Here's five things we learned from Week 4 of high school football...
1. Chestatee now has something special to build on for 2012
The excitement was evident in Stan Luttrell's voice on Friday night -- but not just because his team had won a thrilling 57-56, double overtime victory over Eastside in its first ever Region 8-AAAA game. There was something more. Luttrell noted that his players -- after a tough, season-opening loss to arch-rival North Hall on Aug. 31 -- had never flagged in their belief in themselves and their coaching staff. On Friday, that assurance came good in a big way. All teams need a signature win to help spark a big season, and Chestatee hopes that Friday's victory will be just that. Perhaps most impressive -- aside from the 592 yards of offense -- was the fact that Chestatee fumbled zero times in the win, taking care of the ball like a first-time mother with a newborn. The War Eagles also played to their strength in the contest, rushing up and down the field, including 303 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries for Quan Clark. If Chestatee goes on to a stellar season, the War Eagles can point to last week's win as the tangible start of it all.
2. Region 8-AAAAA is shaping up as a four-team race
Not that it is entirely unexpected, but it appears that the battle for the top four spots in 8-AAAAA could be between Flowery Branch, Gainesville, Heritage (Conyers) and Clarke Central. Two weeks into the region schedule the four foes are the only undefeated teams in league play and have each looked impressive in doing so. Over the next few weeks, we'll start learning how the battle between the four will play out, as Heritage is set to play all three rivals over the next four weeks -- starting with Friday's showdown at City Park in Gainesville. Three of the four teams -- Flowery Branch, Heritage and Clarke Central -- tied for first place in last year's Region 8-AAAA title race (to be separated by a coin toss), while Gainesville reached the Class AAA semifinals in 2011. Keep an eye on 8-AAAAA over the next month.
3. Tony Lotti has got West Hall on track
As a brand new head coach with the Spartans, Tony Lotti was adamant that attention to detail would help turn around a program that had struggled in recent seasons. That outlook appears to be yielding results already. After opening the campaign 0-2, West Hall has ripped off two straight victories, including last week's 33-20 win over Banks County on the road in Region 7-AAA play. The Spartans have done so with a number of players contributing, including Isaiah Rowe and Antonio Pittman each rushing for 99 yards and Kwon Williams blistering through an 82-yard kickoff return last week. Quarterback Zach English has also produced some strong play, while West Hall's defense has also come up with key stops. The Spartans won only two games in all of 2011 and look good to improve on that in 2012.
4. Commerce is very good; Rabun County ain't too shabby either
Commerce showed again on Friday that their ball-control offense can make the grade -- even when it is behind late in the game. The Tigers moved to 4-0 and matched their best start since 2006 -- when Commerce reached the Class A semifinals. Commerce did it, again, on Friday with a number of different standouts, including running backs Jamal Browner and Terrick Ramsey and quarterback Drew Whitfield. Yet as much as Tigers fans were celebrating Friday night's 18-17 victory over Rabun County -- a win that was secured on Whitfield's touchdown run with 19 seconds remaining -- they were almost as effusive of Rabun County. The Wildcats, who won just three games last season, came so close to a 3-0 start after pulling ahead 17-6 on Friday. Former Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw knew he was walking into a building process with Rabun, but it seems that process is coming good pretty quickly.
5. Stephens County is so much more than Chaz Thornton
We've known this since Week 1 of this season, but each week hammers home the point even more. The Indians running back is still tearing up opposing defenses, averaging around 172 yards per game. But the senior standout is nowhere near the only threat in the Stephens backfield. Quarterback Dionte Mayfield has been deadly through the air, finding a dominating target in T'omas Colbert, who has rolled up over 500 yards receiving so far this season. That kind of balance is not just impressive, it is downright scary for opposing defensive coordinators.
AREA FOOTBALL SCORES, Sept. 21
Blessed Trinity 21, White County 19
Chattahoochee 47, North Forsyth 20
Chestatee 57, Eastside 56, 2 OT
Commerce 18, Rabun County 17
Flowery Branch 47, Loganville 14
Gainesville 62, Apalachee 20
Jackson County 47, East Jackson 7
johnson 22, East Hall 21
Mill Creek 20, Peachtree Ridge 10
Monroe Area 54, Lumpkin County 13
Mountain View 24, Habersham Central 14
North Gwinnett 45, Meadow Creek 20
Salem 22, Winder-Barrow 20
Stephens County 61, Walnut Grove 20
West Hall 33, Banks County 20
Washington-Wilkes 60, Riverside Military 6
AREA FOOTBALL GAMES, Sept. 28
Heritage, Conyers at Gainesville
Flowery Branch at Salem
Chestatee at Stephens County
Lumpkin County at Walnut Grove
Buford at Banks County
North Hall at Dawson County
East Hall at White County
Fannin County at West Hall
Jefferson at Greene County
Rabun County at Social Circle
Riverside Military at Oglethorpe County
Commerce at George Walton Academy
Athens Academy at Lakeview Academy
East Jackson at Elbert County
North Oconee at Jackson County
Towns County at Copper Basin, Tenn.
North Forsyth at Lambert
Peachtree Ridge at Habersham Central
Norcross at Mill Creek