High school football
Washington-Wilkes at Banks County
Chestatee at Gainesville
Commerce at Jefferson
Stephens County at Flowery Branch
Cedar Shoals at Habersham Central
Jackson County at Our Lady of Mercy
North Hall at Johnson
Fellowship Christian at Lakeview Academy
Dawson County at Lumpkin County
Riverside Military at Elbert County
Towns County at Rabun County
Hayesville (N.C.) at Union County
West Hall at East Jackson
White County at Franklin County
All games start at 7:30 p.m.
The anticipation for the start of the high school football season is particularly high this season. That’s a credit to coaches, players and teams that have turned football in Northeast Georgia into some of the best in the state.
We’re all looking forward to Friday night when most schools in the area tee it up for the first time in 2009. The adrenaline rush of watching the ball fly off the leg of the kicker and toward the end zone to start the game, especially in Week 1, is the reason football fans like myself keep a countdown to the season going during the summer.
But what makes this season so unique for fans, and natives of Hall County, is the promise that this could finally be the season that one of our teams reaches the top spot and wins a state title.
We rallied behind Flowery Branch High last season when the Falcons put on a tremendous run all the way to the state title game against Cairo at the Georgia Dome, knowing the Falcons had a shot at winning the first GHSA state title in football by a school from Hall County.
The Falcons’ run to the Dome also got the attention, and at the same time respect of the rest of the state and its fans, with many buying into the longstanding perception — which for a long time was probably accurate — that the best football in the Peach State is played below the gnat line.
However, when you pan out and look at the quality of football played specifically in Region 7-AAA, it’s easy to make the assessment that it is one of the toughest Class AAA regions in the state. Region 7B-AAA has four programs (Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Johnson and West Forsyth) that are playoff contenders this season, and could probably all make the playoffs if they played in regions with not the same level of competition.
In 7A-AAA, North Hall is looking to claim its fourth consecutive subregion title. Since the new subregion alignment started in 2006, the Trojans haven’t lost a game against an opponent from the North subregion. The Trojans’ success also plays a large part in the respect that the region commands among fans throughout the state. Any team, like North Hall, that has averaged 10 wins per season for a stretch of five seasons has to be considered one of the top programs in the state.
But this year’s focus, at least to start the season, is squarely on Gainesville. The defending Region 7-AAA champion Red Elephants bring back a team loaded with talent and a No. 2 ranking, one spot ahead of Flowery Branch, in the preseason poll to start the season. I doubt many teams want to deal with the added pressure of being a front-runner to win the state championship, but when you have a roster that is loaded with future Division-I football players, those expectations come with the territory.
After experiencing that playoff run with Flowery Branch last season, and seeing a team from Hall County play for the state title, I just hope this is the season we finally crown a champion from right here at home.