There are blockbuster match-ups left, right and center this week, as the high school football season heads toward the business end of the 2012 campaign, and three of the biggest showdowns will headline on the Jacobs Media family of radio stations this Friday.
Region 8-AAAAA, in particular, will come under the microscope this weekend, as the four teams battling for the league supremacy will play each other.
Gainesville and Flowery Branch are the only remaining 8-AAAAA programs undefeated in region play, and while their showdown will have to wait till November, the two teams can put a stranglehold on their race to the top in their battles with Clarke Central and Heritage, Conyers, respectively. The four teams have already distanced themselves in the playoff hunt, and the only question that remains seems to be their seeding order.
The seventh-ranked Red Elephants (6-1, 5-0 Region 8-AAAAA) will play host to Clarke Central (3-3, 3-1) at City Park in a contest broadcast live on 1240 AM.
Gainesville has already taken out Heritage this season but will be wary of an athletic Gladiators squad that knows it must win to keep its own region title hopes alive after last week's defeat to Heritage. Both programs feature high-powered offenses, with the Red Elephants averaging 44.7 points per game, and Clarke Central scoring 31.2 per contest.
Meanwhile, down the road in Flowery Branch, the Falcons (5-2, 5-0) will play host to Heritage (6-1, 4-1) looking for their sixth straight victory in a game broadcast live on AM 550.
Flowery Branch has found its identity on offense, using an explosive ground game -- led by a stout offensive line, running back Justin Curry and quarterback Jackson McDonald -- to average 42 points per game since beginning region play.
Heritage, meanwhile, features a strong rushing attack of its own, though the Patriots have lacked some explosiveness while averaging 22.7 points per game in their wing-T offense.
Yet Region 8-AAAAA isn't the only area league to feature crucial showdowns, and Region 7-AAA will also include plenty of big contests -- including Friday's battle between North Hall and White County at The Brickyard, which will be broadcast live on 102.9 FM.
The Trojans (5-1, 3-0 Region 7-AAA) are flying high headed into the battle, having dominated three straight region games by an average margin of 57-9 -- including defeats of Dawson County, East Hall and Fannin County.
North Hall rushed for an astounding 495 yards in last week's 63-0 victory over Fannin County but will face a stout test against the Warriors' defense. White County (4-2, 2-1) was gashed by Buford in last week's 49-14 loss, but the Warriors are only allowing 13.6 points per game over their other five contests.
North Hall's defense will also prep for White County's triple option offense, which has caused problems for a number of opposing defenses in its second year under coach Bill Ballard.
Elsewhere in 7-AAA, Dawson County will head to Buford after a bye, looking to get back into the thick of the region title hunt.
There will also be huge game in Region 8-AAAA for Chestatee, as the War Eagles look to maintain their position atop the league standings and keep pace with undefeated Monroe Area. Chestatee (5-1, 3-0 Region 8-AAAA) will play host to Lanier (3-3, 1-2) this week, knowing that a victory would essentially set up an 8-AAAA title showdown with the Purple Hurricanes on Nov. 2 n Gainesville.
Meanwhile, Rabun County will look to bounce back from its first region defeat last week (vs. Jefferson) in a key showdown in 8-AA, while the Dragons will look to keep rolling at home to Oglethorpe County. And in Region 8-AAA, Jackson County will look for a program-defining victory at Hart County. The Panthers are 4-2, knowing that a win would give them their most victories in a campaign since 1992 (when they went 8-2-1).
AREA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE, Oct. 19
Clarke Central at Gainesville