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High school football: Ready to run
A look back at what we learned in Week 1
West Hall quarterback Shunquez Stephens (6) celebrates with Ishmail Nuckles during the team’s scrimmage game last month. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Still the same game

Much has been made about the widespread use of wide-open offenses in 7-AAA and around the state. But if much can be determined from the first week of the season, a strong running game and solid defenses are still the hallmarks of successful teams.

Flowery Branch sophomore Imani Cross led area rushers with 176 yards Friday night as the Falcons totaled more than 300 yards on the ground, while the Flowery Branch defense kept a well-balanced Stephens County offense in check.

Jefferson got 101 yards from Zac Allen, 85 from quarterback Darius Minor, and 77 from Lucas Redd as the Dragons racked up 292 rushing yards to grind out a 30-13 win over Commerce.

In their wins, Gainesville and Lumpkin County each made resounding statements in both the running game and on defense.

The Indians prevailed in a 13-0 slugfest with rival Dawson County by chewing up 204 rushing yards on 34 carries and limiting the Tigers to 77 yards of offense.

Sophomore lineman BJ Dorsey was a leader on the Lumpkin County defense, recording two of the Indians’ four sacks and finishing with nine tackles.

Gainesville got 140 rushing yards from Teryan Rucker, and its heralded linebacker corps helped the Red Elephants’ defense hold the Chestatee running game to 87 rushing yards on 41 carries.

Plenty of playmakers

West Hall proved there are still plenty of offensive weapons suiting up for the Spartans after the team lost its top four receivers and leading rusher from 2008 to graduation.

Led by quarterback Shunquez Stephens, who led the area in passing yards as a sophomore last fall, West Hall put up big offensive numbers. The only problem was that they failed to slow down East Jackson’s offense in a 55-26 loss in Commerce on Friday.

Stephens threw for 349 yards, threw for one score and rushed for two more. Ishmail Nuckles caught seven passes and accounted for 167 receiving yards while Marquise Young rushed for 106 yards on eight carries.

The Spartans’ defense gets a chance at redemption Friday night when West Hall travels to Pickens. The Dragons were off last week.

Coach knows best

There’s a reason coaches always seem to mention avoiding turnovers and penalties when talking about keys to success: They know what they’re talking about.

Lakeview Academy outgained Fellowship Christian on Friday, but were beset by 12 penalties for 95 yards in a 21-20 loss.

Penalties also helped derail Riverside in a 40-6 loss to Elbert County in which the Eagles were flagged 10 times for 105.

Johnson was bitten turnovers in a 20-3 loss to North Hall. The Knights outgained the Trojans by more than 100 yards, but fumbled six times (losing one) and throwing three interceptions.

Chestatee also suffered, fumbling seven times and losing three in a 34-0 loss to Gainesville.

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