Dunwoody at Gainesville
North Hall at St. Pius X
Flowery Branch at Grady
Buford at Jefferson
Commerce at Darlington
For the second consecutive season, Hall County has placed three teams from Region 7-AAA in the second round of the football state playoffs. It just so happens, that it is the same three teams: Gainesville (11-0), North Hall (9-2) and Flowery Branch (8-3).
Class AAA’s top-ranked Red Elephants are the only one out of the group that is playing at home in the second round, playing host to Dunwoody (7-4) on Friday night at Bobby Gruhn Field. The Wildcats defeated North Hall in the second round of the playoffs last season.
Meanwhile, North Hall advanced to the second round with a 39-21 win against Ringgold, and will visit fourth-ranked St. Pius X (11-0) on Friday night in Atlanta. The Trojans have qualified for the second round four consecutive seasons and five of the past six years.
The Road Warriors from Flowery Branch continue to live up to their playoff reputation. The Falcons went to Chattanooga, Tenn. last Friday and knocked off Region 6-AAA’s No. 1-seed Ridgeland (9-2). Flowery Branch awaits a second-round game against Grady (10-1) next Friday in Atlanta, a re-match of a second round game from 2006.
The soonest two Hall County teams could face off would come in the state semifinals with Gainesville and Flowery Branch.
Last year, when it was all said and done, Flowery Branch advanced to the state title game against Cairo. Gainesville lost in the quarterfinals to Carver-Columbus. And North Hall fell to Dunwoody in the second round.
EXTENDING A RECORD: North Hall senior Nathan Jones is a one-of-a-kind ballhawk, leading the area as a junior with eight interceptions. Jones, the school-record holder in interceptions, increased his school record with another pick Friday night against Ringgold and currently stands at nine this season.
Over the past two seasons, Jones has 212 combined tackles from his safety position and this year he also serves as North Hall’s starting quarterback.
SPECIAL TEAMS VICTORY: It’s not a stretch to say that Flowery Branch’s 17-14 win against Ridgeland was a direct result of special teams play. Falcons punter Will Monday boomed a 66-yarder early in the game, then a 27-yard field goal by Monday gave the Falcons an early 3-0 lead. Then, Flowery Branch had a blocked punt by Billy Thompson recovered by Corey Sanderson in the end zone for a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead.
Monday finished with an average of 60 yards on two punts.
BROCK ROCKS: Commerce running back Deon Brock hasn’t slowed down for a second as the Tigers’ leading ball carrier. Last night, Brock finished with eight carries for 243 yards (30 yards per carry) for Commerce in a 29-19 opening-round playoff win against Landmark Christian.
Brock reached the end zone on runs of 40, 39, 75 and 1 yard and he scored all four of the team’s touchdowns. He now has an area-best 1,658 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.
HOW BOUT' THAT DEFENSE ?: Gainesville’s offense has grabbed most of the headlines this season, but the Red Elephants also play pretty sound defense too.
Against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, the Red Elephants allowed only seven first downs but forced the Warriors to nine punts in this first-round playoff game. If you subtracted Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe’s penalty yards (81.5) from their total yards (88), you’re left with only 6.5 yards on the night.