With five weeks left in the football regular season, the sentiment of being ‘down but not out’ is one shared by many of the programs in Hall County.
With the exception of No. 5 Gainesville (6-0, 2-0 Region 8-6A), everyone else has some ground to make up to earn a spot in the field of 32 for each classification to state.
Barring a major upset in its next three games, the Red Elephants will face North Forsyth (4-2, 2-0) to decide the region championship on Oct. 28 at City Park Stadium.
Here’s a look at some of the local programs who can still make the playoffs with a strong finish to the regular season.
1. CHEROKEE BLUFF (2-4, 2-2 Region 8-4A): Two region losses by two points each in back-to-back weeks really hurt the Bears. While a .500 mark in region play is not a bad spot to be in, the fact that 3 of the Bears’ final 4 opponents are in a great position to make a run in the Class 4A state playoffs is what is concerning.
Cherokee Bluff still has to face East Forsyth, Walnut Grove and No. 2 North Oconee.
Those three schools have a combined 7-2 mark in league play.
The Bears are almost in a must-win situation Friday against the Broncos (4-1, 2-1) at Half-Mile Stadium in the Gainesville portion of Forsyth County.
It’s unlikely anyone in Region 8-4A will be beating North Oconee, which has won its three league games by an average of more than 50 points.
With nine teams in the running for just four playoff berths, four losses will likely leave a program without a spot in the playoffs.
With back-to-back region championships under its belt, Cherokee Bluff has quickly ascended to one of the top football programs in Hall County.
2. FLOWERY BRANCH (2-4, 0-2 Region 8-5A): The Falcons badly need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Right now, Flowery Branch is riding a four-game losing streak.
On top of that, its two toughest games on the schedule remain against Jefferson (4-2, 2-0) and No. 6 Loganville (7-0, 3-0).
There is good news, however, for the Falcons.
Junior wide receiver Seth Larson, a weapon to make big plays every time he gets the ball, made his first appearance of 2022 against Clarke Central last week.
Larson, who is a national champion wrestler, lines up at wide receiver and is a great compliment to an already-solid running attack with Myles Ivey and Malik Dryden.
This week, Flowery Branch visits Winder Barrow, which is also 0-2 in region play, but that’s against the two top teams in the region (Jefferson and Loganville).
Flowery Branch has a streak of five straight seasons of making the postseason in football on the line.
3. NORTH HALL (2-4, 2-2 Region 8-4A): Much like Cherokee Bluff, a 2-2 mark is not a bad position to be in with four more league games remaining.
However, the road to the postseason became a little more difficult for the Trojans on Friday, when starting quarterback Tanner Marsh fractured his throwing hand in a loss against North Oconee.
The final four region opponents for North Hall (Madison County, Chestatee, Cedar Shoals and East Forsyth) have a combined 7-7 mark in region contests.
The Trojans have the longest active run in Hall County of making the playoffs at seven straight seasons.
4. WEST HALL (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-3A): There’s still ample time for the Spartans to turn things around, but the competition won’t be getting any easier.
In fact, a win against White County (2-3, 0-1) is almost a must to stay a contender in the playoff chase.
For the Spartans, its final two region contests of the 2022 will be against always-tough Wesleyan (2-4, 1-1) and a much-improved Lumpkin County (5-1, 1-1).
5. CHESTATEE (1-5, 1-3 Region 8-4A): Things are a little more urgent for the War Eagles, who will have to win three of their last four games to have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs.
That’s going to be quite a challenge with East Forsyth (4-1, 2-1) and Walnut Grove (4-1, 2-1) as Chestatee’s last two games of the regular season.
Cherokee Bluff at East Forsyth
East Hall at Walnut Grove
Flowery Branch at Winder-Barrow
Lakeview Academy vs. North Georgia Christian
North Hall vs. Madison County
Riverside Military vs. George Walton Academy
Lanier Christian at King’s Academy
BYE: Chestatee, Gainesville, Johnson, West Hall