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FIVE THINGS TO WATCH: Flowery Branch, Gainesville eagerly anticipate ability to play Friday at City Park Stadium
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Flowery Branch quarterback David Renard drops back to throw a pass Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, during the first half of their game with Gainesville High at The Branch. - photo by Scott Rogers

The matchup between Gainesville and Flowery Branch in 2021 has been given a little extra juice. 

Just one week after not being able to play, due to positive tests for coronavirus in the Flowery Branch program, the two schools are again set to play Friday at City Park Stadium. 

Even though a rain check was not likely toward the end of last week, pushing the game back seven days was possible due to the fact that the Red Elephants (1-1) and No. 7 Falcons (2-0) were both originally scheduled to have a bye in Week 4. A new contract was signed between both schools Sept. 3. 

This marks the 17th meeting in the rivalry that Gainesville holds a 10-6 edge, but the Falcons are seeking their fourth-straight victory. 

Flowery Branch coach Ben Hall said that his program will still likely be without some players for the rivalry matchup, but was able to resume practice Tuesday afternoon with three days to prepare. 

Before getting cleared for playing football, any player who contracted COVID-19 will have to produced a negative test in order to return to the sideline or field. 

Hall said his team had a couple positive cases at the start of the season, then the pandemic returned with a few more cases on his squad last week, forcing the original cancellation of the game at Gainesville. 

After the game was originally bumped, Red Elephants coach Heath Webb spent the remainder of the week looking for a new opponent to come to City Park Stadium. 

Once that option was deemed unsuccessful, the two programs began talks to play again the following week, which turned out to be manageable. 

“I think getting the Gainesville vs. Flowery Branch game back on the schedule comes with a renewed sense of excitement for our players and community,” Webb said. 

Here’s some more things to watch in Week 4 of the high school football regular season: 

1. WATCHING RENARD: Flowery Branch senior quarterback David Renard is likely going to be the deciding factor in Friday’s game. The cerebral right-hander who steers the Falcons’ offense certainly has the full attention of Webb. 

“(Renard) is a dynamite football player,” Webb said. “He’s very smart and makes very few mistakes. His ability to sit the ball into tight windows made the difference in the game last season. We have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”

The Falcons’ signal caller is a familiar face in this rivalry, now gearing up for his third start against Gainesville. 

In 2020, Renard threw for 374 yards and three scores as Flowery Branch held on for a 29-22 victory. 

The Red Elephants’ coach is looking for athletes on their defense to emerge as leaders. 

“The jury’s still out on our defense with so many new starters,” Webb said. 

2. BEARS ON A TEAR: Cherokee Bluff has made it look easy three games into the regular season. 

The Bears have averaged 58 points through the first three games, with the offensive production being spread out.

In Week 3 against East Forsyth, seven different players found the end zone for Cherokee Bluff as it rushed for 220 yards. 

Through three games and limited touches, senior running back Jayquan Smith has 267 yards (9 yards per attempt) for Cherokee Bluff. 

Smith is well on his way to another 1,000-yard season running the ball for the Bears. 

Another player for the Bears who have burst on the scene is sophomore tight end Ryan Graves, who had numerous pancake blocks against the Broncos. Graves is also a starting linebacker for the Bears.

“He’s filling some pretty big shoes,” Cherokee Bluff coach Tommy Jones said. “He’s doing great and continues to get better.”

After a bye Friday, Cherokee Bluff faces Lakeside-Atlanta in its last non-region game on Sept. 17 in Flowery Branch. 

3. JUST LIKE OLD TIMES: As we wind down the non-region schedule for programs in Hall County, it’s going to feel like past seasons, in Week 4, with three county matchups for fans. 

In addition to Gainesville vs. Flowery Branch, Friday’s schedule includes Johnson vs. East Hall and Chestatee vs. West Hall. 

All these are non-region matchups, but a throwback to when programs in Hall County tended to occupy the same region. 

4. NO PLACE LIKE HOME: When Riverside Military Academy hosts Georgia Military on Friday, it will be the first time back in Hall County to coach for Lee Coleman. 

Coleman, an East Hall High graduate, is in his third season at Georgia Military (2-0).

In 2020, Coleman guided Georgia Military to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. 

In high school, Coleman was a two-time state champion with the Vikings in basketball, while earning a scholarship to Northwestern for his accomplishments on the football field.

Friday’s games

Chestatee vs. West Hall

Johnson vs. East Hall

Gainesville vs. Flowery Branch

Lakeview Academy at Walker

Riverside Military vs. Georgia Military

Lanier Christian at Holy Spirit Prep

Bye: Cherokee Bluff, North Hall

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