes, Robby Robinson

Records: Union County (8-1, 4-1 Region 8-AA); Washington-Wilkes (6-3, 3-2)

Key players: Union County, QB Joseph Mancuso (6-4, 200 Jr.); LB Chase Barnett (5-9, 200 Sr.); WR/LB Jacob Rogers (6-2, 185 Sr.). Washington-Wilkes, RB Jaquavious Blackburn (5-8, 180 Jr.); WR Tyrique Pender (6-2, 180 Jr.); DB D.J. Binns (6-1, 185 Sr.).

Outlook: The Panthers have just about as much riding on tonight’s outcome as any team in Northeast Georgia. With a win, the Panthers could finish in a possible three-way tie with Greene County and Rabun County for No. 1.

In that case, according to Allison, the region’s No. 1 spot would then be determined by a points system. Rabun County owns the head-to-head advantage against Union County after a 45-31 win Oct. 17. Rabun County plays host to Greene County tonight in Tiger.

For Union County, Mancuso continues to be one of the state’s top passers. He’s completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,345 yards with 29 touchdowns and only two interceptions. According to Allison, Mancuso is receiving heavy Division I attention, with interest from schools including Missouri, Auburn, Navy and California.

Rogers is the Panthers’ top receiving threat with 38 catches for 709 yards and 13 touchdowns. Robert Prunier has 37 receptions for 560 yards and seven scores.

On defense, Union County is paced by the talented Barnett, who has 137 tackles and eight tackles for a loss.

Washington-Wilkes has already secured a playoff spot and will likely go into the postseason as the fourth seed. It lost head-to-head matchups in region play to Greene County and Rabun County.

Washington-Wilkes has won all three previous meetings against Union County, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, including wins in 2012 and 2013.

Johnson at Dawson County

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville

Coaches: Johnson, Jason Roquemore; Dawson County, Jeff Lee

Records: Johnson (2-7); Dawson County (1-8)

Key players: Johnson, OL/DL Donyae Brown (5-11, 220 Sr.); OL/DL Eli Vasquez (5-10, 240 Jr.); WR/DB Orion Pittman (6-0, 170 Jr.). Dawson County, QB Zack Buchan (6-2, 180 Sr.); OL Corbin Thomas (5-9, 260 Sr.); WR Dalton Edwards (6-0, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: A win at Tiger Stadium will give Johnson its third win of the season, one more than last year. Dawson County, long since eliminated from postseason contention, will hope to finish the season off strong and win its first home game since November 2013.

Johnson has put up spirited displays against East Hall and Franklin County in the past two weeks, losing by just a point against the Lions at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.

Chestatee at Monroe Area

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Legion Field, Monroe

Coaches: Chestatee, Bill Forman; Monroe Area, Joey Sulkowski

Records: Chestatee (1-8, 0-6 Region 8-AAAA); Monroe Area (0-9, 0-6)

Key players: Chestatee, RB/LB Kris Pierce (5-8, 210 Sr.); RB/LB Tray Bryant (6-2, 210 Sr.); RB/WR/DE A.J. Sijiye (6-2, 195 Sr.). Monroe Area, QB Jacob Olson (6-1, 180 Sr.); RB C.J. Winding (5-9, 175 Jr.); WR/DB Alfred King (5-10, 170 Jr.).

Outlook: The War Eagles managed 17 points against North Hall in a losing effort last week, but must regroup to face a Monroe Area team who hasn’t won since November 2013.
Sijiye, who threw for one touchdown and ran for another for Chestatee last week, is the main rushing threat for Forman’s team as it enters the final week.
The Purple Hurricanes gave up 51 points to White County on Halloween night, the second time in three weeks that they’ve given up at least 50 points.

Lakeview Academy at Commerce

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Ray Lamb Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn; Commerce, Michael Brown

Records: Lakeview Academy (3-6, 3-4 Region 8-A); Commerce (7-2, 6-1)

Key players: Lakeview Academy, RB/CB/KR Tae Turner (5-10, 175 Jr.); QB/DB David Abee (6-1, 170 Sr.); WR Thaddeus Webb (6-3, 190 Jr.). Commerce, FB/OLB Will Thomas (6-0, 210 So.); RB/CB Grant Mayberry (Sr.); RB/FS Cole Chancey (So.).

Outlook: The Tigers are in line for a high seed as the No. 5 public school team in this week’s state Class A power rankings, thanks in large part to a relentless ground game.

Commerce tallied 392 rushing yards last week in a 42-0 win against George Walton Academy, bringing its season average to 293.1 yards through nine games. The Tigers have outscored opponents 149-10 in their current three-game winning streak.

Mayberry (598 yards, 6 TDs), Thomas (572 yards, 5 TDs), Chancey (557 yards, 5 TDs) and quarterback Caleb Brooks (432 yards, 7 TDs) give Commerce a quartet of 400-yard rushers.

Lakeview, meanwhile, totaled 10 points in the past two weeks against Athens Christian and Providence Christian, the two teams tied with Commerce for the best region record in 8-A (6-1). Prior to that, the Lions won three of four games in the middle of the season.

Riverside Military Academy at Social Circle

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Redskin Stadium at Stephens Park, Social Circle

Coaches: Riverside Military Academy, Gary Downs; Social Circle, Chad Estes

Records: Riverside Military Academy (2-7, 1-4 Region 8-AA); Social Circle (0-9, 0-5)

Key players: Riverside Military Academy, LB Cole Garcia (6-2, 230 Sr.); TE/DE Avery Cagle (6-4, 220 Sr.); WR/LB Chris Howard (6-2, 215 Sr.). Social Circle, QB/FS Stevie Howard (5-9, 140 So.); RB/DB Jeremy Elder (5-11, 167 Sr.); LB Jimmy Haynes (5-11, 220 Sr.).

Outlook: Riverside will need to air it out against Social Circle in order to pick up its third win of the season. The Eagles have lost their past two games, and seven of their last eight.

But sophomore quarterback Hunter Sims has found success throwing the ball to leading receiver Christopher Howard (18 receptions, 323 yards) who has reached the end zone four times this season.

Six different rushers have scored a touchdown throughout the season, but Sims has been more accurate reaching his corps of receivers, including Cagle (11 receptions, 146 yards) and JeJuan McCalston (10 receptions, 150 yards).

Jackson County vs. Morgan County

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Panthers Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Jackson County, Benji Harrison; Morgan County, Bill Malone

Records: Jackson County (2-7, 1-4 Region 8-AAA); Morgan County (3-6, 1-4)

Key players: Jackson County, QB Jacob Lewis (6-1, 180 Sr.); RB Malik Tuck (Jr.); WR Chase Wester (5-11, 175 Jr.). Morgan County, DE/TE MJ Webb (6-4, 260 So.); DT Tevin Waller (6-1, 280 Sr); RB/WR/DB Bancs Bowers (6-1, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: Both programs are already eliminated from playoff contention. For Jackson County, Lewis is leading the way with 1,656 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. Tuck is the Panthers’ leading rusher with 89 carries for 447 yards. Junior Griffin McElvery has had an excellent season at linebacker with 119 tackles and a sack for Jackson County.

Habersham Central vs. Chattahoochee

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Raider Stadium, Mt. Airy

Coaches: Chattahoochee, Vince Strine; Habersham Central, Michael Pollock

Records: Chattahoochee (2-7, 2-6 Region 6-AAAAAA); Habersham Central (1-8, 1-7)

Key players: Chattahoochee, QB Chase Owens (5-11, 155 So.); RB/FS Blake Hundley (5-8, 180 Jr.); K/P Andrew Gray (6-0, 150 Sr.). Habersham Central, QB/DB Bennett Black (6-1, 185 Sr.); RB Michael Babers (5-11, 201 So.); WR/CB Mason Kinsey (5-11, 170 Jr.).

Outlook: The Raiders scored a decisive breakthrough in last week’s 32-7 defeat of North Forsyth, recording their first win since October 2012. This week, Habersham Central will take on a team that has lost six of its past seven games.

Babers totaled 104 yards and three touchdowns rushing in the Raiders’ victory, with Black throwing for 144 yards and a touchdown. Kinsey had two receptions for 82 yards and a score last week and is up to 19 catches for 462 yards and three touchdowns for the year.

After scoring 51 total points in its first five region games, Habersham Central has tallied 85 over the past three weeks.

Regional events