Tuesday May 31st, 2016 6:16AM

5 things: What we learned from Week 10 of the high school football season

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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Here's a look at five things we learned from Week 10 of the high school football season...

1. Region champs don't leave anything to chance

Jefferson could have looked past Riverside; North Hall might have been thinking about this week's showdown with Buford. But neither the Dragons, nor the Trojans had any intentions of letting region titles slip away last week in games in which they were highly favored. Jefferson ran away from Riverside Military Academy 35-7 to claim the Region 8-AA crown -- its first since 2009 -- and North Hall slammed Banks County 42-7 to clinch Region 7-AAA and seal its first championship since 2007. It was the kind of focus you would expect from title contenders, showing that neither are pretenders. It will be interesting to see how each handles big games this week. The Dragons will play host to a Union County team in dire need of a victory to stay in the playoff race in 8-AA, while the Trojans will travel to face a Buford team that will undoubtedly be itching to prove they're the best team in 7-AAA after being forced to forfeit two big region wins earlier this season. Regardless, both teams have earned some well-deserved kudos in getting back to championship level.

2. Yes, anything can happen on any given Friday

No one around northeast Georgia expected Loganville to trouble Gainesville much last week. The Red Devils entered the contest with two wins on the season; the Red Elephants were ranked fifth and winners of seven straight. As Friday's result showed, however, you can never assume anything in high school football. Despite building a three-score lead at one point, Gainesville made enough mistakes and Loganville played inspired football to pull off one of the shock upsets of the campaign. The good news for the Red Elephants is that the game really means very little in the standings. Yes, Gainesville slipped behind red-hot Flowery Branch in Region 8-AAAAA, but the Red Elephants still face the Falcons (currently on their own seven-game win streak) in a de facto region championship game this week, with the loser finishing second. It will bear watching how Gainesville responds to the loss. We don't expect the reversal to dog the Red Elephants -- they have too much talent, coaching and winning pedigree for that -- but no team wants to enter the postseason on the back of two straight defeats.

3. Jackson County's long drive toward history comes good

Benji Harrison inherited a Jackson County team undoubtedly on the rise. In his five seasons in charge, previous coach Billy Kirk had worked hard to turn the Panthers from an 0-10 team into a competitive program. Harrison, however, has taken that turnaround to another level. In his first season in charge, the former Flowery Branch assistant has already led Jackson County to history, as the 6-3 Panthers have already posted their highest win total in 20 years and -- most impressively -- clinched a historic state playoff berth (courtesy last week's 33-28 defeat of Elbert County). As expected of a coach who helped guide an explosive offense in his time with the Falcons, Harrison has Jackson's attack firing on all cylinders. The Panthers are averaging almost 28 points per game -- a huge leap from last year's 15 ppg -- and have a plethora of weapons in quarterback Kyle Daniel, running back Dustin Scott and receivers Xavier Harper and Ben Brissey. After winning two huge contests back-to-back, Jackson faces a third straight this Friday, battling Morgan County -- which is currently tied for third with the Panthers in Region 8-AAA.

4. Chaz Thornton overtakes an all-time great

Say the name "Herschel" among football fans in this state, and you'll likely have instant recognition of the former University of Georgia star, a college football hall of famer and Heisman Trophy winner. Yet Stephens County's Chaz Thornton can now say he's done more than Walker -- at least on the high school stage. Thornton's 174-yard effort in Friday's 23-7 win over Eastside on Friday not only qualified the Indians for the state playoffs but it pushed the senior over 6,000 career rushing yards -- better than Herschel's total from his days at Johnson County High. Thornton has been a huge part of the Stephens County program since he first stepped on to the varsity stage, and there's a good chance that people around Toccoa know the name "Chaz" just as well as "Herschel."

5. Rabun County faces a winner-take-all showdown at home this week

Thirteen years of frustration can come to an end on Friday night for the Wildcats if they can find a way past Oglethorpe County in Tiger. Rabun County has not reached the state playoffs since marching to the Class A quarterfinals in 1998, but if the Wildcats can battle past the Patriots, they will clinch the fourth and final postseason seed from Region 8-AA. Rabun had a chance to take a big step toward the playoffs last week but fell at Greene County -- which started 0-4 but is now guaranteed of the No. 3 seed in 8-AA. The Wildcats have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Union County (both teams are currently 3-3 in region play) and can clinch a spot regardless of the Panthers' outcome of their game with Jefferson. It would be an amazing feat for new head coach Lee Shaw. Lose however, and there could be a number scenarios open up, including a guaranteed spot for Union (if they can beat Jefferson) or even a three-way tie should the Panthers lose and Oglethorpe win.

Honorable mention: Dawson County still very much on playoff pace but must stay focused

When the Tigers dropped a 47-42 decision to White County on Oct. 26 they knew there was no more room for error in the Region 7-AAA playoff race. Did they panic? Ask Fannin County. Dawson came out strong in Blue Ridge last week, sprinting to a 41-6 first half lead before cruising to a 54-12 victory that kept the Tigers in front of the race for the final postseason spot in 7-AAA. Dawson will have to maintain that focus again this week against a game West Hall team that itself has a shot at making the postseason -- if the Spartans can beat Dawson and East Hall loses to Fannin County.

Buford 49, East Hall 6
Clarke Central 38, Winder-Barrow 7
Conyers, Heritage 42, Apalachee 0
Dawson County 54, Fannin County 12
Jackson County 33, Elbert County 28
Jefferson 35, Riverside Military Academy 7
Johns Creek 34, North Forsyth 7
Lakeview Academy 34, Towns County 0
Lanier 24, Lumpkin County 7
Loganville 46, Gainesville 41
Mill Creek 49, Habersham Central 0
Monroe Area 35, Chestatee 14
North Gwinnett 49, Mountain View 7
North Hall 42, Banks County 7
Stephens County 23, Eastside 7
Union County 31, Social Circle 0
White County 42, West Hall 7

Gainesville at Flowery Branch
North Hall at Buford
Chestatee at Madison County
Dawson County at West Hall
East Hall at Fannin County
Banks County at White County
Stephens County at Lumpkin County
Johnson at Region 7-AAAA cross-over
Union County at Jefferson
Oglethorpe County at Rabun County
Greene County at Riverside Military
Pinecrest Academy at Commerce
Hebron Christian at Towns County
Jackson County at Morgan County
Oconee County at East Jackson
Apalachee at Winder-Barrow
North Gwinnett at Peachtree Ridge
Mill Creek at Collins Hill
North Forsyth at South Forsyth
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