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HS Football Previews: Week 4
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Gainesville at Apalachee

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Wildcats Stadium, Winder

Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; Apalachee, Shane Davis

Records: Gainesville (1-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA); Apalachee (0-3, 0-2)

Key players: Gainesville, QB Mikey Gonzalez (5-9, 167 Sr.); RB/LB Chris Byrd (5-8, 175 Jr.); LB J.D. Sosebee (6-0, 245 Sr.). Apalachee, QB/RB Alantae Billings (6-3, 205 Sr.), WR/DB Kent Knowles (6-0, 160 Sr.), TE/LB Jamal Stewart (6-0, 205 Jr.).

Outlook: Gonzalez showed he could be quite the prolific passer in the starting role, completing 23 of 29 throws for 276 yards and four touchdowns in the region-opening win against Winder-Barrow on Sept. 12. Now, the Red Elephants turn their attention to a Wildcats program mired in a 13-game losing streak going back to the start of the 2013 season.

Against Winder-Barrow, Gonzalez (417 passing yards this year) threw a touchdown pass to four separate receivers, including a 50-yard strike to Chris Williamson for a touchdown early in the second period, just before an extended weather delay.

Chris Byrd also broke out in the running game for Gainesville last week, rushing three times for 70 yards and a touchdown.

With a nine-team region, Gainesville and Apalachee will play a straight region schedule the remainder of the regular season.

Coach Bruce Miller will be going for his 200th career victory.


West Hall at North Oconee

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Titans Stadium, Bogart

Coaches: West Hall, Tony Lotti; North Oconee, Terry Tuley

Records: West Hall (3-0); North Oconee (0-2)

Key players: West Hall, RB/DB Kwon Williams (6-0, 185 Jr.); RB/DB Tyquan Statham (6-2, 200 Jr.); OL/LB Cameron Millsap (5-9, 180 Sr.). North Oconee, RB Kawon Bryant (5-9, 205 Sr.); QB Tate Adcock (6-0, 185 Sr.); LB Will Mattison (5-9, 160 Sr.).

Outlook: For the first time in school history, West Hall has won three consecutive shutouts, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. Led by Williams’ 220 yards on the ground (9 yards per attempt), the Spartans have produced lopsided wins against Johnson, Chestatee and North Hall. This is West Hall’s final non-region matchup before going into Region 7-AAA play for the remainder of the season.

North Oconee has been competitive in a pair of losses against ranked opponents. The Titans lost to Class AAAAA’s sixth-ranked Coffee in the opener at Georgia Southern University, then fell to Class AA’s top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian 28-10 on Aug. 29. The Titans have had back-to-back bye weeks, since they started the season Aug. 23.

North Oconee has one of the state’s top running backs in Bryant, who has gone over 100 yards in both games this season. Meanwhile, Adcock has completed 58 percent of his throws for 251 yards. The Titans host Chestatee to open Region 8-AAAA play Sept. 26 in Bogart.


White County at Buford

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Coaches: White County, Bill Ballard; Buford, Jess Simpson

Records: White County (2-1); Buford (3-0)

Key players: White County, RB/DB Maurice Sutton (6-0, 195 Sr.); RB/LB Sam Turner (5-11, 205 Sr.); OL/DL/TE Sean Freeman (6-1, 220 Sr.). Buford, RB/LB Joshua Thomas (6-1, 208 Sr.); TE/DE Isaac Nauta (6-4, 245 Jr.); RB/LB Austin Smith (6-4, 225 Sr.).

Outlook: The Region 8-AAAA opener for both programs sets up much like when the two played as members of Region 7-AAA last season. Top-ranked Buford is the clear frontrunner to win the region, and barring a substantial upset, will go undefeated through the regular season. Meanwhile, White County is aiming for the second spot from the region to the postseason — just like it earned a year ago — and home date to open the playoffs. Second in the region is an ambitious but realistic goal for the Warriors, who have already defeated a pair of quality non-region opponents this season.

The Wolves are the cream of the crop in 8-AAAA, behind a smothering defense and unmatchable depth in the running game. Buford is averaging 308 yards of offense per game, while allowing just 107. Buford’s run defense is surrendering a mere 28 yards per game, including a win two weeks ago against previously-ranked Class AAAAAA opponent McEachern.

Thomas is Buford’s leading ball carrier with 30 runs for 157 yards and five touchdowns, while Martin Mangram has 110 yards on the ground.

Smith is the Wolves’ leading tackler with 18 stops (four for a loss), while David Curry is second with 15 tackles.

Buford topped White County 42-6 last season, and also won the only other previous meeting 49-14 in 2012.


North Hall at Carrollton

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Grisham Stadium, Carrollton

Coaches: North Hall, Dave Bishop; Carrollton, Ed Dudley

Records: North Hall (0-2); Carrollton (0-3)

Key players: North Hall, RB/DL Austin Perry (6-4, 220 Sr.); OL/DL Hayden Hughes (6-2, 230 Sr.); RB/LB Bobby Mendenhall (5-9, 205 Sr.). Carrollton, CB Dante Wigley (6-1, 183 Sr.), WR Jarel Rowe (6-4, 190 Jr.), LB Roury Glanton (6-1, 225 Jr.).

Outlook: Starting slow is something unfamiliar to both of these programs. North Hall has only one other 0-2 start since 2002, while Carrollton has lost three straight to start for the first time since 1977, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.

North Hall has lost its two games this season by 40 and 38 points respectively. Carrollton, Class AAAA runner-up in 2013, has lost to difficult non-region opponents, including a 20-7 loss to Class AAAAA’s fourth-ranked Kell on Aug. 23, then a 34-6 loss to Calhoun, ranked No. 2 in Class AAA, on Sept. 5. Through two games, Perry is the Trojans’ leading rusher with 26 carries for 130 yards. North Hall was held to 68 rushing yards last week against West Hall.

North Hall lost to Carrollton 28-20 in the 2003 postseason in Gainesville, the only previous meeting between the two schools.


Jackson County at East Hall

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: East Hall Stadium, Gainesville

Coaches: Jackson County, Benji Harrison; East Hall, Bryan Gray

Records: Jackson County (0-3), East Hall (1-1)

Key players: Jackson County, QB Jacob Lewis (6-1, 180 Sr.), WR/FS Antonio Strickland (6-1, 180 Jr.), LB Griffin Mcelvery (5-10, 185 Jr.). East Hall, RB Jacques Ash (5-11, 190 Sr.), LB Ronnie Peebles (5-11, 210 Sr.), WR/LB Rex Purgason (Jr.).

Outlook: The Vikings had a week off following a 38-10 loss to Pickens, which came after a 20-13 victory against Wesleyan to start the season.

East Hall will be looking to build momentum before beginning region play against Lumpkin County next week.
Purgason leads the Vikings with 10 receptions for 129 yards and two scores. Jackson County’s Lewis has 590 yards passing with three touchdowns, all to Strickland, and three interceptions in his first three games.

Peebles leads an East Hall defense that hopes to bounce back from the Pickens game by slowing down the winless Panthers, who lost by six to Madison County and eight to White County.

Flowery Branch vs. Heritage (Conyers)

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Falcon Field, Flowery Branch

Coaches: Heritage, Wendell Early; Flowery Branch, Chris Griffin

Records: Heritage (0-3, 0-2 Region 8-AAAAA); Flowery Branch (1-1, 0-1)

Key players: Heritage, QB David Turner (5-11, 180 Sr.); QB/WR Anthony Stanley (6-1, 180 Jr.); RB Christian Reid (5-6, 180 Jr.). Flowery Branch, WR/DB Cortez Davis (5-11, 175 Jr.); RB Jeremiah Goss (5-8, 200 So.); LB/RB Cole Ford (6-0, 215 Sr.)

Outlook: After putting up just 12 points against Lanier last week, Flowery Branch has a good opportunity to get back to winning ways against slumping Heritage. The Patriots have lost the first three opening games of their season (including their first two region matchups) and have averaged only 15.3 points per game in that time.

Meanwhile, Goss led the Falcons with 111 yards on just 19 carries last week against a stingy Longhorns’ defense. If he can gain traction, the Falcons should be able to win at home.

Flowery Branch beat Heritage 33-0 last year in Conyers.


North Cobb Christian at Banks County

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Leopard Stadium, Homer

Coaches: North Cobb Christian, Scott Ryle; Banks County, Biff Parson

Records: North Cobb Christian (1-2), Banks County (2-1)

Key players: North Cobb Christian, RB/LB David Brittingham (5-7, 175 Jr.), QB/CB Jalen Dampier (5-11, 165), RB/LB Mark Watson (So.); Banks County, RB/QB/LB Trevae Cain (6-0, 205 Jr.), RB/CB Demetrious Walker (So.), WR/DB Malcolm Mitchell (5-9, 165 Sr.).

Outlook: The Leopards have won consecutive games for the first time since 2011 coming off last week’s 43-0 shutout of East Jackson.

Banks County has been getting contributions from multiple playmakers. Cain has seven touchdowns through three games, while Walker had 115 rushing yards and three touchdowns last week.

It’s another opportunity for the Leopards to build momentum and confidence before beginning Region 7-AAA play by hosting Franklin County next week.


Commerce vs. Athens Academy

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Tiger Field at Ray Lamb Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Athens Academy, Don Chuboff; Commerce, Mike Brown

Records: Athens Academy (1-1, 0-1 Region 8-A), Commerce (2-1, 1-0)

Key players: Athens Academy, QB/LB/SS Drew Richardson (6-1, 190 Jr.), CB/WR Rolf Reynolds (5-10, 145 So.), WR/LB Richard Ferguson (5-11, 170 Sr.); Commerce, QB Caleb Brooks (5-10, 160 Jr.), RB/S Cole Chancey (5-10, 175 So.), FB/LB Jesse Underhile (Sr.).

Outlook: Commerce looks to bounce back from a loss to rival Jefferson against the Spartans, who will be playing their first game in three weeks after lightning led to the cancellation of their home game against Oglethorpe County last week.

Chancey leads the Tigers’ running game as they step back into Region 8-A play this week.


Habersham Central vs. West Forsyth

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Raider Stadium, Mt. Airy

Coaches: West Forsyth, Adam Clack; Habersham Central, Michael Pollock

Records: West Forsyth (1-2); Habersham Central (0-3)

Key players: West Forsyth, QB Hampton McConnell (6-3, 205 Sr.); WR Austin Reid (Jr.); Eli Huggins (6-3, 230 So.). Habersham Central, QB Bennett Black (6-1, 185 Sr.); RB Michael Babers (5-10, 205 So.); WR/DE John David Herrin (6-2, 200 Sr.).

Outlook: For Habersham Central to win its first game in nearly two years and 17 tries, it will have to put pressure on a West Forsyth quarterback that’s finally found success throwing the football. Senior signal caller Hampton McConnell threw two second-half touchdowns in West Forsyth’s 23-15 win over Chattahoochee. Unless Michael Pollock’s defense can bring the heat tonight, the losing streak may continue one week longer.

This is the first ever meeting between the Raiders and the Wolverines.


Lumpkin County at Our Lady of Mercy

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Bobcat Stadium, Fayetteville

Coaches: Lumpkin County, Ty Maxwell; Our Lady of Mercy, Mike Earwood

Records: Lumpkin County (1-2); Our Lady of Mercy (1-2)

Key players: Lumpkin County, RB/OLB Bradley Womack (Sr.), DB/WR Cal Thrailkill (Jr.), QB/MLB Zach Matthews (6-0, 195 So.). Our Lady of Mercy, QB/K/P Jameson Vest (5-10, 198 Sr.), MLB/FB Jordan Thomas (6-0, 225 Sr.), WR Jervon Kyles (5-6 Sr.)

Outlook: The Indians are riding the momentum of their first victory of the season, a 14-3 triumph against Johnson. This could be a tough road test for Lumpkin County.

Vest is a dual-threat quarterback and handles all the kicking duties for Our Lady of Mercy, while powerful fullback Thomas has also put up strong rushing numbers (225 yards, 2 touchdowns) early.


Riverside Military Academy at Rabun County

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger

Coaches: Riverside Military Academy, Gary Downs; Rabun County, Lee Shaw

Records: Riverside Military Academy (1-1); Rabun County (2-2)

Key players: Riverside Military Academy, LB/WR C.J. Howard; DB/WR J.J. McCalston (6-0, 180 Sr.); TE/DE Avery Cagle (6-4, 215 Sr.). Rabun County, DB/WR Charlie Woerner (6-3, 200 Jr.); MLB Dawson Henricks (5-11, 160 Fr.); DE Tyler Gibson (6-2, 205 Sr.).

Outlook: If Riverside wants to avenge last week’s close loss against Hapeville Charter, it will have to do so against a team that’s scoring with abandon. Rabun County hung 34 points on Jackson County and will have no intention on stopping, especially behind highly-touted quarterback Charlie Woerner.

Rabun County has won the last two matchups between the Wildcats and the Eagles. The team defeated Riverside 63-7 last year at home. Riverside hasn’t won at Frank Snyder Stadium since 2009.


Towns County vs. Hebron Christian Academy

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee

Coaches: Hebron Christian Academy, Kevin Shaffer; Towns County, Billy Barnhart

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

Key players: Hebron Christian Academy, QB Chris McGee (5-10, 175 Jr.); WR/DB Trey Selman (6-2, 165 Sr.); DB/WR Jaquan Gibson (5-11, 190 Sr.). Towns County, FB/DB Cruz Shook (5-9, 205 Sr.); OL/LB Kyle Davis (5-10, 210 Sr.); TE/DL Daulton Rogers (6-1, 200 Jr.)

Outlook: Despite racking up 150 rushing yards on the night, Hebron Christian quarterback Chris McGee couldn’t singlehandedly claw his team back in a 36-14 defeat to Commerce on Sept. 5. After a bye week, head coach Kevin Shaffer will need a group effort against Towns County, which picked up its first victory of 2014 against Lakeview Academy.

A second consecutive win would give Towns County an early 2-0 region record. The Indians have won the last three games against the Lions.

Johnson vs. Pickens

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: Pickens, Chris Parker; Johnson, Jason Roquemore

Records: Pickens (2-0); Johnson (0-4)

Key players: Pickens, RB/SS Shannon Brooks (6-0, 205 Sr.), QB/SS/P Marcus Byrd (6-1, 199 Jr.), OLB/SB Kyle West (6-1, 192 Jr.). Johnson, RB/DB Hunter Johnson (Sr.), WR/DB Orion Pittman (6-0, 170), K Isaac Henry (Jr.).

Outlook: This could be Johnson’s toughest game yet, as the Dragons already own victories against White County and East Hall, including a 38-10 win against the Vikings.

The Knights have moved the ball well at times, but they need to be able to finish drives better. Johnson and Kavin Hopkins give Johnson strong ground options, with Pittman a reliable target for quarterback Chase Sims.

Brooks rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns against East Hall, and Byrd is a dual-threat quarterback. Pickens is coming off a bye week.


Union County vs. Fannin County

When: 7:30 Friday night

Where: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville

Coaches: Fannin County, Jim Pavao; Union County, Brian Allison

Records: Fannin County (2-1), Union County (3-0)

Key players: Fannin County, RB/DB Tyler Beaver (5-11, 180 Sr.), QB/DB Brad Davis (6-1, 160 So.), RB/DB Jerod Petty (6-1, 225 Jr.); Union County, QB Joseph Mancuso (6-3, 195 Jr.), WR/DB Robert Prunier (5-9, 175), RB/LB Chase Barnett (5-11, 190).

Outlook: Mancuso leads the Panthers, who are continuing their high-scoring ways by averaging 44.7 points in winning their first three games. He has thrown for 685 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions. His top targets have been Prunier (11 receptions, 175 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Jacob Rogers (13 receptions, 216 yards, 2 touchdowns).

Fannin County edged Union County, 43-35, a season ago and holds a 5-3 edge in the matchups since the teams resumed their yearly series in 2006.

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