The table, as they say, is set.
With two weeks left in the regular season, the high school football menu is filled with big games to pick from.
This week’s buffet features two games that will decide region championships and a plateful of contests with playoff implications.
In search of its first region championship since 1977, Jefferson plays host to North Oconee with the 8-AA title on the line. The eighth-ranked Dragons (8-0, 7-0) picked up another easy win Friday, cruising past Rabun County 47-0. The Titans’ defense may be one of the toughest Jefferson has faced this season, but the North Oconee offense barely generated enough offense to escape East Jackson with a 3-0 win.
North Oconee (7-1, 6-1) has yielded just 13 points in its last four games, but Jefferson enters with an offense now scoring more than 40 points per game.
Also up for grabs is the Region 6-AA championship when suddenly beatable Buford (8-0, 5-0) travels to take on Westminster (7-1, 4-1).
Friday night, the top-ranked Wolves were within a couple of feet of watching some pretty incredible streaks slip away (22 consecutive wins, 44 consecutive regular season wins, 55 consecutive region wins).
But Buford pulled out a 14-10 win over Blessed Trinity, setting up this week’s de facto region title game with league newcomer Westminster, fresh off a 55-0 tune-up win over Cross Keys.
A Westminster win wouldn’t clinch the championship -- the Wildcats have a date with Blessed Trinity looming in two weeks -- but a Buford win would give the Wolves their eighth straight region title.
If that’s not enough, fans can fill up on Union County and Riverside scrapping for 8-AA’s No. 4 spot, North Hall taking on Gilmer with a chance to wrap up 7-AAA’s No. 2 seed, Lumpkin County traveling to Creekview with both teams fighting for the No. 2 spot out of subregion 7A-AAA, and Social Circle and Commerce jockeying for playoff position in 8-A.
And what’s dinner without dessert?
The Flowery Branch-Gainesville game to decide the Region 7-AAA championship provides a sweet finish to the season on Nov. 7.
Hungry like the Wolves
It looked like it was finished. The unbeaten season, the winning streaks, the dominance.
Friday night at Tom Riden Stadium in Buford, Blessed Trinity had a 10-7 lead.
The Titans had stifled the Wolves’ offense all night, and now they were pushing their way through the Buford defense, driving with a chance to put the game out of reach.
As time ticked down, the Titans pounded their way inside the 10-yard line, and eventually inside the 2.
The Wolves stiffened on third down, then on fourth down, with Blessed Trinity looking for the knockout blow in the form of a touchdown, Buford turned back a quarterback sneak with a little more than 90 seconds left in the game.
That’s when Buford quarterback Michael May went to work. Leading his team as it fought out of the corner, May connected on five straight short passes geared to move the chains and stop the clock.
The Wolves moved from the 1-yard line to midfield, but only 37 seconds and one timeout remained.
Then on fourth-and-2, Buford coach Jess Simpson called on 157-pound tailback Cody Getz. The senior speedster took the handoff, hit the hole and dashed to the end zone, giving Buford its closest win since a 28-25 triumph over Cartersville in the second week of the 2006 season.
Banks ain’t going out like that
After a hard-fought loss to region leader Jefferson last week, it looked like Banks County’s playoff aspirations would be extinguished when the Leopards played host to Fannin County, the defending 8-AA champ which had won four straight, including high-scoring affairs against playoff contenders Riverside Military Academy and Union County.
But led by Justin Beasley, the area’s leading rusher with 1,473 yards and second-year coach Blair Armstrong’s wing-T offense, the Leopards (4-4, 4-3) rolled up 307 rushing yards en route to a 34-14 win over the Rebels.
That, coupled with Dawson County’s win over Union County, leaves the Leopards in a three-way tie for the fourth and final playoff spot with Riverside and Union County.
The three will square off in the final two weeks of the season, with Union County visiting Riverside this week, and Banks County traveling to Union County on Nov. 7.
If it comes down to it, Riverside holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Leopards thanks to a 56-28 win in Week 2.
The Leopards can clinch their first season with more than four wins since 1997 with a successful trip to Oglethorpe County (0-7, 1-7) this week.
Cody and David’s excellent overtime adventures
Dawson County has three wins this year, but what the Tigers’ total lacks in volume, it makes up for with excitement.
Friday, for the second time this year, Dawson County senior Cody Tobias and David Scully had a big hand, or foot, as the case may be, in a Tigers’ overtime win.
With the game knotted at 14 in overtime Friday night, Tobias slapped down a Union County field, setting up David Scully, one the area’s strongest kickers, for a game-winning 27-yard field goal.
In Week 1, it was also Tobias and Scully’s combined effort that helped the Tigers top Lumpkin County in a double overtime classic.
In that one, Tobias scored in the first overtime and Scully’s extra point tied the game at 23. Then in OT No. 2, Scully’s field goal put Dawson County in front, and Tobias sealed the win by stripping a Lumpkin County ball carrier on the ensuing possession.