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High school football: Week 9 previews
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The Blitz: Your source for high school football

Game of the week: Flowery Branch at West Forsyth

Gainesville at Gilmer

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Huff-Mosley Stadium, Ellijay

Radio: 1240-AM

Coaches: Gilmer, Wesley Tankersley; Gainesville, Bruce Miller

Records: Gilmer (4-3, 2-2 Region 7A-AAA); Gainesville (7-0, 3-0 7B-AAA)

Key players: Gilmer, RB Jacob Teague (Jr.), QB Thomas Davis (Sr.), RB/DB Ryan Lowery (So.). Gainesville, QB Blake Sims (6-1, 180 Sr.), RB Teryan Rucker (5-9, 180 Sr.), LB A.J. Johnson (6-3, 220 Jr.).

Outlook: There are some concerns in Elephant Country surrounding wide receiver Tai-ler Jones and the knee injury he suffered during the Red Elephants’ win over East Hall two weeks ago, but those worries are unwarranted because Jones said Wednesday that his knee is fine.

His diagnosis might not be enough to play tonight against Gilmer, as Miller said he may hold out his star receiver to provide some added rest. After all, the top-ranked Red Elephants probably won’t need his services against the Bobcats.

Gainesville is a perfect 13-0 against Gilmer and have scored an average 43.5 points during the past two meetings. With Sims, Rucker and plenty of other offensive weapons still available, Gainesville should have no problem scoring despite playing a team surrendering only 19 points a game.

The Bobcats started the season strong by winning four of their first five, but they have dropped two straight since, including a 42-0 loss to Creekview last week.

Prediction: GAINESVILLE. No rust here as the top-ranked Red Elephants roll to 8-0.

East Hall at Johnson

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Billy Ellis Memorial, Oakwood

Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; Johnson, Paul Friel

Records: East Hall (0-7, 0-3 Region 7B-AAA); Johnson (2-6, 1-2 Region)

Key players: East Hall, DE Sterling Bailey (6-6, 250 Jr.), DE/RB Chaz Cheeks (6-5, 225 Jr.), WR/OLB Stephen Mendoza (5-10, 175 Sr.). Johnson, QB Anthony Prophet (5-11, 200 Sr.), RB Mantevius Rucker (6-2, 215 Jr.), DT E.J. Wright (6-4, 300 Sr.).

Outlook: Neither East Hall nor Johnson are playoff contenders. Still, the Knights have something to play for tonight with the opportunity to draw even at 2-2 in subregion play. The only thing keeping Johnson from being considered a playoff hopeful is the fact that the season finale is against Class AAA’s top-ranked Gainesville (7-0, 3-0) next Friday at Bobby Gruhn Field.

Johnson is looking to rebound from last week’s 41-0 loss to West Forsyth and East Hall is trying to bounce back from a 69-16 loss to Flowery Branch.

The Knights have an advantage defensively in this game allowing only 32.5 points per game compared to 37.6 points per outing by East Hall. Last Friday’s offensive output of 16 points was the highest on the season for the Vikings.

Prediction: JOHNSON. The Knights draw even in the subregion with a big running night behind their big offensive line.

Lakeview at Commerce

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Commerce

Coaches: Lakeview, Matthew Gruhn; Commerce, Steve Savage

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

Key players: Lakeview, RB/LB Tom Drury (5-10, 190 Sr.), LB/RB Lex Little (6-1, 190 Sr.), QB/LB Jordan Chastain (6-0, 185 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: In this Region 8-A matchup, the Tigers have the upper hand in more ways than one.

Led by running back Deon Brock, who is second in the area with 969 yards and 12 touchdowns, Commerce has a strong running game that is averaging eight points more per game than the Lions.

Led by Josh Streetman (79 tackles this season) the Commerce defense is hitting on all cylinders too, giving up just 19 points to Lakeview’s 33.

If the Lions, however, put together a game that includes the type of play they had in the second half of a 39-14 loss to Prince Avenue Christian, they could give Commerce a run for its money.

Lakeview scored both of its touchdowns (14 points) while holding Prince Avenue Christian to just 13 points in the second half at home last weekend.

Prediction: COMMERCE. The Tigers have weapons galore and will ride them to victory.

North Hall at Chestatee

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: War Eagles Stadium

Radio: 102.9-FM

Coaches: North Hall, Bob Christmas; Chestatee, Stan Luttrell

Records: North Hall (5-2, 3-0 Region 7A-AAA); Chestatee (4-3, 3-1)

Key players: North Hall, QB/DB Nathan Jones (5-11, 185 Sr.), OL/DL Daniel Blitch (6-5, 320 Sr.), RB/LB Peyton Wilhoite (6-0, 220 Sr.). Chestatee, QB/DB Lamar Brooks (5-11, 190 Sr.), RB Ben Souther (6-1, 200 Sr.), RB/LB Keaton Summerlin (5-11, 190 Sr.).

Outlook: Chestatee will have a new look in the backfield tonight as Brooks steps in at quarterback for Scott Chewning, who broke his collarbone last week and is out for six weeks. Luttrell said that Brooks has been a quarterback since he’s been in the program and that “he’s had a great week of practice.”

Brooks’ insertion into the quarterback position won’t alter the War Eagles’ game plan of making sure Souther gets as many touches as he can. The senior rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort last week, and could have another performance like that against a North Hall defense that allows 141.7 yards rushing a game.

Rushing the ball will be critical in this matchup of run-first offenses, as both teams enter tonight’s subregion contest averaging more than 230 yards on the ground a game.

North Hall will all but seal another subregion title with a win tonight, as the Trojans have already defeated the other two playoff contenders, Creekview and White County. Not only did they take out those two teams, but the Trojans have erased all the memories of a 1-2 start with a four-game win streak in which they are scoring nearly 40 points a game.

Prediction: NORTH HALL. The Trojans are playing their best football at the right time.

Riverside at Oglethorpe County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Patriot Stadium, Lexington

Coaches: Riverside, Scot Sloan; Oglethorpe County, Larry Milligan

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

Key players: Riverside, RB/LB Aaron Gambrah (6-1, 200 Sr.) TE Brandon McKinney (6-5, 255 Sr.), QB/LB/P Lucas Bersin (6-0, 205 Sr.). Oglethorpe County, QB A.J. Perlotte (5-10, 180 Sr.), RB D.J. Johnson (6-1, 175 Sr.), WR Cody Erwin (6-2, 195 Jr.).

Outlook: Riverside took a step toward the playoffs with a win last week over Fannin County. The Eagles are now tied with Union County for the fourth and final playoff spot out of 8-AA and are in control of their postseason destiny.

But one slip-up and everything changes.

That’s why the Eagles can’t afford a letdown in tonight’s game against an Oglethorpe County team that could be better than its record shows. The Patriots are scoring nearly 26 points per game in their last three contests, but have struggled defensively, and have lost two of those games.

Meanwhile, defense is what has kept Riverside in the playoff hunt. The Eagles, who average less than 13 points per game, have had a hard time establishing a consistent running game much of the year. But led by Gambrah, the defense has kept the Eagles in most games, including last week, when they shut out Fannin County in the second half.

Riverside also got a boost from senior running back Cole Tudor, who provided 75 rushing yards on 25 carries to give the Eagles a steady source of offense on the ground.

Prediction: RIVERSIDE. The senior-led Eagles won’t take any opponent lightly.

Banks County at Fannin County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Rebel Stadium, Blue Ridge

Coaches: Banks County, Blair Armstrong; Fannin County, Clark Drennan

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

Key players: Banks County, WB/LB Jeremy Greenway (5-9, 170 Jr.), TE/LB Matthew Patton (6-1, 220 Jr.), QB/WR/RB Kane Duncan (6-3, 170 Sr.). 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.).

Outlook: The hopes for postseason play for these programs has essentially come and gone, but there is one thing the Leopards and the Rebels still have to play for — pride.

Fannin County enters the field with a 2-1 series record against Banks County, who has had a tough schedule the last three weeks facing the region’s undefeated trinity: Jefferson, East Jackson and North Oconee. East Jackson and North Oconee play head-to-head tonight.

The Leopards were only able to score 12 points total in those games and gave up 103 points in the losses.

Fannin County comes off a two-week losing streak, having fallen to Riverside Military last week and Union County on Oct. 2.
So far, the Rebels have proven their scoring ability with 168 points on the season, while the Leopards have struggled only able to accumulate 95 points (13.5 points per game) this year.

Prediction: FANNIN COUNTY. With a 34-7 loss against Banks County last year, the Rebels will use their scoring power and triple-option offense to roll over the Leopards.

Buford at Blessed Trinity

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Titans Stadium, Roswell

Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Blessed Trinity, Ricky Turner

Records: Buford (6-1, 3-1 Region 6-AA); Blessed Trinity (5-2, 2-2)

Key players: Buford, FB/LB Jessel Curry (6-2, 218 Sr.), OL/DL Du’Von Millsap (6-5, 333 Sr.), OL/DL Kolton Houston (6-5, 280 Sr.). Blessed Trinity, WR/DB Jake Skole (6-2, 195 Sr.), DE Jeremy Phillips (6-1, 205 Sr.), LB T.K. Thomas (5-10, 210 Sr.).

Outlook: As dominant as Buford has been in recent years, it’s uncommon for the Wolves to not have the region title locked up by this point in the season.

In 2005, Buford had to have a head-to-head win against Greater Atlanta Christian in the final week of the season to win the 8-AA title, and in 2007 the Wolves had to defeat Lovett head-to-head in the regular season finale to take the title in Region 6-AA.

However, this year Buford will need help from others to have a shot at the region title as a result of a loss to Lovett in the Region 6-AA opener for both schools. Westminster is in first place in Region 6-AA, with a head-to-head matchup against Buford coming Oct. 30. Lovett would have to lose to winless Greater Atlanta Christian, or to either Decatur or Avondale, each with a 2-2 region record, for the Wolves to have a shot at the region title.

First, Buford needs a win against Blessed Trinity to stay in the region title picture. The Wolves are led by senior quarterback Alex Ross (842 yards, nine touchdowns) and senior fullback Jessel Curry (332 yards, eight TDs).

On offense, Blessed Trinity is led by senior and Georgia Tech verbal commit Skole (eight TDs). Phillips is the anchor of the Titans defense with 66 tackles and 11 sacks. Thomas has 82 tackles for Blessed Trinity from the linebacker spot.

Prediction: BUFORD. The Wolves keep their hopes alive for a region title with a win tonight.

Rockdale Co. at Habersham Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Raider Stadium, Mount Airy

Radio: 99.3-FM

Coaches: Rockdale County, Mike Etheridge; Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham

Records: Rockdale County (4-3, 4-3 Region 8-AAAA); Habersham Central (4-4, 4-4)

Key players: Rockdale County, QB Isaiah Gresham (Sr.), RB/DB Kyle Tippins (Sr.), RB/LB Rashawn Binns (Sr.). Habersham Central, RB/DB Kevin Ellison (5-10, 170 So.), LB Keylan Myers (5-9, 170 Sr.), WR Chuck Rucker (5-8, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: It’s been a season of peaks and valleys for Habersham Central; one in which nothing’s come easy. Fittingly, extending the season into the playoffs won’t happen without considerable difficulty.

The Raiders, along with six other teams in 8-AAAA, are in a fight for the three postseason berths that don’t belong to region leader Apalachee. With four three-loss teams ahead of them, the Raiders face a steep climb to get in. The good news is that they get a chance to hand two of those teams a loss, starting tonight with Rockdale County.

The Bulldogs have won three straight since opening the season 1-3, including a 40-14 blowout of Winder-Barrow last week, and a three-point win over second-place Clarke Central three weeks ago.

Habersham Central rebounded from two straight losses with a 24-20 win over Monroe Area last week, thanks to a late 57-yard touchdown pass from Austin Brown to Rucker. The Raiders also got a big performance from Ellison, who put up 132 rushing yards.

He was starting in place of leading rusher David Griffin, who was lost for the season due to a shoulder injury two weeks ago.

Prediction: ROCKDALE COUNTY. The streaking Bulldogs come in playing well on both sides of the ball.

Elbert County at Jackson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Panther Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: Elbert County, Brent Miller; Jackson County, Billy Kirk

Records: Elbert County (6-1, 3-1 Region 8-AAA), Jackson County (3-4, 0-4)

Key players: Elbert County, OL/DL Ethan Fortson (6-3, 250 Sr.), OL/DL Seth Martin (5-9, 230 Sr.), OL/DL Taylor Smith (6-0, 220 Sr.). Jackson County, WR/S Charlie Waycaster (6-0, 170 Sr.), QB Alex Crawford (5-8, 140 Jr.), LB Kelly Moats (5-9, 180 Jr.)

Outlook: Elbert County has a perfect 3-0 series record against the Panthers and this year’s game looks to continue in that oh-so-familar trend.

The second place Blue Devils defeated Franklin County 27-7 last Friday and Morgan County 48-7 on Oct. 9, two programs that overwhelmed Jackson County and scored a total of 56 points against the Panthers.

Elbert County has only given up 82 points (11.5 points per game) the entire season and has amassed 202 points (28.7 per game) offensively.

The Blue Devils’ defense shut down the Lions last Friday holding them to 15 yards offensively and no first downs in the second half.

Prediction: ELBERT COUNTY. Jackson County still continues to look for that first region win.

Jefferson at Rabun County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger

Coaches: Jefferson, T. McFerrin; Rabun County, Danny Durham

Records: Jefferson (7-0, 6-0 Region 8-AA), Rabun County (1-6, 0-6)

Key players: Jefferson, RB/DB Lucas Redd (6-1, 200 Sr.), QB/KR Darius Minor (5-11, 170 Sr.), RB/DB Caleb Meek (5-7, 155 Sr.). Rabun County, RB/DB Daniel Campbell (5-10, 160 Sr.), LB/FB Ryan Watts (6-0, 195 Jr.), DL/OL Austin Gragg (6-1, 260 Sr.).

Outlook: Jefferson is in a particularly unusual situation given its record. The Dragons are undefeated with only three games left to play and still don’t have outright control of first place in the region. Jefferson, East Jackson and North Oconee are all tied with a 6-0 region record and all are 7-0 on the season.

What makes Jefferson’s situation even more peculiar is that tonight’s game will have no impact on the region race. If the Dragons win it just prolongs the suspense for the region title until the final two weeks of the regular season.

With a win against Rabun County, the Dragons would sit in a two-way tie with tonight’s East Jackson/North Oconee winner for first place.

The Dragons are looking to have back-to-back seasons with undefeated regular seasons.

Jefferson is led in rushing by senior Lucas Redd (62 carries, 492 yards), quarterback Darius Minor (34 carries, 415 yards) and J.J. Damons (274 yards). Minor is also a weapon throwing with 637 passing yards and six touchdowns.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons will pound out the yardage on the ground and move one step closer to another region title.

Lumpkin County at White County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Warriors Stadium, Cleveland

Coaches: Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones; White County, Gregg Segraves

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

Key players: Lumpkin County, RB/LB Lance Chuvala (6-0, 200 Sr.), TE/DL B.J. Dorsey (6-2, 215 So.), RB/LB Jake McClure (5-11, 195 Sr.). White County, DL Tyler Hamilton (6-1, 285 Sr.), QB Tyler Dotson (5-10, 175 Sr.).

Outlook: Both teams enter tonight looking a lot like the other.

White County had an impressive win last week against Chestatee (31-17), Lumpkin County had an even more impressive win against West Hall (41-13).

Both the Warriors and Indians are sitting at 1-2 in the subregion, 4-3 overall, and hanging on to slim playoff hopes that would be boosted slightly by one more subregion win, especially for Lumpkin County, which has games against North Hall and Creekview in the last two weeks of the season.

For White County, its senior quarterback Dotson will return after serving a one-game suspension for a personal foul and ejection the previous week. The status of Warriors running back Ashely Lowery, who left last week’s game with a concussion after rushing for 118 yards, won’t be known until gametime.

Where Lumpkin County is concerned, the running game got a huge confidence boost last week piling up 405 yards and accounting for all five of the Indians’ touchdowns. The Indians’ defense has been strong this season, allowing only 13 points per game, and will need another strong performance to contain a White County offense averaging 21 points per game.

Prediction: WHITE COUNTY. The difference will be the venue as the Warriors move just ahead of the Indians in the subregion standings.

Union County at Dawson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Dawson County

Coaches: Union County, Brian Allison; Dawson County, Jeff Lee

Records: Union County (4-3, 3-3 Region 8-AA); Dawson County (1-6, 1-5)

Key players: Union County, QB Kolt Owenby (6-2, 180 Sr.), WR/LB Blake Gowder (6-2, 215 Sr.), LB Michael Sossei (6-0, 190 Sr.). Dawson County, QB/DB Ethan Brown (5-11, 175 Jr.), OL/DL Zac Johnson (6-3, 270 Jr.), RB/LB Stephen King (5-10, 170 Sr.)

Outlook: After three straight losses to Region 8-AA’s trio of unbeatens (Jefferson, East Jackson and North Oconee), Union County has rebounded strong with back-to-back wins. The Panthers need to extend the streak tonight to keep pace in the hunt for the playoffs.

In typical Panthers fashion, the offense has been the catalyst for Union County. Led by Owenby, Gowder and wide receiver Caylan Tanner, the Panthers are scoring almost 32 points per game.

Meanwhile, Dawson County has lost its last two after picking up its only win (6-0 over Rabun County) three weeks ago.
Offense has been an issue for the Tigers, who have scored in double figures just twice this season.

Prediction: UNION COUNTY. A Panther win sets up a pivotal showdown with Riverside next week.

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