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High School Football: Week 4 previews
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Pickens at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial

Coaches: Pickens, Steve Sewell; Johnson, Paul Friel

Records: Pickens (0-2); Johnson (0-3)

Key players: Pickens QB/DB Alex Willingham (5-11, 180 Sr.), RB/LB Brett Larsen (5-9, 200 Sr.), Raymond Bennett (6-1, 190 Sr.). Johnson, LB Gilberto Espinoza (5-11, 220 Jr.), RB Mantevius Rucker (6-1, 200 So.), QB Anthony Prophet (5-10, 180 Jr.).

Outlook: There’s no getting around the fact that the Knights have a depleted roster.
Johnson dressed only 33 players last week, and lost five of those guys to various injuries in the loss to Chestatee.
Joey Brooks, Justin Hadden, Cam Evans and Tevin Arthur all went down for Johnson in the 56-38 loss to the War Eagles.

Now the Knights are looking to gain their first win of the season against the Dragons.
Johnson still has players that are going to put this team on their backs. Junior linebacker Gilberto Espinoza had 10 tackles (three for a loss) last week, and now has 31 tackles (6.5 for a loss) on the season.
Knights junior quarterback Anthony Prophet (35 carries, 291 yards) and sophomore Mantevius Rucker (43 carries, 216 yards) are two of their biggest playmakers on offense.

Pickens is off to an 0-2 start for the second year in a row. The Dragons have been thumped in their first two games this season with losses to West Hall, 21-3 and West Forsyth, 42-7.

Prediction: JOHNSON. This game may have little bearing on the rest of the season, but it will give the Knights some good news to take toward the subregion stretch.

Riverside Military at North Oconee

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Bogart

Coaches: Riverside, Chris Lancaster; North Oconee, Terry Tulley

Records: Riverside (3-0, 2-0 Region 8-AA); North Oconee (2-1, 1-1)

Key players: Riverside, QB Julian Suber (5-9, 170 Jr.), RB Logan Clemens (6-1, 220 Sr.), LB Aaron Gambrah (6-2, 190 Jr.). North Oconee, RB/CB Lane Thompson (5-8, 155 So.), RB Seve Udhe (5-10, 180 Sr.), QB Jamie Fullington (6-3, 185 Sr.).

Outlook: So far, the Eagles have had their way with Region 8-AA, especially on offense.

After a few years in the Georgia Independent Schools Association, Riverside has rejoined GHSA and assimilated with ease.

After a 21-20 opening week win over Class AAA Elbert County, the Eagles have scored 108 combined points in wins over Banks County and Rabun County.

They’ve done it with balance and heavy doses of Suber, who so far this year is averaging 11 yards per carry and has completed 15-of-16 passes for 232 yards.

Fellow Riverside quarterback Lucas Bersin has been almost as accurate, completing 24 of his 30 attempts for 294 yards.

As a team, the Eagles have completed better than 85 percent of their passes this year (41-for-48), and have rushed for more than 215 yards per game on 6.5 yards per carry.

Those numbers could be disconcerting for the Titans, who were gashed by Union County on numerous big plays in last week’s 49-21 loss.

The Titans, also newcomers to Region 8-AA, have their own offensive weapons, including Thompson, who has scored rushing, receiving and passing touchdowns this year. Through three games this year, North Oconee is averaging 28 points per game and averaging more than 250 rushing yards per game.

Prediction: RIVERSIDE. The Eagles should roll into Jefferson unbeaten on Oct. 3 in a matchup that could decide the Region 8-AA title — as long as they don’t start overlooking opponents like the Titans.


West Hall at White County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Cleveland

Radio: 105.1-FM

Coaches: West Hall, Mike Newton; White County, Gregg Segraves

Records: West Hall (3-0); White County (1-2)

Key players: West Hall, QB Shunquez Stephens (6-4, 245 So.), RB Marquise Stephens (6-2, 210 Sr.), WR Rodney Gibson (6-3, 180 Sr.). White County, QB Chantz Segraves (5-10, 180 Sr.) RB Ashely Lowery (6-1, 175 So.), OL/DL Tasi Suaava (6-0, 285 Sr.).Outlook: Not many people would have predicted that West Hall, and not White County, would enter this game as the favorite. At 3-0, the Spartans have already surpassed their win total from a year ago, and with a win tonight, will start 4-0 for the first time since 2002. But winning tonight won’t be easy.

White County enters this game fresh off a 30-7 loss to Gainesville last week in a game in which the Warriors shut down the talented Gainesville offense in the first half. While West Hall’s offensive weapons aren’t talked about as often as Gainesville’s, the trio of Shunquez and Marquise Stephens, along with receiver Rodney Gibson are just as capable of putting on an offensive display.

To limit the trio’s effectiveness, White County will have to utilize the same game plan it did last week against Gainesville. It will need to use its strength and size on both the offensive and defensive lines to dictate the tempo of the game.

In Week 3, the Warriors opened the game with a 12-play, 7 minute drive that ended with a 1-yard Lowery touchdown. That opening drive put the Red Elephants on their heels and set the tone for the game, or at least the first half.

While White County is entering this game after a physical showdown with Gainesville, West Hall is coming off a fairly easy 27-0 win against Gilmer. Whether or not last week’s games have an impact on this game is anyone’s guess, but if the Warriors are still feeling the impact of injuries suffered to Blake Limbaugh and Chantz Segraves, that could affect how well their offense runs.

Prediction: WEST HALL. The determining factor of last week’s game with Gainesville was that White County simply ran out of energy in the second half. While the Spartans may not have the number of athletes that Gainesville has, it runs the same style of run-and-gun spread offense, and that could wear down the Warriors. Look for the Spartans to stay unbeaten at 4-0.

Chestatee at Flowery Branch

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Falcons Field

Radio: 550-AM

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw

Records: Chestatee (1-1); Flowery Branch (2-1)

Key players: Chestatee, LB Chase Vasser (6-4, 211 Sr.), RB Ben Souther (6-1, 200 Jr.), DL Thomas Norman (6-5, 205 Sr.). Flowery Branch, RB/LB Daniel Drummond (6-3, 230 Sr.), QB Connor Shaw (6-1, 185 Jr.), WR/SS Greg Palmer (6-0, 180 Sr.) .

Outlook: Chestatee is coming off its best offensive performance in program history and will be looking to avenge last season’s 43-14 throttling at the hands of Flowery Branch.

The War Eagles put up obscene rushing totals, including 271 yards by junior running back Ben Souther, against Johnson last week but Johnson did the same in return. The Knights ran for 358 yards on Chestatee, which bodes well for a Flowery Branch running game that has accounted for five touchdowns and 517 yards.

Not boding well for the Falcons? The return of senior linebacker Chase Vasser. In his only game played this season, Vasser has 22 tackles. He and Jonathon Cain (29 tackles in two games) will be called upon to stop the Flowery Branch’s five-headed rushing monster.

If that monster is stopped, however, it will open up the already potent Flowery Branch passing game. Quarterback Connor Shaw is hitting on 60 percent of his passes for 445 yards and five touchdowns through three games. The reason for his success is the Falcons’ receiving corp, five of which are averaging more than 10 yards per reception.
Chestatee quarterback Ethan Souther isn’t putting up huge numbers passing (14-24 for 201 yards and two touchdowns) or rushing, leaving an offensive focal point — little brother Ben — for Flowery Branch’s defense.

In turn, that means that the Falcons’ defensive front must have a good game, whether it be by getting in the backfield themselves or opening up gaps for the linebackers to get through to stifle the running game before it gets going.

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. The last time Chestatee faced a team that could run and pass, it lost 35-0.

East Hall at Gilmer

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Ellijay

Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; Gilmer, Wesley Tankersley

Records: East Hall (0-3); Gilmer (0-2)

Key players: East Hall, WR Kiante Young (6-1, 190 Sr.), OL Christian Romero (5-11, 235 Sr.), WR Andrew Ivester (6-1, 170 Sr.). Gilmer, RB/LB Jacob Teague (5-11, 175 So.), RB Evan Pankey (6-0, 185 Sr.), OL/DL Wesley Nestor (6-1, 220 Jr.).

Outlook: East Hall went to Gilmer last year winless, but improved. Oddly enough, the same scenario exists this year except the meeting is six games earlier. East Hall is averaging slightly more points (9.3) and giving up slightly less (25) per game than the Bobcats.

Vikings’ quarterback Harrison Dale may have thrown six interceptions in the team’s first three games, but he is also hitting on 60 percent of his passes against stiffer competition than will be faced tonight.

East Hall’s defense, especially Corey Richardson (30 tackles), will have to step up against a Gilmer offense averaging a touchdown a game.

Prediction: EAST HALL. The Vikings have won twice in 14 tries, both against the Bobcats. Confidence in the proven ability to perform at a higher level than an opponent counts for something.

Oglethorpe County at Jefferson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jefferson Memorial Stadium

Coaches: Oglethorpe County, Buddy Cain; Jefferson, Bill Navas

Records: Oglethorpe County (1-2, 0-2 Region 8-AA); Jefferson (3-0, 2-0)

Key players: Oglethorpe County, RB/DB D.J. Johnson (5-11, 170 Jr.), TE Cody Erwin (6-2, 175 Jr.) DE Orlando Cunningham (6-2, 240 Jr.). Jefferson, QB Darius Minor (6-0, 170 Sr.), OL/DL Kyle Roberds (5-10, 190 Sr.), WR Tab Martin (5-8, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: Week by week, Jefferson is proving its worth in Class AA, the latest example being a 41-6 win against defending region champion Fannin County last Friday.

The Dragons look to dominate again when they play host to Oglethorpe County, which struggled in its 38-7 loss to East Jackson last Friday, earning just 106 yards of total offense.

The Patriots will have their hands full against Jefferson on both sides of the ball. The Dragons are averaging almost 32 points a game, while only allowing six, including only 2.6 rushing yards per carry.

Jefferson’s offense is led by quarterback Darius Minor, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in each game this season, and has reached the century mark in passing twice. Receiver Tab Martin and running back Virgil Appleby have helped provide the Dragons’ offense with variety.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons breezed through their first three opponents and kept two run-only teams from earning major rushing yards. Oglethorpe County struggled to do anything last week, and it only gets harder from there.

Jackson County at Prince Avenue

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Wolverine Stadium, Athens

Coaches: Jackson County, Billy Kirk; Prince Avenue Christian, Mark Farriba

Records: Jackson County (1-1); Prince Avenue Christian (2-1)

Key players: Jackson County, QB Marquise Gillespie (5-9, 146 Jr.), RB Rob Williams (5-10, 175 Jr.), LB Matt Robinson (6-0, 210 Sr.). Prince Avenue Christian, RB Anthony Ball (5-10, 181 Sr.), OT Matt Van Halanger (6-4, 260 Sr.), QB/LB Taylor Clark (6-3, 170 Jr.).

Outlook: Coming off a bye week, the Panthers hope to double their win total by taking down Region 8-A’s Prince Avenue Christian.

Jackson County has already surpassed its win total from a year ago, and with region play beginning next week, tonight’s game against the Wolverines could give the Panthers much needed momentum.

Prince Avenue’s Anthony Ball, who scored two touchdowns in last week’s 27-20 win against Glascock County, leads the Wolverines on offense.

Prediction: JACKSON COUNTY. With a week off, the Panthers have had plenty of time to prepare for the Wolverines.

Dawson County at Fannin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Blue Ridge

Radio: 104.3-FM

Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; Fannin County, Clark Drennan

Records: Dawson County (1-2, 0-2 Region 8-AA); Fannin County (2-1, 1-1)

Key players: Dawson County, QB Chase Gilreath (6-1, 190 Jr.) WR/DB Cody Tobias (6-0, 185 Sr.), LB Nick Tobias (5-4, 175 Sr.). Fannin County, QB/DB Nick Dean (6-0, 160 Jr.), RB/LB Josh Gaddy (5-10, 170 Sr.), RB/DB Devean Morris (5-9, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: They say defense wins championships. Both the Tigers and the Rebels can attest to the truth of that statement. The lack of it last week cost both teams a crucial region win.

Behind Gilreath, Dawson County’s offense broke loose last week for more than 300 yards, but the Tigers defense could do little to slow Banks County’s wing-T running game, which tallied more than 400 yards and led the way to a 48-27 win.

This week Dawson County can count on a lot more ground game, as the Tigers travel to take on Fannin County and its wishbone offense.

Prediction: FANNIN COUNTY. Dawson County has already seen some of the most dynamic playmakers 8-AA has to offer and should be able to keep it close, but the edge here goes to the home team.

Habersham Central at Loganville

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Loganville

Radio: 99.3-FM

Coaches: Habersham Central, Gene Cathcart; Loganville, Eric Godfree

Records: Habersham Central (1-2, 1-2 Region 8-AAAA); Loganville (1-1, 1-1 Region 8-AAA)

Key players: Habersham Central, QB Austin Brown (6-0, 185 So.) WR/DB Dee Ellison (5-11, 175 Jr.), WR/DB Zach Mayfield (5-9, 165 Sr.). Loganville, RB Mykel Wyyet (5-8, 165 So.), LB Joey Cantrell (5-11, 175 Jr.), DB Chandler Smith (6-1, 200 Sr.).

Outlook: Both teams are coming off close losses in Week 3. Habersham Central lost to Clarke Central 28-22 while Loganville lost its first of the season, 10-7 against Salem.

Despite the loss, the Raiders were efficient in the air. Quarterback Austin Brown completed 17-of-29 passes for 268 yards and Zach Mayfield had 173 receiving yards on seven catches.

Prediction: HABERSHAM CENTRAL. The Raiders’ passing game is beginning to take form, and a good day for Austin Brown and his receivers would give Habersham Central an advantage over the Loganville defense.

Banks County at Rabun County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger

Coaches: Banks County, Blair Armstrong; Rabun County, Danny Durham

Records: Banks County (1-2, 1-1 Region 8-AA); Rabun County (0-3, 0-2)

Key players: Banks County, RB Justin Beasley (5-9, 175 Sr.), RB Demetric Dempson (5-10, 195 Sr.), QB Chris Porter (5-10, 175 Sr.). Rabun County, QB Ethan Grant (6-0, 185 Sr.), RB/DB Daniel Campbell (5-10, 160 Jr.), OL/DL Morgan Gantt (6-1, 200 Sr.).

Outlook: After two losses and 95 points allowed, Banks County finally ran wild in its 48-27 win against Dawson County last Friday.

Banks County running back Justin Beasley has accumulated 614 yards on 70 carries this season, more than any other area rusher.

Prediction: BANKS COUNTY. The Leopards’ running game is too fast for Rabun County to stop.

Last week: 12-0
Overall: 27-6

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