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High school football: Week 5 previews
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Banks at North Oconee

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Bogart

Coaches: Banks County, Blair Armstrong; North Oconee, Terry Tuley

Records: Banks County (2-2, 2-1 Region 8-AA); North Oconee (4-0, 3-0 Region 8-AA)

Key players: Banks County, WB/LB Jeremy Greenway (5-9, 170, Jr.), TE/LB Matthew Patton (6-1, 220, Jr.), QB/WR/DB Kane Duncan (6-3, 170, Sr.). North Oconee, RB/DB Brandon Whitlock (5-9, 170, Sr.), DE/TE Jesse Webb (6-2, 190, Sr.), WR/DB Levi Street (5-11, 155, Sr.)

Outlook: Patton led the Leopards with 82 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown in Banks County’s 18-14 win over Rabun County last Friday.

But in this week’s game against North Oconee it won’t be a decisive offense that secures the win; it will be the defense that makes the difference.

The Titans shut out Riverside Military Academy last week in a 17-0 victory at Maginnis Field and enter this game undefeated, a first for the Titans.

Senior defensive end Ryan Smith racked up four sacks for North Oconee and picked off a tipped pass to run in a 40-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown against Riverside.

These teams have only met three times, but the series record favors the Titans who enter the game tonight with a 3-0 advantage over the Leopards.

Prediction: NORTH OCONEE. The Titans will hold Banks and win this one on the line.


Decatur at Buford

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Coaches: Decatur, Price Jones; Buford, Jess Simpson

Records: Decatur (2-1); Buford (2-1, 0-1 Region 6-AA)

Key players: Decatur, RB/LB Quendarius Hall (5-9, 200, Jr.), QB Trumon Jefferson (6-1, 175, Jr.), RB/DB Nick Wynn (5-10, 175, Sr.). Buford, OL/DL Kolton Houston (6-5, 280, Sr.), OL Du’Von Millsap (6-5, 333, Sr.), QB Alex Ross (6-1, 180, Sr.).

Outlook: Carrying a 2-1 record means two totally different things for these teams.

For Buford, it means rebounding from a loss two weeks ago to Lovett, the program’s first regular season loss since 2004. It also left the Wolves with their first region loss in 59 games.

However, a 2-1 record is a starting point for big things at Decatur. The Bulldogs are off to their best start since winning five straight to start the 2005 season. Decatur is coming off last Friday’s 51-20 loss to Class AAAA Hillgrove.

Prediction: BUFORD. The Wolves are too good to fall to the bottom of the pack in the region. Another loss this early would leave them scrambling to make the playoffs this season.


Pickens at Chestatee

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: War Eagles Stadium

Coaches: Pickens, Steve Sewell; Chestatee, Stan Luttrell

Records: Pickens (1-2); Chestatee (1-2)

Key players: Pickens, QB Cooper Shaw (Sr.) LB Dustin Nicholson (Sr.), RB/LB Jordan Shaw (Jr.). Chestatee, RB Ben Souther (6-1, 200, Sr.), TE/LB Robby Poole (5-10, 175, Sr.), WR/DB Lamar Brooks (5-10, 190, Sr.).

Outlook: Both teams are coming off losses — two straight in Pickens’ case — and eager to start the subregion schedule with a win.

Though the War Eagles are only scoring a little more than 11 points per game, they’ve found success on the ground, averaging 226.7 rushing yards per game, despite being shut down by Gainesville in the season opener.

Souther has carried the load, rushing for 367 yards and three scores with 6.4 yards per carry. Poole (33 tackles) and Chandler Farrow (25 tackles, two sacks) are the leaders of the Chestatee defense.

Prediction: CHESTATEE. The War Eagles have proven they can run, and after facing Gainesville’s and Flowery Branch’s juggernaut offenses, the defense should be ready for the Dragons.


Lincoln County at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Lincoln County, Larry Campbell; Commerce, Steve Savage

Records: Lincoln County (3-1); Commerce (1-2)

Key players: Lincoln County, RB A.G. Middlebrooks (5-11, 205, Sr.) RB/LB Tavious McGee (5-11, 195, Sr.), DL Marquis Parks (6-2, 260, Sr.). Commerce, RB/DB Deon Brock (5-9, 165, Sr.), LB Jon Streetman (6-2, 205, Sr.), RB/DB Jon Cash (5-9, 160, Sr.).

Outlook: Commerce got the night off last Friday after three tough weeks to open the season.

Though they’ve been competitive in every game, and no opponent has found a way to shut down Brock (150 rushing yards per game), they emerged from the season-opening stretch with just one win.

Their toughest foe yet could be the one coming to town tonight.

Lincoln County features Middlebrooks, one of the top running backs in Class A. He entered this season nursing an injury, but appears to be back to full strength.

Prediction: LINCOLN COUNTY. The Red Devils should be primed to take out their frustrations on Commerce, which begins region play next week.


Dawson County at Rabun County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger

Coaches: Dawson County, Jeff Lee; Rabun County, Danny Durham

Records: Dawson County (0-4, 0-3 Region 8-AA), Rabun County (1-3, 0-3 Region 8-AA)

Key players: Dawson County, QB/DB Ethan Brown (5-11, 175, Jr.), RB/LB Stephen King (5-10, 170, Sr.), LB Sam Edwards. Rabun County, RB/DB Paul Blackstock (5-10, 160), RB/DB Daniel Campbell (5-10, 165), FB/LB J.B. McClain (5-11, 175)

Outlook: Dawson County comes into this game with a 7-10-1 series record against Rabun County and without a win on the season having only scored 36 points in four games played this year.

Brown leads the Tigers with 64 carries and 341 yards with four touchdowns on the season.

Against the Rebels, Brown posted 99 yards on the ground, the majority of the Tigers’ 150-yard offense, last Friday in Blue Ridge.

Prediction: RABUN COUNTY. The Tigers lack the scoring power needed to win against Rabun County.


East Hall at West Forsyth

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Cumming

Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; West Forsyth, Frank Hepler

Records: East Hall (0-4); West Forsyth (2-2)

Key players: East Hall, LB Corey Richardson (5-8, 210, Sr.), TE/WR Chaz Cheeks (6-5, 225, Jr.), WR/OLB Stephen Mendoza (5-10, 175, Sr.); West Forsyth, RB Ben Emert (Sr.), LB Nathan Teter (Sr.), WR/RB Ethan Shirley (Sr.)

Outlook: An East Hall defense giving up 22 points per game, including 26 to Gilmer in last week’s loss, will have its hands full tonight trying to stop West Forsyth’s running game.

Led by Emert (379 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns) and Shirley (a second-team All-Region 7-AAA pick in 2008), the Wolverines are averaging 19 points per game while giving up 21.

Leading the way for the Vikings’ defense will be linebacker Corey Richardson (35 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss) and defensive linemen Cheeks and Keon Jackson, who are both among the area leaders in sacks with 2.5.

Prediction: WEST FORSYTH. The Wolverines run to a win.


Flowery Branch at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw; Johnson, Paul Friel

Records: Flowery Branch (3-1); Johnson (1-3)

Key players: Flowery Branch, QB Connor Shaw (6-2, 200, Sr.), RB Imani Cross (6-1, 218, So.), LB Cory Sanderson (6-1, 195, Sr.); Johnson, Johnson, QB Anthony Prophet (5-11, 200 Sr.), RB Mantevius Rucker (6-2, 215 Jr.), DT E.J. Wright (6-4, 305 Sr.).

Outlook: Flowery Branch boasts the area’s top rusher in Cross (459 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns) and the area’s second leading passer in Shaw (866 yards passing and 10 touchdowns) and having that type of balance makes the Falcons a hard team to defend.

The Knights are giving up only 17 points per game, but haven’t faced a team with quite the arsenal that Flowery Branch has.

Working in Johnson’s favor is not only a rise in confidence after notching the season’s first win last week, but the knowledge that the Falcons’ defense has trouble stopping the run as evidenced by them giving up 402 yards rushing in the loss to Creekview and 193 yards rushing to Chestatee’s Ben Souther last week.

Rucker is among the area’s rushing leaders (3.8 yards per carry) and Tevin Arthur rushed his team to its first win last week thanks to a 22-yard scamper.

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. By air and by land the Falcons move to 4-1.


Gainesville at West Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Spartans Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; West Hall, Mike Newton

Records: Gainesville (4-0); West Hall (0-4)

Key players: Gainesville, QB Blake Sims (6-1, 180, Sr.) WR Tai-ler Jones (5-11, 170, Sr.), LB A.J. Johnson (6-3, 220, Jr.). West Hall, QB Shunquez Stephens (6-4, 240, Jr.), WR Brandon Fuqua (5-10, 150, Jr.), RB Marquise Young (5-9, 180, Sr.).

Outlook: Fresh off a 55-12 win against their rivals, the Red Elephants’ high-powered offense opens subregion play against a defense yielding 38 points per game. That spells doom for West Hall, which has proven that it can score, but has had trouble slowing down any of the four teams it has played to start the season.

The Spartans will again be faced with a tall task tonight because Sims, Jones and the rest of the offense is in midseason form. Gainesville has increased its point total every week and are getting things done on the defensive side of the ball as well, giving up just eight points per game.

Gainesville’s secondary will be tested tonight against one of the area’s best quarterbacks. Stephens was held to just 157 yards last week against White County, but the junior signal caller already has amassed more than 1,000 yards on the season.

Prediction: GAINESVILLE. The Red Elephants are just too tough offensively for the Spartans.


Habersham Central at Winder-Barrow

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: W. Clair Harris Stadium, Winder

Coaches: Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham; Winder-Barrow, Ben Corley

Records: Habersham Central (2-2, 2-2 Region 8-AAAA); Winder-Barrow (1-2, 1-2)

Key players: Habersham Central, QB Austin Brown (6-1, 185, Jr.) LB Keylan Myers (5-9, 170, Sr.), RB/DB D.J. Griffin (5-10, 170, Jr.). Winder-Barrow, WR Trent Demeritte (6-2, 180, Sr.), QB Christian Davila (6-1, 170, Jr.), RB Kendrick Davis (6-1, 185, Jr.).

Outlook: After three straight weeks of defensive slugfests, Habersham Central got into a different kind of tussle last week, coming out on top in a 31-27 win over Loganville.

The Raiders will need to carry that momentum forward to stay in the mix for a playoff spot in a very competitive 8-AAAA field. Brown had his best outing of the season last week, completing 17 of his 24 passes for 225 yards. David Griffin provided the balance, rushing for 129 yards on 19 carries.

They’ll be traveling tonight to face a team that seems to be improving each week. The Bulldoggs earned their first win of the season last week, 7-0 over Heritage, but have shown the propensity to surrender the big play on defense.

Prediction: HABERSHAM CENTRAL. The Raiders’ offensive balance should be the difference.


Jackson County at Morgan County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Bill Corey Stadium, Madison

Coaches: Jackson County, Billy Kirk; Morgan County, Bill Malone

Records: Jackson County (3-0); Morgan County (0-3)

Key players: Jackson County, QB Alex Crawford (5-7, 140, Jr.), WR/S Charlie Waycaster (6-0, 170, Sr.), LB Kelly Moats (6-0, 180, Sr.). Morgan County, QB Terence Harper (Sr.), RB Terrance Howard (Jr.), RB Caleb Duvall (Jr.).

Outlook: There’s only two undefeated teams left in Region 8-AAA and to the surprise of many, one of them is the Jackson County Panthers.

The Panthers have combined to win three games over the last three seasons, and enter tonight’s region opener with the thoughts of going 4-0 for the first time in school history. Jackson County couldn’t have asked for a better region opener, as it travels to Madison to take on the winless Bulldogs, who are surrendering 42 points per game.

Prediction: JACKSON COUNTY. This region win will be the biggest win of the year for the Panthers, who haven’t won a region game since 2006.


Wesleyan at Lakeview

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jock Horner Field, Gainesville

Coaches: Wesleyan, Franklin Pridgen; Lakeview, Matthew Gruhn

Records: Wesleyan (4-0); Lakeview (1-2)

Key players: Wesleyan, RB Kyle Karempelis (5-10, 170, Jr.), QB Conor Welton, WR Anderson Porter; Lakeview, RB/LB Tom Drury (5-10, 190 Sr.), RB/DB Dalton Munday (5-7, 140 Sr.), QB/LB Jordan Chastain (6-0, 185 Sr.)

Outlook: Class A’s No. 1-ranked Wolves come into tonight’s game as not only the defending Class A state champions, but a team riding a 16-game winning streak that dates back to Sept. 19 of last season.

Led by Karempelis, who holds the single season rushing record for the Wolves for his 1,902-yard performance in 2008, Wesleyan is not only scoring (the team scores 35 points a game), but keeping its opponents from doing the same.

In four games played this season, the Wolves’ defense has given up two points.

Lakeview, on the other hand, hasn’t fared as well as Wesleyan but has shown vast improvement from last season. Up until a 31-7 loss to Hebron Christian two weeks ago, the Lions were averaging over 200 yards rushing per game led by Tom Drury’s 126 rushing yards per game.

Prediction: WESLEYAN. On this night, the Wolves are simply the better team.


Lumpkin County at Gilmer

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Huff-Mosely Stadium, Ellijay

Coaches: Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones; Gilmer, Wesley Tankersley

Records: Lumpkin County (2-1); Gilmer (2-1)

Key players: Lumpkin County, RB/LB Jake McClure (5-11, 195, Sr.) RB/LB Lance Chuvala (6-0, 200, Sr.), TE/DL B.J. Dorsey (6-2, 215, So.). Gilmer, RB Jacob Teague (Jr.), QB Thomas Davis (Sr.), RB Cody Kephart

Outlook: Lumpkin County has won two of its first three games this season with a simple formula: an efficient running game and a disruptive defensive front seven.

Other than a hiccup against Flowery Branch in Week 2, the Indians have allowed only seven points and are yielding an area-best 75 rushing yards per game. On offense, yards haven’t been easy to come by, but the Indians have been able to grind out 175 yards per game, led by McClure’s 66 yards per game.

Prediction: LUMPKIN COUNTY. The Indian keep it simple, running and stopping the run, and move to 3-1.


Riverside at East Jackson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Commerce

Coaches: Riverside, Scot Sloan; East Jackson, Frank Caputo

Records: Riverside (2-2, 2-1 Region 8-AA); East Jackson (4-0, 3-0)

Key players: Riverside, LB Aaron Gambrah (6-1, 200, Sr.), QB Alex O’Donnell (6-4, 218, Sr.), TE Brandon McKinney (6-5, 250, Sr.). East Jackson, QB/DB Evan Williamson (Sr.), DL/TE Scott Hill (Sr.), OL/DL Nick Fulks (Sr.)

Outlook: Riverside is looking to rebound from a game that easily could have gone its way. The Eagles played to a scoreless first half against North Oconee, and didn’t allow an offensive score until the fourth quarter. However, a key interception by the Titans which was returned for a touchdown spelled a loss for the Eagles.

In the first two games of the Region 8-AA schedule, the Eagles proved to be a second half team. Riverside won against Banks County and Rabun County thanks to defensive shut outs in the second half, combined with two offensive scores in the third and fourth quarters. They’ll need another effort like that to get past East Jackson.

Riverside senior linebacker Aaron Gambrah is third in the area with 47 tackles this season (four for a loss). Lucas Bersin is also playing well for the Eagles at linebacker with 43 tackles.

The Eagles are looking to continue to keep getting better as shown by a 56-27 win against Union County last Friday. East Jackson is a strong offensive team, which has averaged 43 points per game in each of its first four wins.

Prediction: EAST JACKSON. The Eagles not only look like a playoff contender, but also a region title contender.

Towns County at Dade County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Trenton

Coaches: Towns County, Kyle Langford; Dade County, Bradley Warren

Records: Towns County (1-3); Dade County (2-1)

Key players: Towns County, WR/S Matt Hogsed (6-1, 180, Sr.), RB Matt Beni (5-10, 175, Sr.), FB/DT Taylor Denton (5-11, 215, Jr.); Dade County, John Hampton (Jr.), Tyler Wright (Sr.), Rhett Lusk (Jr.)

Outlook: In a big win, 26 years in the making, Towns County defeated Hayesville (N.C.) 48-12 for its first win of the season last week in Hiawassee. The Indians’ Swilley went 12-for-14 with 162 passing yards and Beni had 14 carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Last year, Dade County only won one game all season, and the Wolverines come into tonight’s game with a series record of 0-1, having been defeated 40-35 in 2008.

But this season looks nothing like last year as Dade County has already secured two clutch wins against Fyffe (21-20) and Rockmart (7-6) giving them a 2-1 record — a position they have not been in since 1996.

Prediction: TOWNS COUNTY: Not to be counted out, the Indians come off their win last week seeking their second win.


Union County at Jefferson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Memorial Stadium Jefferson

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Jefferson, T. McFerrin

Records: Union County (2-1, 1-2 Region 8-AA); Jefferson (4-0, 3-0)

Key players: Union County, WR/LB Blake Gowder (6-2, 215, Sr.), QB Kolt Owenby (6-2, 180, Sr.), LB Michael Sossei (6-0, 190, Sr.). Jefferson, RB/LB Lucas Redd (6-1, 200, Sr.), QB Darius Minor (5-11, 170, Sr.), RB/DB Caleb Meek (5-7, 155, Sr.).

Outlook: This one has all the makings of a shootout. Jefferson enters the game still unbeaten in Region 8-AA after nearly a year and a half and averaging 45.5 points per game. In their first year under McFerrin, the Dragons have showcased a variety of weapons, especially in the running game. Through four games four Dragons are on a pace to rush for more than 300 yards in the regular season, not including Zach Allen, who rushed for 101 yards in the opener before suffering a broken leg in Week 2. Redd leads Jefferson in rushing yards (242 on 34 carries) and tackles (29).

Union County has had its own injury problems. Up to six starters could be missing this weekend, and their absence has contributed to the Panthers’ defensive woes this year — they’re allowing 31.5 points per game.

On the positive side, Union County hasn’t had any trouble scoring (31.3 points per game) led by Owenby’s 1,066 passing yards and Gowder’s 455 yards receiving.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. Expect the Panthers to rebound from last week’s defeat, but the Dragons still look like 8-AA’s best team.

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