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FIVE THINGS TO WATCH: Chestatee, North Hall football matchup Friday comes with renewed balance
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Chestatee High's Drew Knickel celebrates a touchdown Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, during the first half of their game with West Hall at War Eagle Stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers

With Week 5 of the high school football season only a couple of days away, here’s five things to watch for Friday. 

1. NEW ENERGY FOR A LONGSTANDING SERIES: One of the most lopsided rivalries in Hall County in the 21st century should be a little more competitive in 2021. 

On Friday, North Hall (1-2) hosts Chestatee (2-1) at Lynn Cottrell Stadium. 

Since first meeting in 2002, the Trojans have dominated this series, winning 17 of 19 prior meetings. 

However, the War Eagles come into this game riding the high of a 42-7 win against West Hall on Sept. 10. 

Now, Chestatee is in position for its first three-game winning streak and first win against North Hall since 2017.

In its last game out, the Trojans were on the losing end of a 48-37 outing against Hart County. 

Despite the losing record, North Hall has reason to remain optimistic. 

In 2020, the Trojans started 0-3 (against the same opponents as this season) and went on to win 6 of the last 7 in the regular season and earned the No. 2 spot to the playoffs in Region 7-3A. 

On Sept. 24, North Hall faces West Hall to open Region 7-3A play in Oakwood. After a bye, Chestatee faces North Oconee to open play in Region 8-4A on Oct. 1 in Gainesville. 

2. WRIGHT ONE AT QUARTERBACK: Gainesville’s offense is in great hands with sophomore Baxter Wright at quarterback, as evidenced by his phenomenal showing in a 42-35 win against No. 8 Flowery Branch in Week 4. 

The Red Elephants’ gifted signal caller was 20-of-22 passing for 297 yards, along with a hard-nosed touchdown run in the middle of the second quarter, against the Falcons at City Park Stadium. 

“For a kid who is a sophomore, well, heck anybody, 20 of 22 passing is just really special,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said. 

Through three games in 2021, Wright has a 79-percent completion rate for the Red Elephants. 

“What shows up outside of the box scores in the decisions that Baxter is making with the ball,” Webb said. “He’s making the right decisions to put the ball exactly where it needs to be, when it needs to be there.”

And like many other talented football players at his position who have come through the Gainesville program, Wright doesn’t hesitate to run with the ball when the time is right. 

“Baxter is a football player,” Webb said. “He’s not afraid to make plays with his legs. He’ll lower his shoulders and initiate contact.”

Up next, Gainesville opens region play against Forsyth Central (1-2) on Friday at City Park Stadium. 

Webb said that this week he’s been guarding against a letdown after an emotional win against Flowery Branch. 

“Forsyth Central is tough and physical at the line of scrimmage and they have a big bruising running back,” Webb said. “This is going to be a tough matchup.”

3. THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Fans in Hall County can get a jump on the high school football weekend. 

At Maginnis Field, Riverside Military will host first-year East Forsyth at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. 

The game was moved up due to a officials shortage through the Lanier Football Officials Association, Riverside Military athletics director Mark DeFoor said. 

The Lanier Football Association tried to enlist a crew from Alpharetta to work the game, DeFoor said, but were unsuccessful. 

After that, Thursday and Saturday were the best options to have officials booked for the game. 

Since this is an open weekend for Riverside Military Academy cadets to leave campus, DeFoor said, the decision was made the move the game to Thursday.

East Forsyth (0-4), which is located in the Gainesville portion of Forsyth County, is seeking its first win in school history. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles are looking to rebound from a 26-6 loss to Georgia Military College on Sept. 10. 

4. WEST HALL READY WITH NEW FIELD: With a bye this week, the Spartans are counting down the days to playing on their new synthetic surface. 

After a delay with materials last month put a temporary halt on the Battle of Oakwood against Johnson, West Hall’s field is now finished and ready for four regular season outings in the regular season. 

The Spartans (2-1) are looking to rebound from a loss to Chestatee. 

Now, all five schools in the Hall County district slated for new playing fields in 2021 are set. 

In 2022, Flowery Branch will receive its new playing field at Falcons Stadium. 

5. FINAL NON-REGION TUNEUP FOR MOST: With the exception of Gainesville, this is the final week of non-region contests for Hall County schools in Region 7-3A, 8-4A and 8-5A. 

Next week, the Red Elephants visit Hillgrove for their final non-region matchup in Powder Springs. 

Thursday’s game

Riverside Military vs. East Forsyth, 6:30 p.m.

Friday’s games

North Hall vs. Chestatee

Gainesville vs. Forsyth Central

Flowery Branch vs. Hiram

Cherokee Bluff at Lakeside-Atlanta

Johnson at Eastside

Lakeview Academy at Towns County

Lanier Christian vs. Johnson Ferry Christian

BYE: West Hall

Regional events