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High School Football: Week 8 previews
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Flowery Branch at East Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: East Hall Stadium

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw; East Hall, Bryan Gray

Records: Flowery Branch (6-1, 2-0 Region 7B-AAA); East Hall (1-5, 0-2)
Key players: Flowery Branch, QB Connor Shaw (6-1, 185 Jr.), FB/DE Daniel Drummond (6-3, 230 Sr.), DE Izaan Cross (6-4, 250 Sr.). East Hall, RB/LB Corey Richardson (5-8, 175 Jr.), WR/DB Kiante Young (6-1, 190 Sr.), RB/CB Marcellous Moon (5-8, 165 Sr.).

Outlook: In Flowery Branch’s last four games, the defense has given up no more than a touchdown and the offense has scored at will, averaging 38 points.

Daniel Drummond is leading the way for the Flowery Branch rushing attack. Through seven games, the senior running back is averaging 10.6 yards per carry and has seven touchdowns.

If the Vikings defense, which is giving up 32 points per game, finds an answer for Drummond, then Rodriquez Frazier, Greg Palmer, Preston Bostic, Darius Kimbrough and Imani Cross are waiting in the wings.

And then there’s junior quarterback Connor Shaw. Shaw is the team’s second leading rusher (484 yards and five touchdowns) and the area’s fourth leading passer (790 yards and nine touchdowns) in only his first year at the helm of the Falcons’ offense.

East Hall’s offense is averaging less than two touchdowns a game, and is led by junior running back Corey Richardson (263 yards on 34 carries and one touchdown).

Against Gainesville, East Hall quarterback Desmon Gardner had a good showing, going 12-for-22 passing for 130 yards, a certain confidence builder against a Gainesville defense giving up a miserly five points per game.

Gardner and company will again be up against a defense that can not only carry a team, but change and win games. Flowery Branch’s defense is giving up 12 points per game.

The Vikings came out fired up against an undefeated Gainesville team and while the score wasn’t close, it wasn’t a cake walk for Big Red either. East Hall will need to not only come out with intensity, but sustain it to have a shot at beating a Flowery Branch team that has won six straight.

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. On both sides of the ball, the Falcons will prove to simply be too much for East Hall to handle.

Pickens at North Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Brickyard

Radio: 1330-AM

Coaches: Pickens, Steve Sewell; North Hall, Bob Christmas

Records: Pickens (1-5, 1-2 Region 7A-AAA); North Hall (3-3, 2-0)

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.). North Hall, DB Nathan Jones (5-11, 170 Jr.), WB/DB Graham Duncan (5-11, 170 Sr.), OL/DL Daniel Blitch (6-6, 330 Jr.).

Outlook: Despite North Hall’s troubles this season, the Trojans are still right in the mix for a subregion championship. North Hall has lost big against rivals Flowery Branch and Gainesville. But subregion wins against Creekview and a narrow win against White County have the Trojans sitting at the top of the pack in 7A-AAA.

In fact, the Trojans still have a realistic shot of winning the subregion and securing a playoff spot at the season’s end. To do so, North Hall probably needs to win out against Pickens, Chestatee, Gilmer and Lumpkin County. Tonight, North Hall faces a Dragons’ team that has seen their struggles this season.
Pickens’ only subregion win this season was a 50-11 win against rival Gilmer on Oct. 3. The Dragons were handled easily in the other two subregion games against Lumpkin County and Chestatee.

One of the bright spots for the Trojans this season has been the defense. Nathan Jones had two interceptions last week, and now has an area-high seven picks on the season. Thomas Sprague, a junior, has a team-high 80 tackles followed by Jones’ 62.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. The Trojans continue their pattern of playing their best football in front of the home fans at The Brickyard.

West Hall at Lumpkin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Dahlonega

Coaches: West Hall, Mike Newton; Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones

Records: West Hall (4-3, 1-2 Region 7B-AAA); Lumpkin County (3-3, 2-1 Region 7A-AAA)

Key players: West Hall, QB Shunquez Stephens (6-4, 248 So.), RB Marquise Stephens (6-2, 210 Sr.), WR Rodney Gibson (6-3, 180 Sr.). Lumpkin County, RB/LB Jake McClure (5-11, 190 Jr.), QB Daniel Abercrombie (5-10, 170 Sr.), RB Haden Rider (5-8, 175 Jr.).

Outlook: While both teams won last Friday, how they won couldn’t be more different.

While a strong second half allowed Lumpkin County to cruise to a 17-0 shutout against Pickens, West Hall edged Johnson 56-55 in a shootout that came down to a two-point conversion stop with 20 seconds left in the game.

Lumpkin County’s defense has allowed the least amount of points per game in 7A-AAA, and the Spartans bring a balanced passing and running game that will test the Indians’ ability to prevent scoring.

West Hall quarterback Shunquez Stephens is coming off a five-touchdown, 379-yard performance last week. He leads all area quarterbacks with 1,919 passing yards and 16 touchdowns on 123 completions.

His brother, Marquise Stephens, was his favorite target last week. Marquise caught nine passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.

The Indians will try to neutralize West Hall’s offense with a defensive core led by Lance Chuvala, Micah Davis, Jake McClure, Ben Ayres and Ryan Porter, who have all recorded at least 40 tackles this year.

McClure will also take carries on offense along with team-leading rusher Haden Rider and quarterback Daniel Abercrombie.

Prediction: WEST HALL. The Spartans’ passing game has frustrated opponents all season long. Lumpkin County’s defense will have its hands full facing the Stephens brothers and company.

Johnson at West Forsyth

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Wolverines Stadium, Cumming

Coaches: Johnson, Paul Friel; West Forsyth, Frank Hepler

Records: Johnson (1-6, 0-2 Region 7B-AAA); West Forsyth (5-1, 1-1)

Key players: Johnson, QB Anthony Prophet (5-10, 180 Jr.); RB Mantevius Rucker (6-1, 200 Jr.); LB Gilberto Espinoza (5-11, 220 Jr.). West Forsyth, QB Lance Baker (6-0, 170 Sr.); RB Ben Emert (6-1, 220 Jr.); OL/DL Dane Magnussen (6-3, 260 Sr.).

Outlook: West Forsyth is still in the mix for the Region 7-AAA title, or at the very least a playoff spot. The Wolverines return to the field tonight after losing to Gainesville two weeks ago.

The Wolverines need to improve on their offensive production to run the table in the regular season. Lance Baker (145 yards passing) and Ben Emert’s 84 yards rushing and two touchdowns led the Wolverines against the Red Elephants in their last game. It was the first time all season that the Wolverines were held to less than 20 points.

Johnson’s role for the rest of the season is simply that of trying to be a spoiler. The Knights are already out of realistic playoff contention, but can still be a thorn in the side of Region 7-AAA playoff contenders West Forsyth and Gainesville with games still remaining.

The Knights are coming off of a heartbreaking loss to West Hall, 56-55, in last week’s Battle of Oakwood. Johnson lost the game on a failed two-point conversion with less than 20 seconds left to play. On the bright side, the Knights got their offense back on track with Mantevius Rucker, Anthony Prophet and Mick Shannon all rushing for more than 100 yards.

Prediction: WEST FORSYTH. The Wolverines are loving their first season of varsity football. They’re just not loving playing in the same subregion with Gainesville and Flowery Branch.

Riverside at Fannin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Rebel Stadium, Blue Ridge

Coaches: Riverside, Chris Lancaster; Fannin County, Clark Drennan

Records: Riverside (4-2, 3-2 Region 8-AA); Fannin County (5-1, 4-1)

Key players: Riverside, RB Julian Suber (5-9, 170 Jr.) LB Diego Osegueda-Weiner (6-1, 215 Sr.), TE/DE Brandon McKinney (6-5, 220 Jr.). 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: After a region-wide night off last Friday, 8-AA comes back with a bang tonight.

Four of the region’s top six teams will meet tonight, and the game in Blue Ridge could have the biggest impact on the standings. Fannin County enters tied for second place, one game above a three-team fray for fourth. Riverside is part of that trio deadlocked at 3-2, but a win tonight would be a big step toward the playoffs.

The Rebels have rebounded well from their only loss this season — 41-6 to Jefferson — reeling off three straight wins, including a 42-35 triumph over Union County two weeks ago. The Eagles ran into the Jefferson buzzsaw in their last action, falling 47-20.

Statistically speaking, the Eagles and Rebels are near mirror images, even if their mode of operation differs.

Riverside has put up 35 points per game in its return to GHSA football, with a run-pass balance that tilts toward Suber. The junior began the season at quarterback, but has devoted his last two Friday game nights to running back. For the season, he ranks third in the area with 804 rushing yards (9.7 per carry) and 10 touchdowns. The emergence of Lucas Bersin at quarterback (731 passing yards, 8 TDs, 1 interception) has made the transition possible.

Fannin County depends on the run, and lines up primarily in the wishbone. Through six games, the Rebels are averaging 31.5 points per game, including 97 in their last two combined.
Both defenses yield in the neighborhood of 21 points per game.

Prediction: RIVERSIDE. The Eagles have a defensive front that can match Fannin’s physicality, and the offensive playmakers to score in bunches.

Lakeview Academy at Prince Avenue

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Wolverine Stadium, Athens

Coaches: Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn; Prince Avenue Christian, Mark Farriba

Records: Lakeview (1-2, 0-2, Region 8-A); Prince Avenue Christian (2-4-1, 0-3)

Players to watch: Lakeview, QB/DB Haughton Carswell (5-10, 150 Sr.), FB/LB Tom Drury (5-10, 185 Jr.), FB/LB Lex Little (6-1, 180 Jr.). Prince Avenue Christian, RB Anthony Ball (5-10, 180 Sr.), QB/LB Taylor Clark (6-3, 170 Jr.), OT Matt Van Halanger (6-4, 260 Sr.).

Outlook: Both Lakeview Academy and Prince Avenue Christian come into tonight’s game looking to emerge from the depths of losing streaks and get a much-needed region win.

For the Lions, two straight shutouts at the hands of Wesleyan (38-0) and Social Circle (28-0) have cut the 24 points per game they were scoring prior to those contests in half.

Prince Avenue Christian comes in losers of three straight including its own 38-0 loss at the hands of Wesleyan.

However unlike Lakeview, which has struggled to score in its losses, the Wolverines are averaging 21 points per game.

That per game total is due, in large part with no pun intended, to a rushing attack opened up by the play of offensive linemen Matt Van Halanger (6-4, 260), Keith Arrowood (6-0, 270) and Raymon Howell (6-3, 270) and a running back adept at finding the holes in college prospect Anthony Ball.

Conversely, the Lions don’t have a defensive lineman, or lineman period, whose weight exceeds 200 pounds.

Prediction: PRINCE AVENUE CHRISTIAN. The Wolverines are big and seasoned, and they have a proven running back, all of which will add up to a win in Athens.

Buford at Thomson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Brickyard, Thomson

Radio: 550-AM

Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Thomson, Luther Welsh

Records: Buford (6-0, 4-0 Region 6-AA); Thomson (4-2, 2-1 Region 3-AAA)

Key players: Buford, RB Storm Johnson (6-1, 210 Jr.) RB Cody Getz (5-7, 157 Sr.), OL/DL Dallas Lee (6-4, 295 Sr.). Thomson, RB James Bonner (Sr.), QB Brandon Turman (Sr.), DE Dexter Sneed (Sr.).

Outlook: Buford’s ongoing quest for competition carries the Wolves out of Region 6-AA tonight and more than 100 miles southeast to Thomson.

There, they’ll find a tested Bulldog team that’s eager to get back on track after a 20-0 loss to Washington County last week. In that game, Thomson was held to 75 yards of offense (35 rushing) by Class AAA’s seventh-ranked Golden Hawks.

Prediction: BUFORD. Thomson’s a good football team, but that’s not enough to beat Buford.

Wesleyan at Commerce

When: 8 p.m. tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Wesleyan, Franklin Pridgen; Commerce, Steve Savage

Records: Wesleyan (5-2, 3-0 Region 8-A); Commerce (2-4, 1-1)

Key players: Wesleyan, RB Kyle Karempelis (5-8, 165 So.) QB Conor Welton (6-0, 185 Jr.), OL/DL Andrew Patrick (6-2, 265 Sr.). Commerce, RB Jon Cash (5-9, 160 Jr.), RB Deon Orsborne (5-9, 155 Jr.), LB Josh Streetman (6-0, 190 Sr.).

Outlook: After three frustrating weeks of losses, a game finally went in favor of Commerce. The Tigers defeated Athens Christian 49-20, led by quarterback Phillip Edwards and running back Jon Cash, who combined for 299 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the past four weeks have been the best of the season for Wesleyan. The Wolves have gone 4-0 during the stretch, never scoring less than 38 points.

Prediction: WESLEYAN. The Wolves’ defense will neutralize Commerce’s running game, which could mean trouble for the Tigers.

North Oconee at Dawson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville

Coaches: North Oconee, Terry Tuley; Dawson County, Jeff Lee

Records: North Oconee (5-1, 4-1 Region 8-AA); Dawson County (2-4, 1-4)

Key players: North Oconee, RB Brandon Whitlock (5-7, 165 Jr.) QB Sean Zornig (5-11, 170 Sr.), CB Lane Thompson (5-9, 160 So.). Dawson County, QB Chase Gilreath (6-1, 190 Jr.), WR/CB Cody Tobias (6-0, 185 Sr.), RB Eian Perry (5-7, 190, So.).

Outlook: With a 27-6 win over Oglethorpe County two weeks ago, the Tigers washed away the bad taste left after a loss to previously winless Rabun County.

Now they enter tonight’s game fresh off a bye week and focused on continued improvment.

Prediction: NORTH OCONEE. As it has most of the year, the Dawson County defense should be able to keep this one close. But in the end, the Titans are stronger on both sides of the ball.

Monroe Area at Habersham Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Raider Stadium, Mount Airy

Radio: 99.3-FM

Coaches: Monroe Area, Matt Fligg; Habersham Central, Gene Cathcart

Records: Monroe Area (0-6, 0-6 Region 8-AAAA); Habersham Central (3-4, 3-4)

Key players: Monroe Area, WR/DB D.J. Hendricks (5-9, 155 Sr.), WR/DB Lavell Smith (6-1, 175 Sr.), OL Caleb Nix (6-2, 240 Jr.). Habersham Central, QB Austin Brown (6-0, 185 So.), RB David Griffin (5-10, 175 So.), RB Kevin Ellison (6-2, 190 Fr.).

Outlook: Despite the outcome last week, Habersham Central looked impressive in a 28-19 loss to a tough Apalachee team, picking up 223 total yards and outgaining its opponent.

The same can’t be said for Monroe Area, who is still looking for its first win of the season after losing 23-15 to previously winless Winder-Barrow, a team Habersham Central defeated 46-6.

Prediction: HABERSHAM CENTRAL. The Raiders’ balanced offense will keep Monroe Area still looking for its first win.

Jackson County at Eastside

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Sharp Stadium, Covington

Coaches: Jackson County, Billy Kirk; Eastside, Rick Hurst

Records: Jackson County (1-4-1, 0-3 Region 8-AAA); Eastside (5-1, 2-1)

Key players: Jackson County, WR Marquice Gillespie (5-9, 145 Jr.), RB Rodderick Burks (5-8, 160 Jr.), LB Matt Robinson (6-0, 210 Sr.). Eastside, LB/TE Zach Johnston (6-3, 215 Sr.), QB Justin Wray (6-3, 215 Sr.).

Outlook: The good news for Jackson County is that it has beaten Eastside the last two times these two schools have played each other.

The bad news? Those wins came three years ago, and the Eastside program has gone from back-to-back winless seasons to the top of the Region 8-AAA standings in that span.

Prediction: EASTSIDE. The Eagles are out to prove that they are one of the top teams in Region 8-AAA.


Jefferson at Banks County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Homer

Coaches: Jefferson, Bill Navas; Banks County, Blair Armstrong

Records: Jefferson (6-0, 5-0 Region 8-AA); Banks County (3-3, 3-2)

Key players: Jefferson, QB Darius Minor (6-0, 175 Jr.), LB Kyle Mosley (6-3, 220 So.), OL Sasser Conner (6-0, 300 Sr.). Banks County, RB Justin Beasley (5-9, 175 Sr.), QB Chris Porter (5-10, 175 Sr.), RB Demetric Dempson (5-11, 195 Sr.).

Outlook: Both teams are coming off big wins two weeks ago. Jefferson kept their record perfect with a 47-20 win against Riverside Military, while Banks County shut out East Jackson 42-0.

The Dragons’ offense led the way in their win, as they generated 544 total yards. Quarterback Darius Minor was 20-for-30 passing with 336 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 84 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.

Jefferson will be faced with the most productive running back all year in Banks County senior Justin Beasley, who picked up 213 yards and two touchdowns against East Jackson.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons’ offense has steamrolled every team they have faced this year, and Banks County will be no different.

Last week: 9-1
Overall: 65-12-1

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