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High school football: Week 6 previews
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Holloway: Johnson's Espinoza down, but not out

Game of the Week: Gainesville ready for televised tussle with Wolverines

East Jackson at Banks County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Leopard Stadium, Homer

Coaches: East Jackson, Frank Caputo; Banks County, Blair Armstrong

Records: East Jackson (5-0, 4-0 Region 8-AA); Banks County (2-3, 2-2)

Key players: East Jackson, RB/DB Deon Sewell (5-9, 185 Sr.), QB Evann Williamson (5-11, 175 Sr.), OL/DL Parker Wilson (5-11, 200 Jr.). 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.).

Outlook: In one of 8-AA’s biggest surprises of the season thus far, East Jackson is blowing through the competition, putting up an average of 43 points per game.

In only their second season of a full varsity schedule, the Eagles have found success through variety of big-play sources. Sewell already has a 230-yard rushing performance to his credit, and last week running back C.J. Allen had two touchdown runs (40 and 35 yards), a 60-yards touchdown reception and a 95-yard kickoff return for a score in a 42-20 win over Riverside.  
Meanwhile, injuries finally caught up to Banks County last week, as the Leopards fell 47-0 to North Oconee.

The team’s top two rushers (Dylan Lackey and Clay Frink) went down three weeks ago in a win over Dawson County. The Leopards survived the next game (18-14 over Rabun County), but struggled last Friday.

Banks County needs a win to remain in good standing in the chase for 8-AA’s fourth playoff spot, while the Eagles are looking to keep pace with fellow region unbeatens, North Oconee and Jefferson.

Prediction: EAST JACKSON. The Eagles give up points, but they should be able to score enough to outlast Banks County.

Buford at Avondale

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Avondale Stadium

Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Avondale, Michael Carson

Records: Buford (3-1, 1-1 Region 6-AA); Avondale (3-1, 1-0 Region 6-AA)

Key players: Buford, OL/DL Kolton Houston (6-5, 280 Sr.), OL Du’Von Millsap (6-5, 333 Jr.), FB/LB Jessel Curry (6-2, 217 Jr.). Avondale, RB Max Thompson (5-9, 175 Sr.), QB/LB Johquill Dawson (5-9, 180 So.), Adrain Dolley (6-0, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: Avondale is 3-1 for the first time since 1989 and comes into tonight’s game seeking its second upset in as many weeks after topping Blessed Trinity 14-7 last Friday.

The Blue Devils are led by Thompson (110 yards rushing per game) and a defense that would be giving up just over four points per game if it weren’t for a 42-0 loss to Class AAA’s Carrollton in Week 3.

It’s clear from Avondale’s offensive numbers (209 yards rushing per game to just 44 passing) that the Blue Devils rely on their running game. Yards on the ground, however, will be hard to come by against a Buford defense that is allowing an average of 69 rushing yards and only eight points per game.

No. 4 Buford also comes into tonight’s game at 3-1, but regardless of its loss, is still averaging 33 points per game while also relying on a strong running game (14 rushing touchdowns on the season).

The Wolves have four rushers (Darrian Smith, Eric Barr, Jessel Curry and Ryan Dillard) who have amassed over 100 yards rushing this season with Smith leading the way (256 yards on 47 carries).

Buford’s passing game shouldn’t be overlooked, however, as quarterback Alex Ross has 504 yards passing this year while completing 51 percent of his passes. Sherman Page leads the Wolves’ seven-man receiving corp with a 14.8 yard per reception average.

Prediction: BUFORD. The Wolves have offensive balance and a stingy defense, and won’t allow Avondale to get its second upset in as many weeks.

Chestatee at Lumpkin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: J.P. King Memorial Stadium, Dahlonega

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones

Records: Chestatee (2-2, 1-0 Region 7A-AAA); Lumpkin County (2-2, 0-1)

Key players: Chestatee, RB Ben Souther (6-1, 200 Sr.), RB/LB Keaton Summerlin (5-10, 175 Sr.), WR/DB Lamar Brooks (5-11, 190 Sr.). Lumpkin County, RB/LB Lance Chuvala (6-0, 200 Sr.), WR/DB Chad Fulton (5-10, 160 Sr.), OL/DL Josh Rogers (6-3, 275 Sr.).

Outlook: Two teams with the same playoff aspirations square off tonight in a game that could determine which team stays alive in the hunt for one of the two postseason spots from the subregion.

The War Eagles enter tonight fresh off a 33-0 rout of Pickens in which Souther rushed for 163 yards and four touchdowns on just nine carries. The senior running back might have difficulty duplicating that feat against Lumpkin County, as the Indians are second in the area in rushing yards allowed, surrendering only 85.8 yards a game.

Lumpkin County’s defense has been the key cog in its 2-2 start, giving up less than 200 yards a game and that includes the team’s loss to Flowery Branch. While the Indians defense has been stellar, the offense has struggled, averaging 12.8 points per game.

Chestatee’s two losses this year have been to two of Class AAA’s best teams, No. 1 Gainesville and eighth-ranked Flowery Branch.

Prediction: CHESTATEE. The War Eagles have their running game clicking and Souther will be too tough for the Indians to stop.

Athens Academy at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Athens Academy, Michael Gunn; Commerce, Steve Savage

Records: Athens Academy (3-1, 1-0 Region 8-A); Commerce (1-3, 0-0)

Key players: Athens Academy, QB Mark Sanders (5-9, 165 Jr.), FB/LB Henry Terrell (5-8, 170 Jr.), TE/DE Thomas Sanders (6-0, 215 Sr.). Commerce, RB/DB Deon Brock (5-9, 165 Sr.), WR Carl Allen (6-0, 160 Sr.), FB/LB Josh Streetman (6-2, 205 Sr.).

Outlook: Prior to Wesleyan joining the region in 2008, the 8-A champion almost always seemed to be the winner of the Athens Academy-Commerce game. Wesleyan won the region last season, went on to win the state championship, and is ranked No. 1 in Class A again last year, but that does little to diminish the meaning of this rivalry.

Both the Spartans and Tigers are perennial playoff contenders, and the winner of tonight’s game figures to get a leg up on the competition for a homefield berth in the first round of this year’s postseason.

Athens Academy has won the last three meetings, including a 19-13 decision last year. During that span, the average point differential is only 3.3 per game.

Commerce is coming off its second straight loss to close out a difficult non-region schedule. The Tigers carried a 12-7 lead over No. 3 Lincoln County last week before eventually falling, 20-12.

Prediction: COMMERCE. Expect the Tigers to break the Spartans’ winning series streak in another close one.

Creekview at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood

Coaches: Creekview, Al Morrell; Johnson, Paul Friel

Records: Creekview (3-1, 0-1 Region 7A-AAA); Johnson (1-4, 0-1 Region 7B-AAA)

Key players: Creekview, LB Ryan Holmes (5-10, 200 Sr.), DE Morgan Wright (6-4, 225 Sr.), RB Hunter Livingston (5-9, 190 Sr.). Johnson, QB Anthony Prophet (5-11, 200 Sr.), RB Mantevius Rucker (6-2, 215 Jr), DT E.J. Wright (6-4, 305 Sr.).

Outlook: Creekview comes into tonight’s game in Oakwood still smarting after not only losing its No. 9 state ranking thanks to a 45-21 loss to North Hall in last week’s subregion opener to North Hall.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s confidence should be relatively high knowing that a team it lost to by only 17 points in the season opener drilled Creekview.

There is a third factor, however, in that the Grizzlies beat then No. 3-ranked Flowery Branch on Sept. 11, which hammered the Knight last week.

Creekview is averaging 25 points per game on the season while also giving up 25. If Johnson can continue to show the same offensive improvement tonight that it has over the last three games, the Knights could give the Grizzlies a run for their money.

Prophet will need to be as good tonight as he was last week (163 rushing and 113 yards passing) if Johnson hopes to get its second win of the season.

Creekview won last year’s game 43-7.

Prediction: CREEKVIEW. The Grizzlies come in hungry and leave full.

Oglethorpe County at Dawson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tigers Stadium, Dawsonville

Coaches: Oglethorpe County, Larry Milligan. Dawson County, Jeff Lee

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

Key players: Oglethorpe County, QB A.J. Perlotte (5-10, 180 Sr.), RB Teaspoon Jones (5-8, 160 Sr.), RB D.J. Johnson (6-1, 175 Sr.). Dawson County, QB/DB Ethan Brown (5-11, 175 Jr.), RB/LB Stephen King (5-10, 170 Sr.), LB Sam Edwards.

Outlook: Both Oglethorpe County and Dawson County have struggled in region play this season.

Oglethorpe County, winless in region play, came up just short against Fannin County, 31-28 last week. At the same time, Dawson County won a defensive battle against Rabun County, 6-0.

Tonight’s game is of the utmost importance for the Tigers. A win would put Dawson County back in the running for the fourth playoff spot in the region. Right now, East Jackson, North Oconee and Jefferson, all 4-0 in region play, are playing like they’ll all be sound contenders for the playoffs.

Oglethorpe County’s biggest ailment has been inconsistent defensive play. The Patriots have given up 37 points per game in region play this season. Oglethorpe County already has head-to-head losses against North Oconee, East Jackson and Jefferson.

Dawson County still has games against North Oconee and East Jackson remaining on the schedule.

Prediction: OGLETHORPE COUNTY. Perlotte is an athletic quarterback and will help the Patriots pick up their first region victory this season.

Madison County at Habersham Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Raider Stadium, Mount Airy

Coaches: Madison County, Randall Owens; Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham

Records: Madison County (4-1, 4-1 Region 8-AAAA); Habersham Central (3-2, 3-2)

Key players: Madison County, QB Jacob Owens (6-4, 215 Sr.), WR Patrick McCrary (6-2, 220 Sr.), OL/DE Connor Boyett (6-5, 235 Sr.). Habersham Central, RB/DB David Griffin (5-10, 170 Jr.), QB Austin Brown (6-0, 185 Jr.), LB Keylan Myers (5-9, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: It never seems to get any easier for the Raiders.

Habersham Central has a winning record midway through the season, and has positioned itself in the thick of the 8-AAAA playoff hunt. But none of those wins have come easy, coming by a total of 12 points. Other than a 23-7 loss to Clarke Central, none of the Raiders’ games have been decided by more than one score.

Last week, Habersham Central dispatched Winder-Barrow, despite trailing much of the game, thanks to a breakout performance by Griffin, who rushed for 280 yards and scored five times.

This week’s foe, Madison County, enters on a four-game winning streak and is tied for second in the region with Clarke Central.

After eight straight years of .500 football or better, Madison County dipped to 2-8 last season, but have rebounded well, led by Jacob Owens, son of sixth-year coach Randall Owens. Running back Kendrick Butler also emerged as a threat last week with 103 rushing yards in a 21-16 win over Salem.

Prediction: HABERSHAM CENTRAL. Another heart-stopper is likely, but the resiliency the Raiders showed last week should serve them well.

Hart County at Jackson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Panther Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Hart County, Joby Scroggs; Jackson County, Billy Kirk

Records: Hart County (3-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAA); Jackson County (3-1, 0-1)

Key players: Hart County, QB Landon Beck (Jr.), RB Jermonte Hickman (Sr.), DE Drew Kirkland (Jr.). Jackson County, QB Alex Crawford (5-7, 140 Jr.), WR/S Charlie Waycaster (6-0, 170 Sr.), DL Ryan Howe (6-1, 205 Sr.).

Outlook: After a 3-0 start to the season, the Panthers suffered their first loss of the year last week against Morgan County. A return to the win column won’t be easy this week, as the Panthers host the top team in their region.

The Bulldogs come in off the heels of their first win over Stephens County in six years, and are led by the duo of Hickman and Beck, who combined for 344 yards of offense last week. Hart County, which averages 31 points a game, might find it difficult to move the ball easily on Jackson County, which is holding opposing teams to a paltry six points a game.

The Bulldogs embarrassed Jackson County last year to the tune of a 41-0 defeat, but this year’s Panthers are poised to keep the game close thanks to their tough defense.

Prediction: HART COUNTY. The Bulldogs continue their stay atop the region standings.

Jefferson at Riverside

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Maginnis Field

Coaches: Jefferson, T. McFerrin; Riverside, Scot Sloan

Records: Jefferson (5-0, 4-0 Region 8-AA); Riverside (2-3, 2-2)

Key players: Jefferson, RB/DB Lucas Redd (6-1, 200 Sr.), TE/LB Hoytes Damons (6-2, 220 Jr.), QB/KR Darius Minor (5-11, 170 Sr.). Riverside, LB Aaron Gambrah (6-1, 200 Sr.), QB/LB Lucas Bersin (6-0, 205 Sr.), TE Brandon McKinney (6-5, 255 Sr.).

Outlook: Sloan knows this game is a critical one for his Eagles. With half of the regular season in the books, the pecking order in Region 8-AA has certainly taken shape. The Dragons, East Jackson (5-0, 4-0) and North Oconee (5-0, 4-0) are the frontrunners, which leaves everyone else essentially scrapping for the fourth and final playoff spot.

What makes this game of more importance is the fact that Riverside already has head-to-head loses against East Jackson and North Oconee. In the second-tier of the region is Riverside, Fannin County and Banks County, all with 2-2 region records.

However, this game could prove the toughest to this point in the season for the Eagles. Jefferson is averaging 49 points per game, and tied a single-game scoring record with 63 points in a win last Friday against Union County.

The Dragons are fully capable of spreading the field and creating mismatches with the versatility of senior quarterback Darius Minor (290 rushing, 530 passing yards). Lucas Redd (280 yards rushing) and Caleb Meek (222 yards) are also proven runners for Jefferson.

Leading Riverside’s offense is senior quarterback Alex O’Donnell (511 passing yards, two touchdowns) and tight end Brandon McKinney (18 catches, 244 yards). On defense, linebacker Aaron Gambrah is one of the area’s best with 56 tackles (four for a loss).

Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons are scoring just too many points for the Eagles to slow down.

Towns County at Hebron Christian

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Dacula

Coaches: Towns County, Kyle Langford; Hebron Christian, Brian Smith

Records: Towns County (1-4), Hebron Christian (3-1)

Key players: Towns County, WR/S Matt Hogsed (6-1, 180 Sr.), RB Matt Beni (5-10, 175 Sr.), QB John Swilley (6-3, 225 Sr.). Hebron Christian, RB/LB Matthew Purcell, Fr., QB Paul Stinespring Jr., WR Will Treadwell Sr.

Outlook: The past couple of weeks have been quite the contrast for the Indians. Two weeks ago, Towns County put up 48 points in a lopsided win against Hayesville (N.C.). Last week, it was just the opposite as the Indians were defeated soundly by Class AA Dade County, 56-12.

Prediction: HEBRON CHRISTIAN. The Lions continue to look sound on offense. Although Hebron still plays a non-region schedule, it has improved quickly.

Fannin County at Union County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium

Coaches: Fannin County, Clark Drennan; Union County, Brian Allison

Records: Fannin County (3-2, 2-2 Region 8-AA); Union County (2-3, 1-3 Region 8-AA)

Key players: Fannin County, QB Nick Dean (6-0, 170 Sr.), RB/DB Garrison Kreis (5-10, 170 Jr.), RB/LB Blake Henry (5-9, 155 So.). Union County, WR/LB Blake Gowder (6-2, 215 Sr.), QB Kolt Owenby (6-2, 180 Sr.), LB Michael Sossei (6-0, 190 Sr.).

Outlook: Stuck in the middle. That’s the best way to describe the current state of Fannin County’s season.

The Rebels aren’t in the upper echelon of the region with Jefferson, East Jackson and North Oconee all at 4-0 in region play.

However, Fannin County is part of a big pack in the middle that includes Riverside Military and Banks County at 2-2 in region play, and the best bets to wind up with the fourth playoff spot at season’s end.

Fannin County already has head-to-head losses against East Jackson and Jefferson, and will face North Oconee on the final night of the regular season Nov. 6.

Prediction: FANNIN COUNTY. The Rebels pick up a much-needed win to stay on track with playoff contention.

West Hall at Flowery Branch

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Falcon Field, Flowery Branch

Coaches: West Hall, Mike Newton; Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw

Records: West Hall (0-5, 0-1 Region 7B-AAA); Flowery Branch (4-1, 1-0)

Key players: West Hall, QB Shunquez Stephens (6-4, 240 Jr), WR Brandon Fuqua (5-10, 150 Jr.), RB Marquise Young (5-9, 180 Sr.). Flowery Branch, QB Connor Shaw (6-2, 200 Sr.), RB Imani Cross (6-1, 218 So.), WR/DB Rodney Young (6-0, 185 Sr.).

Outlook: Unfortunately for a West Hall defense allowing 42 points per game, its first two subregion contests come against the most potent offenses in the area in Gainesville and Flowery Branch.

The eighth-ranked Falcons come in averaging a balanced 428 yards of offense per game (226 rushing, 202 passing) and not only have the area’s top rusher in Cross (622 yards and 11 touchdowns), but the area’s second-leading quarterback in Shaw (1,027 yards, 11 touchdowns and is completing 77 percent of his passes).

Oddly enough, West Hall’s Stephens is the leading quarterback in the area with 1,114 yards and 9 touchdowns and Ishmail Nuckles (405 yards receiving) along with Fuqua (9.5 yards per completion) are his biggest targets.

Even against a Gainesville defense that is giving up only 91 yards passing per game, Stephens still managed to eclipse the 100-yard mark and pass for two touchdowns.

Flowery Branch’s secondary will face arguably its toughest test of the season tonight and getting to Stephens in the backfield will be a key to keeping him out of rhythm and from putting up his usual numbers.

In light of senior linebacker Cory Sanderson’s injury last week against Johnson, which will keep him out of tonight’s game, someone will need to step up in the Falcons’ linebacker corp to ensure that Stephens stays off balance.

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. The Falcons have too many weapons offensively and will remain undefeated in subregion play.

White County at North Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Brickyard

Coaches: White County, Gregg Segraves; North Hall, Bob Christmas

Records: White County (3-1, 0-0 Region 7A-AAA); North Hall (2-2, 1-0)

Key players: White County, DL Tyler Hamilton (6-1, 285 Sr.), RB Ashely Lowery (6-2, 190 Jr.), QB/DB Tyler Dotson (5-10, 175 Sr.). North Hall, OL/DL Daniel Blitch (6-5, 320 Sr.), QB/DB Nathan Jones (5-11, 185 Sr.), RB/LB Peyton Wilhoite (6-0, 220 Sr.)

Outlook: The Trojans have dominated this series in recent years, winning 15 straight games dating back to 1988.

North Hall hopes to continue the streak with a running game led by Wilhoite, Robert Humphrey, Jordan Chaffin and Jones. Last week, the Trojans racked up 326 rushing yards in the first half against Creekview en route to a 45-21 victory. With the win, the Trojans are now a perfect 17-0 in subregion play since 2006.

Meanwhile, the Warriors hope to control the ball with a mix of run and pass. Dotson is White County’s leading passer with 304 passing yards and three touchdown throws. Cam Segraves is the Warriors’ leading receiver with 223 yards and a pair of scores.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. The Warriors will put up a good fight. However, the Trojans will earn the win.

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