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Five things to know: Flowery Branch and North Hall set a good tone with Week 1 victories
Flowery Branch football practice
Flowery Branch High football practice Aug. 18, 2021. Photo by Bill Murphy

With one week of the regular season in the books for 8 of 11 high school football programs in Hall County, we’ve already established some things that will likely carry through the regular season. 

This week, East Hall and Chestatee will open 2021, while Riverside Military will get its first game in the books after storms washed out its opener on Aug. 20 against Notre Dame Prep. 

Here’s five things to know based on what happened in Week 1: 

1. NORTH HALL WILL BE A TOUGH OUT: With a 23-14 victory over Paulding County on Friday, the Trojans are showing they’ll potentially be even stronger than in 2020. 

Last season, North Hall lost 24-7 against Paulding, in Gainesville, to open things up last season, before eventually making it to the second round of the state playoffs. 

Last week, the Trojans relied on a run-heavy offense. 

Senior quarterback Bradford Puryear punched it in on an athletic run just before halftime, then Kevin Rochester (248 total yards) had a 50-yard scoring run in the second half. 

The next two non-region contests for the Trojans will be challenging with games against a pair of 1-0 teams, starting with Stephens County on Friday in Gainesville, then a trip to Hart County in Week 3. 

2. FLOWERY BRANCH STARTS WITH A STATEMENT VICTORY: The Falcons didn’t waste any time beating a top-tier opponent. 

In Week 1, No. 8 Flowery Branch battled with a gritty defensive performance to a 21-14 win against always-talented St. Pius X in Atlanta. 

In 2020, Flowery Branch faced St. Pius X for the first time in school history, losing 38-28 in south Hall. 

This time around, senior quarterback David Renard was sharp, which is no surprise, with 270 yards of total offense and had a hand in two scores. 

The Falcons don’t get to ease up this week, hosting Dawson County (0-1) in the home opener at Falcons Stadium. 

Flowery Branch also has non-region matchups against Gainesville (0-1) and Hiram (0-1), before opening region play Sept. 24 against top-ranked Jefferson (1-0), which is a solid frontrunner to win the state championship in Class 4A. 

3. JAYQUAN SMITH IS RBI: Cherokee Bluff senior Jayquan Smith had a super season opener in limited action, running for three touchdowns, in a 57-7 win against Johnson at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium. 

He finished the game with 11 runs for 85 yards for the Bears, setting the table for the Bears’ home opener against Chestatee on Friday in Flowery Branch. 

Smith will see his carries go up drastically as Cherokee Bluff inches toward games in Region 7-3A, starting with a trip to Gilmer on Sept. 24. 

Smith, who holds several Division-I offers, rushed for a combined 2,000 yards in 2019 and 2020. 

4. RED ELEPHANTS HAVE WORK TO DO ON DEFENSE: Gainesville will have to tighten things up on defense in the final two non-region games. 

In Week 1, things were going well for Gainesville early with a 10-point lead. 

After the first-quarter success, the Red Elephants gave up 26 unanswered points to John’s Creek in the Corky Kell Classic. 

Trailing 26-10 early in the fourth quarter, the game was called complete after a prolonged lightning delay at City Park Stadium. 

Despite the defensive troubles, Red Elephants Khaliq Maddox had a solid effort, which included a batted pass that he also intercepted with only seconds left on the first-half clock.

This week, Gainesville visits Chattahoochee (0-1), which is coached by former Red Elephants standout Mike Malone. 

5. EYES ON EAST HALL: The Vikings raised more than a few eye brows with their 52-14 exhibition win against Riverside Military on Aug. 13 at Maginnis Field. 

To open the regular season, East Hall hosts West Hall (1-0) in the first game for its new head coach Matt Turner. 

East Hall senior quarterback Clete Cooper is the headliner of its offense, having thrown for more than 5,000 combined yards the prior two seasons. 

He didn’t disappoint in the scrimmage, leading the Vikings to quick touchdowns on five-straight first quarter drives. 

Cooper has depth and plenty of options in the passing game. 

In the preseason game, he threw touchdowns to Darius Holcomb, Temeris Morrison and Jayden Hernandez. 

What also stuck out, for East Hall, in the scrimmage, was powerful and speedy senior running back Marcus Holmberg, who played defensive line his first three years in high school. 

Friday’s schedule

East Hall vs. West Hall

Cherokee Bluff vs. Chestatee

Flowery Branch vs. Dawson County

Gainesville at Chattahoochee

North Hall vs. Stephens County

Riverside Military vs. St. Anne-Pacelli

Lakeview Academy at Darlington

Lanier Christian at King’s Way Christian

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