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HS football previews: Week 12
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North Hall at Buford

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Coaches: North Hall, Bob Christmas; Buford, Jess Simpson

Records: North Hall (8-1, 6-0 Region 7-AAA); Buford (6-3, 4-2)

Key players: North Hall, RB/LB Kevin Christmas (5-8, 170 Sr.); RB T.J. Tate (5-8, 165 Sr.); RB/LB Zac Little (5-8, 180 Jr.). Buford, RB Dontravious Wilson (6-1, 215 Sr.); OL Josh Cardiello (6-4, 285 Sr.); FB/DB Donte Gordon (5-11, 210 Jr.).

Outlook: Even though the Trojans already claimed the region championship, there’s still something on the line in this one. Buford needs a win or a White County loss to secure home-field advantage to open the postseason, after having to forfeit two region games for playing an academically ineligible player.

North Hall wants to win to prove on the field that it’s the best team in the region. The Trojans are region champion for the first time since 2007, the same year they went on to the state semifinals.

The formula for the Trojans’ success is a dominating run game. North Hall averages an area-high 368 rushing yards per game and 46 points per game, also No. 1 in the area. North Hall has also scored more than 40 points in each region outing, including a season-high 63 against Fannin County on Oct. 12.

Christmas (677 rushing yards) and Tate (632) lead the way for the Trojans. Meanwhile, the North Hall defense has allowed only 187 yards and 12 points per game en route to the region title.

Meanwhile, Buford is never a team to take lightly. The Wolves played for five consecutive state titles before moving into Class AAA this season. Buford won four straight state crowns (2007-2010).

This season, Buford has rolled through Region 7-AAA games. In the seven games since losing to Gainesville on Sept. 7, the Wolves have averaged 50 points per game, while holding the opposition to just three points per game.

Buford’s leader on offense is Wilson with 81 carries for 861 yards. He’s also scored 12 of the teams 33 touchdowns, but was injured in last week’s game against East Hall and was spotted on crutches after the game. On defense, Gordon is a leader in pressuring the quarterback with 17 hurries and seven sacks.

Buford has a 6-1-1 series edge against North Hall. The Wolves won the last meeting 35-7 against the Trojans in 2009.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. An elite running game is the difference in a tight battle.

Chestatee at Madison County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Red Raider Stadium, Danielsville

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; Madison County, Chris Smith

Records: Chestatee (7-2, 5-1 Region 8-AAAA); Madison County (1-8, 1-5)

Key players: Chestatee, RB/CB Quan Clark (5-10, 188 Sr.), QB Jordan Degraff (6-0, 155 Sr.), TE/LB Baker McCormack (5-10, 180 Sr.). Madison County, QB/DB TJ Skelton (6-0, 165 So.); RB/DB Keidrick Curry (5-9, 185 Sr.); LB Dustin Howard (6-0, 180 Jr.).

Outlook: Chestatee can do something that it has never been done in school history tonight. The War Eagles can earn win No. 8, after twice winning seven in a season previously.

More importantly, Chestatee secured its first home playoff game, as a result of Stephens County’s win against Eastside last week.

The War Eagles’ biggest weapon this season has been an explosive offense, which has averaged 43 points in their seven victories. Chestatee also has a pair of crucial overtime region wins, a triple-overtime thriller against Eastside on Sept. 21 and an overtime win against Lanier on Oct. 19.

Clark is Chestatee’s leading ball carrier with 1,052 yards and Sijiye has been extremely versatile with 963 yards of total offense. The War Eagles have been most effective running the ball with 3,139 yards on the ground (349 per game).

The Red Raiders picked up their first victory, 32-31 against Walnut Grove last Friday. Madison County’s opponents have averaged 38 points per game. Skelton leads Madison County’s running game with 119 carries for 420 yards. The Red Raiders offense is fairly balanced with 1,202 rushing yards and 879 passing.

Tonight’s game marks the first meeting between the two schools.

Prediction: CHESTATEE. The War Eagles shake off a disappointing loss to Monroe Area and head into the postseason on a high note.

Greene County at Riverside Military

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Maginnis Field

Coaches: Greene County, Robert Edwards; Riverside Military, Gary Downs

Records: Greene County (4-5, 4-2 Region 8-AA); Riverside Military (1-8, 1-5)

Key players: Greene County, RB Jared Miller (Sr.); QB Christian Whitner (So.); WR Kaleem Jernigan (Jr.). Riverside Military, RB/DB Elijah Holyfield (5-11, 180 Fr.); QB Collin Pettell (6-4, 220 Jr.); RB/WR/DB Adrian Humphrey (5-11, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: The most interesting angle to this game may be the men helming the teams on the sideline. Both Greene County and Riverside Military are led by coaches who are former NFL running backs. Riverside Military’s coach was most notably a member of the 1998 Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl squad as a back-up running back during his seven-year pro career.

Meanwhile, Edwards was a first-round draft pick by the New England Patriots out of the University of Georgia in 1998. He went on the play two seasons in the NFL and rushed for 1,155 yards, and then had three standout seasons in the Canadian Football League.

Greene County has already locked up the No. 3 playoff spot for the region with recent head-to-head wins during the second half of the season against Rabun County and Union County. The fourth spot will be decided between Rabun County and Union County, both 3-3 in region play. Miller led Greene County last week with 24 carries for 171 yards and a touchdown against Rabun County. Whitner completed 15 of 26 passes for 216 yards and a pair of scores.

After losing four straight to open the season, Greene County won four of its last five in region play. The Tigers have averaged 46 per win in region play, which started with a 62-3 outburst against Social Circle on Oct. 5.
Riverside Military is led offensively by Humphrey (612 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Holyfield (552 yards, eight touchdowns).

Prediction: GREENE COUNTY. The Eagles have progressed but are quite skilled enough to hold up with the playoff-bound Tigers.

Banks County at White County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: White County Stadium, Cleveland

Coaches: Banks County, Philip Jones; White County, Bill Ballard

Records: Banks County (3-6, 2-4 Region 7-AAA); White County (6-3, 4-2)

Key players: Banks County, RB/DB Wes Faulkner (5-8, 180 Jr.), WR/DB Greg Cannon (6-0, 170 Sr.), QB Noah Trebec (5-8, 160 So.). White County, QB Will Brock (6-3, 198 Sr.); WR Andrew Bergin (5-10, 155 Sr.); RB/OLB Will Stonecypher (5-11, 180 Sr.).

Outlook: White County has already clinched a playoff spot, and can wrap up at least a No. 3 seed — and possibly higher — with a win tonight.

Banks County isn’t eliminated yet, but the Leopards will need a win and some help to overtake fourth-place Dawson County and earn a return trip to the postseason.

Banks County, which has struggled on defense this season, has lost back-to-back games and is giving up more than 40 points per game thus far. They’ll be tasked with slowing down a White County offense that has 89 combined points in consecutive wins over Dawson County and West Hall.

Brock leads the Warriors in rushing and passing yards, and Bergin has proven to be a dangerous big-play threat. The senior receiver has 10 touchdowns among his 15 receptions for 504 yards (33.6 avg.).

White County needs a win, plus a North Hall win over Buford to seize the No. 2 seed.

Prediction: WHITE COUNTY. The Warriors’ offense is clicking lately and should find success again tonight.

Commerce at Pinecrest Academy

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Pinecrest Academy Stadium, Cumming

Coaches: Commerce, Marvin Justice; Pinecrest Academy, Todd Winter

Records: Commerce (5-4, 1-4 Region 8-A); Pinecrest Academy (4-4, 2-3)

Key players: Commerce, RB Jamal Browner (6-0, 220 Sr.), RB/DB Terrick Ramsey (5-9, 165 Sr.), OL/DL Micah Eason (6-2, 240 So.). Pinecrest Academy, QB/DB Jimmy Strom (5-11, 181 Sr.), WR/DL Zach Guard (6-3, 208 Sr.), RB/LB John Paul Metz (5-11, 165 Sr.).

Outlook: Commerce snapped a four-game losing skid with a 42-11 win over Hebron Christian two weeks ago, and coming off of a bye week, the Tigers have a strong chance to earn their 16th consecutive playoff berth despite a losing record in region play.

With Class A now splitting into separate public- and private-school brackets for the playoffs, a power rankings system is being used to determine the top 16 schools in each division. Commerce is currently ranked No. 11 among public schools, thanks to four straight wins over schools from larger classifications to open the season. The final rankings will be posted on GHSA.net by Tuesday.

Pinecrest Academy is currently ranked 19th among Class A private schools and may need a win tonight to earn a playoff bid.

The Paladins opened the season 3-1, but have lost three of their last four, including a 50-35 loss to Prince Avenue Christian last week.

Commerce has battled its share of adversity this year, playing much of the season without starting quarterback Drew Whitfield (mononucleosis) and leading tackler Chance McClure (shoulder injury). Both remain questionable for tonight’s game.

Prediction: COMMERCE. The Tigers got a much-needed boost of confidence with their win over Hebron Christian and the extra week of preparation for this game should serve them well.

Dawson County at West Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: West Hall Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; West Hall, Tony Lotti

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

Key players: Dawson County, QB Tyler Dominy (6-4, 178 Sr.); WR/DB Bruce Clark (6-4, 210 Sr.); RB/LB Zach Martin (5-11, 225 Sr.). West Hall, RB/LB Isaiah Rowe (6-2, 215 So.); OL/DL Blake Manning (6-6, 300 Sr.); QB Zach English (5-11, 175 Jr.).

Outlook: With a win tonight, Dawson County can clinch a playoff bid for the first time since 2004. In a three-way tie for fifth place, one game behind the Tigers, West Hall is also in the mix for a possible playoff berth, but will need a win and some help to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Dawson County is led by a prolific offense that starts with Dominy. The Tigers, who defeated Fannin County 54-12 last week, average 386.7 yards of offense and 34.5 points per game. Dominy is second in the area in passing yards (2,295) and passing touchdowns (25).

The Spartans haven’t won on the field since a 33-20 victory over Banks County on Sept. 21, but they did benefit from a Buford forfeit. English (874 passing yards) and Rowe (485 rushing yards) front the West Hall offense. Senior Chase Jarrard (23 receptions, 348 yards) has also emerged as a weapon in the passing game.

Prediction: DAWSON COUNTY. The Tigers have too much offensive firepower.

East Hall at Fannin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Rebel Stadium, Blue Ridge

Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; Fannin County, Greg Chambers

Records: East Hall (4-5, 2-4 Region 7-AAA); Fannin County (1-8, 1-5)

Key players: East Hall, RB Austen Mahaffey (5-9, 185 Sr.), LB Xavier Hughey (6-2, 198 Sr.), RB Edward Vergara (5-5, 162 Jr.). Fannin County, QB Trevor Stone (6-1, 200 Jr.), RB/S Peyton Satterfield (6-2, 190 Jr.), WR/LB Noah O’Neal (6-2, 180 Jr.).

Outlook: East Hall isn’t out of the playoff picture yet, but sitting in a three-way tie for fifth place, the Vikings need a win over Fannin County tonight and a loss by Dawson County to reach the postseason for the first time since 2005.

East Hall won two straight games before falling to Buford, 49-6, last week. Mahaffey (532 rushing yards, 365 receiving yards) and Vergara (473 rushing yards) lead the Vikings offense while Devin Watson and Zach Groover split time at quarterback.

Hughey leads the defense in most categories with 94 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, three sacks and three forced fumbles. Jorge Hernandez adds 61 tackles with eight for a loss.

Fannin County has lost four straight since its only win of the year, giving up 47 points or more in each contest. For the year, the Rebels are surrendering 41.3 points per game.

Prediction: EAST HALL. The Vikings have shown the ability to score in bunches against less-talented teams. They should do so again tonight.

Jackson County at Morgan County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Corey Stadium, Madison

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

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

Key players: Jackson County, QB Kyle Daniel (6-2, 190 Sr.), WR Xavier Harper (6-1, 180 Jr.), RB/DB Dustin Scott (5-9, 165 Sr.). Morgan County, RB Marquis Benton (5-8, 171 Jr.); RB/CB Melvin Davis (5-11, 190 Jr.); QB Trent Hawk (Jr.).

Outlook: 2012 has already been the most successful Jackson County season in 20 years. In their first year under Harrison, the Panthers have won three of their last four, and with a 33-28 win over Elbert County last week, have sealed their first winning season and playoff berth since 1992.

A win tonight would send them into the postseason as a No. 3 seed.

Morgan County enters the game on a three-game winning streak after losing in consecutive weeks to region-leader North Oconee and Elbert County. The Bulldogs made a statement last week by knocking off second-place Hart County, 35-8. For the season, they’re scoring 33.9 points per game, while yielding 16.2.

Jackson County has been led by its offense, which averages 27.6 points per game. Daniel has flourished in his first year in Harrison’s spread offense, passing for 2,099 yards and 20 touchdowns. Harper leads the area in receptions (58) and receiving yards (936), and Scott provides balance with 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

Prediction: MORGAN COUNTY. Both teams can score in bunches, but the Bulldogs’ dominant performance on defense last week shows they have the edge on that side of the ball.

Union County at Jefferson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Jefferson, T. McFerrin

Records: Union County (6-3, 3-3 Region 8-AA); Jefferson (8-1, 6-0)

Key players: Union County, QB T Bentley (6-0, 190 Sr.), OL/DL Luther Jones (6-0, 275 Jr.), LB Chase Barnett (5-7, 185 So.). Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-3, 215 Sr.); LB Wesley Simonton (6-0, 205 Sr.); RB Sammy Williams (5-5, 155 So.).

Outlook: Union County is assured of only its second winning season since 2001, but if the Panthers want to break their 10-year playoff drought, they need a win tonight over Jefferson, which clinched the region championship last week.

They also need some help. Union County is tied for fourth place with Rabun County, but the Wildcats hold the tiebreaker thanks to a 38-10 win over the Panthers two weeks ago. So Union County needs not only a win, but a Rabun County loss to Oglethorpe County tonight to grab the No. 4 seed.

The Panthers are led by Bentley (1,270 passing yards, 639 rushing yards) on offense. They’re scoring 22.4 points per game and giving up 19.2. The defense had one of its strongest performances last week in a 31-0 win over Social Circle, limiting the Redskins to 44 yards of total offense.

Jefferson has won eight straight games and is ranked No. 9 in Class AA thanks to a balanced offense and that averages more than 400 yards per game and a stingy defense giving up only 11 points per contest.

Shirreffs makes the offense go, and leads the team in passing yards (1,502) and is just 1 yard behind Williams with 618 rushing yards on the season.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons have shown few weaknesses since losing in the season opener.

Johnson at Heritage-Catoosa

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jeff Sims Field, Ringgold

Coaches: Johnson, Jason Roquemore; Heritage-Catoosa, Tim James

Records: Johnson (5-4, non-region schedule); Heritage-Catoosa (0-9, 0-5 Region 7B-AAAA)

Key players: Johnson, RB Cedric Harris (6-0, 200 Sr.), OL/DL Mason Borders (6-2, 315 Sr.), TE/LB Jose Martinez (6-1, 210 Sr.). Heritage-Catoosa, FB Caleb Dietz (6-0, 200 Sr.), QB Seth Hickman (5-8, 165 Jr.).

Outlook: In the season finale, Johnson will rely on Harris, who is one of the leading rushers in the area with 1,288 yards and 16 touchdowns on 234 carries. Johnson can also get offense from Luis Hernandez, who has 364 yards and four scores on 18 carries. Knights defensive back Dre Johnson leads the area in interceptions with four.

The Knights are not a high-scoring team, with an average of 24.1 points per game, but the Generals average just 9.2.

Heritage has only had one winning season in the five-year history of the program. The Generals are led by Dietz, but are unsure whether or not he will play this week after being injured in last week’s game against Ridgeland. Hickman replaced departed Jake Sampson at quarterback this season.

Prediction: JOHNSON. The Knights will close out the season with a win, giving them their first winning season since 2004.

Stephens County at Lumpkin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega

Coaches: Stephens County, Travis Noland; Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones

Records: Stephens County (7-2, 4-2 Region 8-AAAA); Lumpkin County (2-7, 2-4)

Key players: Stephens County, RB Chaz Thornton (5-9, 180 Sr.), QB Dionte Mayfield (6-0, 180 Sr.), WR T’omas Colbert (6-0, 180 Sr.). Lumpkin County, QB Daniel McCrary (6-1, 175 Jr.), WR Jonathan Gilreath (6-1, 175 Jr.), RB/FS Gunner Wood (5-9, 160 So.).

Outlook: Gilreath and McCrary seem to be finding ways to connect to help Lumpkin County score points, but the team has only been victorious twice this season. McCrary has 938 yards and four touchdowns passing this year, and Gilreath has three receiving touchdowns and 491 yards on 32 catches. However, the Indians allow 34.1 points per game and only score, on average, 13.1 points.

Stephens County started out 4-0 this season and, after two close losses, has won three straight due to the successes of Thornton, Mayfield and Colbert. In last week’s win over Eastside, Thornton broke Johnson County High grad Herschel Walker’s record, tallying 147 yards on 42 carries to put him over 6,000 career yards. Just this season, Thornton has 1,402 yards and 19 touchdowns. Mayfield has 1,222 yards and 12 scores passing, and Colbert adds 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns receiving.

Stephens County has beaten Lumpkin County in each of the teams’ previous two meetings.

Prediction: STEPHENS COUNTY. Thornton will lead the Indians to victory again in their last regular season game.

Hebron Christian at Towns County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Frank McClure Stadium

Coaches: Hebron Christian, Sal Battaglia; Towns County, Kyle Langford

Records: Hebron Christian (1-8, 0-6 Region 8-A); Towns County (2-7)

Key players: Hebron Christian, QB Conner Holliday (6-0, 150 Fr.), LB Seth Kuntz (6-4, 205 Sr.), RB/FS Hunter Johnson (5-7, 130 So.). Towns County, RB Wesley Bloodworth (5-10, 230 Sr.), QB Joseph Gibson (Sr.); RB Jackson Noblet (5-11, 185 Jr.).

Outlook: Towns County began to find momentum late in the season with a pair of wins over North Cobb Christian and St. Francis before falling to a strong team from Lakeview last week.

The Indians have a running game that is growing stronger thanks to Bloodworth and Noblet and are finding ways to come out on the winning side of close games.

Hebron Christian hasn’t won a game since Week 2 against Cross Keys and is struggling to put up points, not scoring more than 20 in a game since the 60-0 win over Cross Keys.

Prediction: TOWNS COUNTY. The Indians will take advantage of a struggling Hebron Christian team and close out the season with a win.

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