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Thursday July 2nd, 2015 5:36PM

5 things: What we learned from week 8 of high school football

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

1. Chestatee is in a totally different place these days psychologically

There was a time when the War Eagles had a hard time winning close games, a hard time coming up with game-changing plays in close contests. That looked to have changed last season, and this campaign has only enforced that fact. Chestatee's players now have a winner's mindset, and that is worth its weight in gold. The War Eagles believe that they will win every contest, and, guess what, when those contests are on the line, they find ways to do just that. You don't find that overnight, and it took a special season last year to foster the change in 2012. But now that it is in place, who wants to bet against Chestatee with the game on the line? Not us. It has been impressive to watch, including last week's overtime defeat of Lanier, when the War Eagles blocked a punt and returned it for a late score to force the extra frame. Chestatee has won two huge road region contests this season. And -- the big reason you know things have changed -- the War Eagles have done it with a number of new faces in key positions versus last year's squad.


2. White County's defense is in its element

The Warriors could have hung their heads after an Oct. 11 42-6 loss to Buford, instead White County rolled up its sleeves and produced its best performance of the season and perhaps its biggest win since a 2010 first round playoff victory in knocking off No. 4 North Hall 21-7 at home on Friday. Much of the impetus for the win was generated by a defense that looked more than happy mixing it up and banging away against a powerful Trojans rushing attack. Rolling an extra defensive back closer to the line of scrimmage -- standout Will Flowers -- proved critical to a unit that held North Hall to its lowest rushing output of the season. The Trojans still managed an impressive 309 yards, but White County allowed only one big play -- a 61-yard scoring run for Zac Little -- and the Warriors sure tackling helped keep North Hall out of the end zone after the first quarter. North Hall still had chances to score -- including a fourth quarter pass to a wide-open receiver that just missed -- but White County forced five turnovers on downs during the contest. And it was their performance that made the biggest difference.


3. West Hall has matured as a program

It was obvious from Week 1 of the season that coach Tony Lotti had engendered some big changes to the Spartans in his second campaign in charge. But the level of just how much things have changed is deep indeed, and that was on display this past Friday in a 27-7 win over a talented East Hall. West Hall was coming off a potentially deflating 63-0 loss to Buford, the kind of defeat that can kill comeback seasons if a team is not wholly determined to roll through any setbacks. And the Spartans showed on Friday that they, in fact, are plenty determined. Of all the improvements shown this season, this was perhaps the biggest example of just how much things have changed in Oakwood.


4. Flowery Branch-Gainesville is shaping up to be a war

Provided Flowery Branch takes care of business this week -- and it won't be easy against Clarke Central -- we will be set for yet another Falcons-Red Elephants showdown for the Region 8-AAAAA title. But whereas coaches and players cannot afford to look ahead, us civilians are allowed a little sneak peak of what could be one of the best games in north Georgia this season. Certainly last season's game blew us away, not being settled until the last play of the game, and this year's match-up could be just as close. Gainesville's offense may be at its most explosive and efficient ever, while the Flowery Branch defense is picking up plenty of steam and will be by far the best the Red Elephants have faced since Buford. Gainesville's defense will also have a task containing a Falcons offense that has found its niche. We do wonder how the bye week will come into play. Gainesville is off this week and will travel to Loganville the week before taking on the Falcons at home. Flowery Branch, meanwhile, will get an extra week to prepare for the Gainesville game, facing Clarke Central this week before taking a bye on Nov. 1. We can't wait to see how it all plays out.


5. The biggest mountain rivalry game in years is set for this week

High school football fans around the area know plenty about big rivalries -- think of showdowns like Commerce-Jefferson, Habersham Central-Stephens County and (now dormant) Gainesville-North Hall, and that's just a few. But another that features plenty of fire is the Rabun County-Union County face-off, and, come Friday, the 49th version of this mountain rivalry will feature more than just hot emotions. Playoff seeding could also be on the line for the Wildcats and Panthers. Rabun has two losses so far -- to region leader Washington-Wilkes and second place Jefferson. Union, likewise, has a defeat to Washington-Wilkes as its only 8-AA setback (with Jefferson still to come). Both programs will be favored in their other remaining region games -- Rabun faces Greene and Oglethorpe counties; Union has Social Circle (three teams with a combined record of 3-18). So this week's game could not only clinch a playoff berth, but also the pecking order in the postseason. Fans should expect plenty of fireworks come Friday in Blairsville.


AREA FOOTBALL FINALS FOR OCT. 18

Buford 42, Dawson County 10

Cedar Shoals 35, Apalachee 6

Chestatee 20, Lanier 17, OT

Commerce 28, Athens Academy 7

Druid Hills 13, Johnson 9

Eastside 28, Lumpkin County 12

Fannin County 6, Banks County 0

Flowery Branch 33, Heritage-Conyers 0

Gainesville 56, Clarke Central 28

Hart County 54, Jackson County 14

Jefferson 41, Oglethorpe County 0

Loganville 18, Winder-Barrow 0

Morgan County 38, East Jackson 19

Mill Creek 43, Duluth 3

North Gwinnett 41, Habersham Central 0

Riverside Military Academy 56, Social Circle 14

St. Francis 14, Lakeview Academy 7

Stephens County 35, Madison County 13

Towns County 48, North Cobb Christian 10

Union County 42, Greene County 0

Washington-Wilkes 52, Rabun County 7

West Hall 27, East Hall 7

White County 21, North Hall 7

West Forsyth 28, North Forsyth 7


HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE FOR OCT. 25
Apalachee at Salem
Banks County at East Hall
Buford at Fannin County
Centennial at North Forsyth
Clarke Central at Flowery Branch
Collins Hill at North Gwinnett
Commerce at Hebron Christian
Dawson County at White County
East Jackson at North Oconee
Habersham Central at Duluth
Lakeview Academy at North Cobb Christian
Lumpkin County at Chestatee
Oconee County at Jackson County
Pickens at Johnson
Rabun County at Union County
Riverside Military at Glascock County
Social Circle at Jefferson
Stephens County at Lanier
Towns County at St. Francis
West Hall at North Hall
Winder-Barrow at Cedar Shoals
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