Get ready for this week's high school football slate with breakdowns of each area team in action tonight.
Last year’s game between the Chestatee High and East Hall High football teams was marred by lightning that created a lengthy delay and prompted officials to end the contest with more than 16 minutes left to play.
This year, the forecast calls for points — and plenty of them.
Chestatee and East Hall will meet at 7:30 p.m. today at War Eagle Stadium in Gainesville, a cross-county contest between two of the area’s most explosive offenses. Though the game figures to feature plenty of scoring, neither coach is banking on a shootout.
“You go into each week just hoping to come out on top,” War Eagles coach Shaun Conley said. “You’re just looking to find a way to get the win and find a way for your kids to continue to play hard, whether it’s 55-54 or 2-0.”
Tonight’s showdown will likely resemble the former.
The Vikings (0-1) moved the ball and scored seemingly at will in their season opener against Class 6A Habersham Central, despite losing 72-55.
Senior quarterback Austin Parker completed 21 of 33 passes for a career-high 457 yards and five touchdowns, adding 51 yards and another score on the ground in a performance that earned him The Times’ Player of the Week recognition.
Sedrion Morse caught six balls for 200 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Cambren Harrison produced 134 yards and two scores on only 13 carries.
“Things were going the right way for us (offensively),” East Hall coach Bryan Gray said. “We were making the passes, making the catches and blocking. But there are still some areas where we have to get better. … I was very encouraged with our heart and our effort. I was very proud of our kids for that.”
Chestatee (1-0), meanwhile, jumped ahead early to beat North Hall 42-12 last Friday. Quarterback Storm Yarbrough and running back Nick Lyles, both seniors, had huge nights and led the War Eagles to touchdowns on five straight possessions.
Yarbrough went 10 of 13 for 198 yards and two touchdowns, along with 77 yards and a score on the ground, while Lyles had 12 carries for 106 yards and four total touchdowns
Their performances helped Chestatee pick up just its second win against the Trojans since the schools split in 2002 and its first since 2005. Though the War Eagles rode that positive energy through practice this week, Conley has urged his players to refocus on East Hall.
“We have a lot of momentum coming into this game,” Yarbrough said. “We’re all excited. But we’re always looking for the next one. We’re happy, but at the same time we have to forget about North Hall and focus on this one coming up.”
A game both teams want to forget is the one they played against each other a year ago.
Right around the end of the first quarter, officials delayed the contest for nearly two hours due to patches of lightning that hung over Gainesville. The teams frantically traded scores once play resumed, but the War Eagles held a slim 23-21 lead when the game came to a premature end because of an 11:30 p.m. curfew mandated by the GHSA.
“I hadn’t ever been involved in something like that,” Conley said. “In 20-something years of coaching, that’s the most unique situation I’ve ever been in. … I’m glad it ended when it did, with us being ahead.”
While Gray has wiped the bizarre game from his memory, Conley can fondly look back on it. Not only was it his first win as Chestatee’s coach, the victory ended an 18-game losing streak dating back to early in the 2014 season.
“I think that first win took a huge load off our backs,” Conley said. “I kept trying to tell our guys, ‘We’re not trying to be close; we’re trying to win ballgames.’ It didn’t matter to us how we won them. We just wanted to win the game. We were fortunate enough to get that victory.”
The War Eagles are aiming to do the same thing tonight, albeit over a full 48-minute game. That will likely mean a barrage of points between two high-powered offenses loaded with senior skill players.
But nobody on either team is certain they’re in for a back-and-forth affair. Yarbrough said Chestatee’s defense is much improved, and Gray hopes a re-emphasis on fundamentals will help fix East Hall’s mistakes from the season opener.
And as last year’s game shows, just about anything can happen.
“You coach wherever the game takes you,” Gray said. “You would hope that there will be some defensive stops and things like that, but we’re going to play whatever style we have to to get a win.”