There’s still three weeks of regular-season football left to play, but the playoff picture is becoming less muddled after Friday’s night’s action around Northeast Georgia.
In Region 8-AA, the three frontrunners — Jefferson, East Jackson and North Oconee — remained perfect with convincing wins.
The trio of teams has locked up the region’s top three playoff spots, with seeding to be determined in the final weeks of regular season action, while a scrum for the fourth and final spot could continue until the season’s final Friday.
The No. 7-ranked Dragons (7-0, 6-0 Region 8-AA) cruised past Banks County, 35-6, on Friday with a dominating showing on both sides of the ball. Jefferson has featured a multitude of threats on offense throughout the season, and the trend continued in the win over the Leopards as Caleb Meek, Lucas Redd and J.J. Damons all turned in big performances.
But the most impressive outing may have belonged to the Dragon defense, which allowed just 89 yards of total offense to the Leopards.
Jefferson hasn’t lost a region game since moving up to Class AA last season, and will aim to keep its record spotless this week when it travels to take on Rabun County (1-6, 0-6). The Dragons close the season with battles at North Oconee (7-0, 6-0) on Oct. 30 and at home against East Jackson (7-0, 6-0) on Nov. 6.
This week will provide more clarity at the top, as East Jackson and North Oconee meet in Commerce.
In the fight for fourth place, Riverside and Union County established the inside track with wins Friday night.
Riverside (3-4, 3-3) scored a crucial 20-17 win over Fannin County (3-4, 2-4) and will play at Oglethorpe County (2-5, 1-5) this week.
Union County outgunned Oglethorpe 42-28 on Friday, thanks to Caylan Tanner’s 184 receiving yards and 100-yard kickoff return for a score. The Panthers will play at Dawson County (1-6, 1-5) this week before a showdown with Riverside on Oct. 30.
Fannin County and Banks County remain one game out of fourth place and will face off this week.
How the North was won: North Hall’s win over Pickens and Chestatee’s loss to White County leaves the Trojans alone again atop 7-AAA’s North subregion.
Officially known as 7A-AAA, the division gets two of the region’s four playoff spots, and North Hall (5-2, 4-0), which hasn’t lost a subregion game since the region was divided, is in good shape to take one of those after pounding the Dragons on Friday, 39-0.
The Trojans have now won four straight, and will play this week at Chestatee (4-3, 3-1), which lost the game and its quarterback Friday against White County.
The War Eagles don’t necessarily need a win over North Hall to get into the postseason — though it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
They’re expected to play without senior quarterback Scott Chewning, who is believed to have suffered a broken collarbone in the 31-17 loss to White County.
The final postseason berth from 7A-AAA could come down to the winner of the War Eagles’ game at Creekview (6-1, 2-1) on Nov. 6.
Lumpkin County (4-3, 1-2) and White County (4-3, 1-2) are still in the mix, but will need some outside help to get into the postseason. The Indians and Warriors will meet this week in Cleveland.
Lumpkin won its second straight on Friday night, a 41-13 romp over West Hall, thanks to another strong performance in the running game. The Indians rolled up 405 yards on the ground in the win, pushing their total to 733 in the last two weeks combined.
Meanwhile, White County got a lift from first-time starting quarterback Cole Segraves against Chestatee. The 6-foot-4 freshman completed 66 percent of his passes for 128 and two scores.
Falcons fly high: Entering the season, Flowery Branch had gained plenty of notoriety for its offense. Now in their eighth year since opening in 2002, the Falcons have transitioned successfully from a double-slot, run-oriented attack to a wide-open spread offense, and had loads of success with both schemes.
But halfway through 2009 — in a history including 86 games and 52 wins, the Falcons had never scored 60 points on a single Friday night. Now, they’ve done it twice in three weeks.
Friday’s 69-point output in a win over East Hall topped the previous single-game school record of 62, set two weeks ago against West Hall.
Connor Shaw, the quarterback and son of coach Lee Shaw, is the offense’s high-efficiency trigger man. The 6-2, 200-pound senior is completing 73 percent of his passes this season for nearly 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns this year.
The South Carolina recruit has also rushed for more than 500 yards and 10 scores for an offense that’s averaging 46.6 points per game this fall.
The Falcons (6-2, 3-0 7B-AAA) finish the season with pivotal subregion matchups against West Forsyth (4-3, 2-1) and No. 1 Gainesville (7-0, 3-0).
Milestone man: Ben Souther already set the Chestatee career rushing record and the record for longest run from scrimmage earlier this year. By the way, he set both on one play — a 98-yard touchdown run against Johnson on Sept. 11.
Friday, he also became the first Northeast Georgia runner to top the 1,000-yard plateau in the 2009 season.
Entering the weekend with 821 rushing yards, Souther busted through with 198 yards in a losing effort against White County, pushing his unofficial season total to 1,019 yards.