Sunday November 29th, 2015 9:45PM

East Hall and White County ready for 7-AAA showdown (Video)

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
RABBITTOWN -- Any way you slice it, this is a statement game.

Both East Hall and White County enter Friday's showdown at Valhalla with much to prove and plenty of hanging in the balance.

A White County victory would establish the Warriors as playoff front-runners in Region 7-AAA and prove last week's uncharacteristic 30-0 loss to Blessed Trinity to be firmly in the rearview mirror.

Should East Hall win, the Vikings would show that they are a force to be reckoned with in 7-AAA and capitalize on their best start to a season since 2005.

If those storylines weren't enough for a potential classic consider that this contest should provide an intriguing match-up of speed vs. power.

(NOTE: To watch a video preview of the contest with both teams, simply click "play" in the box to the right.)

The Warriors will bring their option rushing attack to bear against the Vikings lightning-quick defense, while East Hall will pit its balanced spread offense -- averaging an impressive 49 points per game -- against White County's imposing unit that -- not counting last week -- is allowing just 5.6 points per contest.

This is what region play is all about.

"It's a real big game for us against an outstanding opponent in East Hall that's having a real good year and scoring a lot of points," White County coach Bill Ballard said. "They're very scary on offense. We're not going to stop them; we just hope we can contain them a little bit.

"Ball control will be big for us in this ball game."

Indeed, the Warriors will look to make the most of their sizable offensive line -- a group that has paved the way for a strong mix of powerful and speedy backs, including fullback Dalton Whitfield.

"We have to stop the fullback up the middle," Vikings linebacker Jorge Hernandez said. "That's the biggest key for us because he runs hard."

Indeed, East Hall knows its biggest challenge could come in keeping White County from churning out four-, five- and six-yard rushes (or more) on each offensive snap. But the Vikings' veteran and speedy group of linebackers says it is excited to test itself against the Warriors.

"We've got to be ready to hit, we've got to get low, be physical and wear them out so that in the fourth quarter we can make the most of our speed," East Hall linebacker Corey Reece said. "Everyone's flying around out there right now, even our linemen. We're ready for it."

The Vikings are currently surrendering 23 points per game and will face a White County offense that entered last week's battle with Blessed Trinity averaging 38 points per contest. Yet East Hall coach Bryan Gray expects the Warriors to have solved any of the problems faced in last week's shutout loss.

"Last week was not them; they made some mistakes I guarantee you they're going to fix before this week," Gray said. "They're a semifinal playoff team in my eyes, so we have to really take that giant step from what we played last week to be ready to compete this week."

As tough a task as stopping White County's run game appears, the Warriors acknowledge they may have just as difficult a night in slowing East Hall's spread offense led by junior quarterback Devin Watson.

"We've got to keep them contained," said Whitfield, who also features at linebacker for White County. "We can't let them outflank us. Blessed Trinity did that a few times last week. And we've got to shut that down."

Few have succeeded in preventing the Vikings from getting to the edge this season, as East Hall enters on the strength of three of its highest scoring outputs in team history. Much of that success stems from Watson's ability to throw (1,208 yards passing, 14 TDs) and run (347 yards rushing, 6 TDs) with great effect.

"They definitely have a different offensive scheme than what they've been using," Ballard said. "It's tailor-made to the quarterback they have, and I think that's smart by their coach to use the personnel he has and develop their offense around the guys they've got."

That also includes dangerous receivers such as Milton Whelchel (12 catches, 247 yards receiving, 7 TDs) and Junior Lee (13 catches, 183 yards, 4 TDs).

"We're just going to try and keep guys around the football," White County safety Will Flowers said. "Good things happen when we keep guys around the football. We've learned that with interceptions; we have like seven already this year."

Both teams believe that one or two plays could make the difference in a key region match-up, and both teams are approaching the contest with utmost focus.

"We're treating it like a playoff game," Ballard said. "Every game like this is very important to us, and we're doing the best we can to try and win them."

Gray believes there are plenty of twists and turns to come before the postseason starts but knows that a victory tonight would signify plenty of progress for his Vikings.

"We're going to take one game at a time. We want to be as good as we can be on Friday night and go from there," Gray said. "We'd love to get one from White County. It's been a while since East Hall has had success against White County (East Hall's last win in the series came in 2006).

"We've worked this week like we know we've got a very big task in front of us.

It's a statement both teams could utter this week.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: Valhalla, Rabbittown
-- RADIO: 550 AM
-- WHITE (3-1, 1-0 Region 7-AAA): Lost to Blessed Trinity 30-0 last week.
-- EAST HALL (3-1, 0-1 Region 7-AAA): Defeated Johnson 54-14 last week.
-- HISTORY: White County won the last meeting 41-12 in 2012. East Hall leads the series 23-18 but has not won since 2006 -- a four game winning streak for the Warriors (2007, '08, '09 and 2012).
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