Sunday May 29th, 2016 1:58AM

5 things: What we learned from week 9 of high school football

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

1. The difference in the Region 7-AAA playoff race could be 1-2 plays

While the top spot in 7-AAA has been in no doubt so far (thanks to Buford's dominant play), the difference between the two-four spots has been razor thin. How close? Consider that White County, North Hall and West Hall have all had photo finishes in region play. And even though the Warriors are currently second -- with the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Trojans -- two of their four 7-AAA wins came by a combined 13 points. Meanwhile, North Hall's sole region loss to White County, contained plenty of near misses, and West Hall fought the Trojans for four quarters this past Friday in a 35-21 finale that was only a touchdown difference until just over a minute remained. This week, the Spartans will play host to the Warriors in what could be another photo finish. And even fifth place team Dawson County knows it is not out of the running after a close loss to White County last week, getting a shot at West Hall in the regular season finale. Stay glued to the 7-AAA playoff race -- it could be Hollywood script-type stuff.

2. The Flowery Branch defense means business

We had an idea that the Falcons were pretty good on defense -- but, as Clarke Central found out on Friday, they may be historically good. At least they were to the Gladiators, holding the traditional power to their lowest scoring output since 2009 in Friday's 37-7 win. During the game, Flowery Branch allowed just 212 total yards, only improving on what had already been an impressive string of performances. The win helped the Falcons assure themselves of no worse than second place in Region 8-AAAAA and set up a sumptuous region finale with Gainesville on Nov. 8. That game looks all the more intriguing considering how well Flowery Branch is playing on defense. They will most certainly be the best unit the Red Elephants have faced all season outside of Buford and will give the Falcons a great chance to counter Gainesville's high-flying attack. It should be a heck of a match-up, and we can hardly wait.

3. Rabun County has both ability and depth

We already knew that the Wildcats had plenty of standouts, including Charlie Woerner, Wes Holcombe, Dan Dailey, etc... On Friday, Rabun showed that they are good enough to win a key game without two of those standouts. With both starting quarterback Holcombe and starting running back Dailey sidelined, the Wildcats turned to Hunter Sims and Woerner and pulled through -- against their fiercest rivals and coming off a two-game losing skid. It was an impressive performance, and showed that Rabun is building depth, which is a huge key for sustained success. Woerner did the heavy -- and explosive -- lifting in the backfield, rushing 29 times for 236 yards and 4 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Sims stepped in at QB and showed the Wildcats have a very bright future indeed, rushing 15 times for 150 yards and 1 TD, while also completing 8 of 14 passes for 155 yards and a score. The future was already looking up for Rabun; after Friday, it's looking up even more. The also win put the Wildcats in a great position to finish third in a Region 8-AA that features two outstanding teams at the 1 and 2 spots (Washington-Wilkes and Jefferson, respectively).

4. North Forsyth still has a shot at postseason

Just two weeks ago -- heck, through the much of Friday's game -- any playoff hopes the Raiders had appeared grim. But, thanks to a tremendous fightback win over Centennial, 28-24, on Friday, North Forsyth still has a shot to get back into the postseason for the first time since 2010. The Raiders -- who have already out-stripped a lot of expectations outside the program in coach Jason Galt's first season in charge -- have two huge games remaining in the regular season, traveling to Johns Creek (Nov. 1) and then playing host to South Forsyth (Nov. 8). North Forsyth must win out and hope that West Forsyth can get the better of arch-rival South this Friday -- though, at this point, the Raiders will only be focused on themselves -- and probably feeling pretty good about their chances.

5. Jackson County has an offense that can lead it back to playoffs

The Panthers have not had a smooth ride this season, but they certainly have the ability to put up points -- as they showed on Friday -- and that could make the difference in the race for the playoffs in Region 8-AAA. Jackson County certainly has a big challenge ahead this week against region leader Elbert County. But it could be the regular season finale against Morgan County that makes the difference. Both the Panthers and Bulldogs are 3-2 and tied for the fourth spot in 8-AAA, and after both reaching the playoffs in 2012, each will be itching to get back again in 2013. That Jackson County offense could be the difference on Nov. 8. The Panthers are averaging just over 31 points per game and will be facing a Morgan County defense giving up 24 points per game. Jackson County will certainly be comfortable if its offense is in charge. Quarterback Jacob Lewis was stellar in last week's 56-27 win over Oconee County, passing for 331 yards and 6 touchdowns. Lewis' receiving corps is also very tough to cover -- as Xavier Harper and Layson Giles showed last week. And over the next two weeks, the Panthers would love for the game to be in their hands.


Buford 45, Fannin County 8

Cedar Shoals 27, Winder-Barrow 6

Chestatee 42, Lumpkin County 14

Commerce 48, Hebron Christian Academy 12

Collins Hill 53, North Gwinnett 28

Duluth 27, Habersham Central 14

East Hall 33, Banks County 7

Flowery Branch 37, Clarke Central 7

Jackson County 56, Oconee County 27

Jefferson 68, Social Circle 0

Lakeview Academy 42, North Cobb Christian 7

Lanier 31, Stephens County 14

North Forsyth 28, Centennial 24

North Hall 35, West Hall 21

North Oconee 45, East Jackson 7

Pickens 21, Johnson 14

Rabun County 42, Union County 18

Riverside Military 66, Glascock County 0

Salem 27, Apalachee 7

St. Francis 30, Towns County 3

White County 17, Dawson County 10

Apalachee at Heritage, Conyers
Chestatee at Monroe Area
Clarke Central at Winder-Barrow
East Hall at Buford
Fannin County at Dawson County
Franklin County at East Jackson
Gainesville at Loganville
Greene County at Rabun County
Jackson County at Elbert County
Jefferson at Riverside Military
Lakeview Academy at Towns County
Lanier at Lumpkin County
Mill Creek at Habersham Central
North Forsyth at Johns Creek
North Gwinnett at Mountain View
North Hall at Banks County
Stephens County at Eastside
Union County at Social Circle
White County at West Hall
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