With Week 3 of the high school football regular season upon us, albeit an abbreviated schedule, here’s five things to watch Friday in Hall County.
1. NO TAKERS FOR GAINESVILLE: After a frantic 24-hour search for an opponent on Friday, the Red Elephants (1-1) couldn’t find anyone who was willing and able to travel up to play at City Park Stadium.
Gainesville was originally slated to play No. 7 Flowery Branch (2-0), but the Falcons were forced to cancel Wednesday, due to a high number of coronavirus cases within their football program.
The football game has since been announced as a scratch from the schedule for the rest of the season, leaving Gainesville without its biggest home game revenue stream for the 2021 season.
In just a little over 24 hours since the cancellation, Red Elephants coach Heath Webb said that he’s reached out to ‘dozens’ of schools across the state, and some in South Carolina, about playing at City Park Stadium.
Webb said the Georgia High School Association has a list of schools that are in the same boat and looking for a last-minute opponent.
If any consolation, Gainesville has a bye week scheduled for Sept. 10 that Webb is actively trying to fill with a home opponent to ensure a 10-game regular season.
Webb said the majority of schools looking to find a new opponent were already the host school, which is something hard to let go of, due to financial benefits and more manageable gameday and travel logistics.
Still, Webb is holding out hope.
“It’s definitely easier to find someone to play with a week to schedule it, rather than a day,” Webb said. “We’re just going to stay patient and try to do right by our seniors.”
Gainesville is coming off a 44-0 bounceback win against Chattahoochee on Aug. 27, after a loss to John’s Creek in the Corky Kell Classic.
This is the third game for a football program in Hall County to be cancelled in 2021 because of COVID-19: one for Lakeview Academy and another for Riverside Military.
2. MOVING RIGHT ALONG: Cherokee Bluff’s offensive output has been to the liking of its coach Tommy Jones.
Through two blowout wins, the Bears have shown their big-play capability — accentuated by solid blocking on the offensive line for senior quarterback Sebastian Irons and senior running back Jayquan Smith.
The good times will likely continue without a lot of resistance for Cherokee Bluff over the next couple weeks, starting Friday against first-year East Forsyth (0-2) in Flowery Branch.
After that, there’s another non-region matchup for the Bears that should go down easily in the win column against Lakeside-Atlanta (1-1).
In Week 2, one of the pleasant arrivals for the Bears was young wide receiver Jhace Justice, who snagged a pair of long catches from Irons in a 60-21 win against Chestatee.
Cherokee Bluff is still three weeks away from the beginning of Region 7-3A play against Gilmer, which is now coached by Paul Standard, the longtime architect of success at St. Pius X and a pair of state finalist squads (2012 and 2014).
3. BREAKING IN THE NEW FIELD: Chestatee (0-1) plays its first game on the new synthetic surface at War Eagles Stadium against Union County on Friday.
The War Eagles are one of five schools in the Hall County district with a new field this season, along with Johnson, East Hall, West Hall and Cherokee Bluff.
The Panthers (0-1) are coached by Michael Perry, who led the program at East Hall in 2019 and 2020.
4. RIVERSIDE MILITARY TRYING AGAIN: The Eagles deserve an award for patience.
In Week 3, the Eagles are going to make their third attempt at getting in a regular season game for the first since 2019. In Week 1, heavy storms and lightning halted play for Riverside Military against Notre Dame Academy at Maginnis Field.
On Aug. 27, the Eagles were unable to suit up against St. Anne-Pacelli, due to coronavirus precautions.
It’s been almost 700 days since Riverside Military played a regular-season football game.
The private military school cancelled the 2020 season at the onset of COVID-19 pandemic.
Riverside Military’s scrimmage against East Hall on Aug. 13 is its only matchup since the 2019 season.
5. ONLY GAME IN THE CITY: After not being able to play last week, Lakeview Academy has a home game against Rabun Gap tonight in Gainesville.
In 2021, the Lions (0-1) only have a pair of home games on the schedule.
Cherokee Bluff vs. East Forsyth
Chestatee vs. Union County
East Hall at Franklin County
North Hall at Hart County
Lakeview Academy vs. Rabun Gap
Riverside Military vs. Druid Hills (at North Dekalb Stadium)