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Playoff seeding can improve for high school football programs in final week
West Hall, Gainesville and Dawson County still have plenty to play for in regular season finale
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Dawson County quarterback Coey Watson rushes with the ball against West Hall during the game Sept. 16 in Oakwood. - photo by Erin O. Smith

West Hall can treat the final game of the regular season Friday like it’s playing with house money. Already a lock for the postseason, the Spartans (6-3, 2-1 Region 7-AAAA) can create a three-way tie at the top with a win at No. 5 Blessed Trinity (7-2, 3-0).

It won’t be easy by any stretch.

The other program involved in the equation, Marist (6-3, 2-1), won its game against West Hall by 40 last month. However, this is high school and anything can happen. That’s why Spartans coach Tony Lotti wants his team to believe it can win against the run-heavy Titans in Roswell.

“That’s my message to the team this week: ‘how’d you like to shock the world?’” said Lotti.

He feels like his team is taking steps in the right direction. Last week, Lotti felt the Spartans were playing the best they had all season by jumping up on White County 35-0 in the first half.

To beat Blessed Trinity, Lotti knows West Hall will have to clamp down on Blessed Trinity’s rugged run game, steered by sophomore Steele Chambers (1,017 yards, 15 touchdowns). For Lotti, he said Blessed Trinity doesn’t do much option-based plays, which has been a weakness for the Spartans.

“Blessed Trinity will line up and run it right at you,” said Lotti, who has the program in the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Lotti’s said players understand what’s at stake against Blessed Trinity.

“I’ve told them, ‘do you want to get on a bus and go on the road or play right here at home?” Lotti said.

The No. 4 playoff seed in 7-AAAA is Chestatee (4-6, 1-3), which has a bye Friday.

Already a lock for the postseason, Gainesville (5-4, 3-1 Region 8-AAAAAA) has a rather simple scenario of what’s on the line with Friday’s game at Lanier (6-3, 3-1).

If the Red Elephants win, it will lock up the No. 2 seed to the postseason and play its first-round game at City Park Stadium on Nov. 11. A loss would make Gainesville the No. 3 seed and mean it opens on the road in the Class AAAAAA tournament.

“We know what we have to do,” said Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, who has guided his program to the postseason all 15 seasons since he arrived in 2002.

For Gainesville, the main story to follow during its game will be the play of backup quarterback Jim Barnett, who was forced into action last week against Apalachee when starting quarterback D.J. Irons was ejected. Per GHSA rules, Irons is ineligible to play this week.

Barnett, a wide receiver, brings good speed to the quarterback position, but has less of a grasp of the playbook, according to Miller.

Barnett got his first practice at quarterback the week of the Apalachee game with Irons experiencing a minor injury.

Gainesville had its chance of potentially making a three-way tie taken away last week when Dacula (5-4, 4-0) shutout Lanier 20-0.

Eighth-ranked Dawson County (7-1, 5-0 Region 7-AAA) can lock up back-to-back region titles, with a win against top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian (8-1, 5-0) in Dawsonville. With a bye this week, North Hall (6-4, 3-3) will go into the postseason from Region 7-AAA as the No. 3 or No. 4 seed, depending on the outcome of the game between Union County and Lumpkin County.

Those already out of playoff contention in Hall County are East Hall, Johnson, Lakeview Academy and Riverside Military.

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