Friday: Buford at Gainesville
The Red Elephants finally got over the hump against Buford in 2012, winning 19-15 after losing their season opener against the Wolves two years in a row. Both teams stood tall at the end of the season, as the Red Elephants hoisted the Class AAAAA state championship and the Wolves claimed the Class AAA title.
Gainesville and Buford each boast a No. 1 ranking this year and put on impressive displays in their respective season openers last week.
Friday’s game could provide a clearer picture of which team is most likely to repeat in 2013.
Gainesville overcame five turnovers to edge the Wolves last year. Red Elephants quarterback Deshaun Watson threw three interceptions in that game and will almost certainly have to limit his mistakes this time around in order for the Red Elephants to make it two in a row against the Wolves.
Sept. 20: Chestatee at Eastside
Chestatee wasn’t able to end its skid against North Hall last Friday, but the loss didn’t hurt the team’s chances of accomplishing other important goals this season.
The War Eagles went 8-2 during the regular season in 2012, their best mark in program history, only to be handed an unceremonious postseason exit at home in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs in 2012 against LaGrange.
Chestatee would like nothing more than to secure a home playoff game for the second consecutive season and take another crack at earning the program’s first-ever playoff win.
To lock up one of the top seeds in the region again, the War Eagles will most likely need a victory over Eastside. The two squads put on one of the most exciting shows seen in the area last year before Chestatee finally prevailed 57-56 in double-overtime.
Oct. 18: East Hall at West Hall
Year after year it’s been the same story for East Hall and West Hall. At best, the Vikings and Spartans might make it to .500. At worst, the result was a 1-9 or 0-10 season.
That all seems to have changed this year. The Vikings and Spartans appear to have made significant strides since 2012, and each squad has already delivered an early blowout victory.
The unfortunate reality for the Vikings and Spartans is that they compete in Region 7-AAA, where Buford and North Hall are virtual locks at the top, while Dawson County and White County are also coming off of strong seasons.
It won’t be easy for either Hall County squad to make the playoffs, and there’s probably only enough room for one of them to sneak into the postseason.
Nov. 8: Buford at North Hall
Although much-improved teams like East Hall and West Hall have increased the competition in Region 7-AAA from top to bottom, Buford and North Hall remain squarely at the top. The Wolves, in fact, appear to once again be in a class by themselves.
Buford’s 46-7 victory over Elbert County in the season opener on Friday doesn’t bode well for the Trojans’ hopes of pulling an upset for the Region 7-AAA title or the state championship, but North Hall is no stranger to doing the unexpected. The Trojans handed Peach County a shocking 52-10 loss in the state quarterfinals last season en route to their second appearance in the state semifinals in program history.
A lot of things would have to go right for North Hall to surprise a stacked Buford squad this season, but The Brickyard is sure to be an electric place if the two teams meet for the region championship in November.
Nov. 8: Flowery Branch at Gainesville
Some of the most heated rivalries in the state have nothing but bragging rights on the line. In the case of perennial state powers like Gainesville and Flowery Branch, major region and postseason implications raise the stakes to an even higher level.
The Falcons experienced a breakthrough in 2012 when they edged the Red Elephants 35-34 in the regular season finale and clinched the program’s first-ever region championship.
The unfortunate irony for Flowery Branch was that Gainesville somehow ended up with a more favorable postseason path and traveled it all the way to the Class AAAAA state championship, while the Falcons were upset in the first round of the playoffs.
The 2013 regular season finale could very well decide the Region 8-AAAAA title once again, and even more importantly, go a along way towards shaping the postseason picture across the state.