Tuesday November 24th, 2015 11:16PM

Seven contests highlight opening weekend of high school football

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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Here we are, the week when live high school football gets going. <br /> <br /> What is known as "week zero" kicks off the 2014 campaign on Friday (and Saturday) -- and that includes a number of northeast Georgia squads.<br /> <br /> Eight area teams will begin their seasons this weekend, including one all-area showdown, as Rabun County travels to face former region foe Jefferson on Friday. The Dragons and Wildcats battled into overtime last year during a Region 8-AA showdown, and though Jefferson has moved up to Class AAA this campaign, both teams feature plenty of talent -- like Wildcat athlete Charlie Woerner and Dragons playmaker TJ Skelton -- making for an intriguing early season game.<br /> <br /> Johnson will also travel to Madison County, while Lumpkin County treks to Model and East Jackson plays host to Hebron Christian on Friday.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, three big battles are set for Saturday, including one that will feature on ESPN2, as part of the network's High School Football Kickoff -- as Georgia's 2013 Class AAA champ (Buford) plays host to Florida's 2013 Class AAA champ (Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, Fla.).<br /> <br /> It's the kind of contest that ought to have high school football fans drooling.<br /> <br /> Both teams feature stacked rosters that know how to win at the highest levels. The Wolves -- who are gunning for their 11th state championship overall and 10th in 14 seasons -- feature a bevy of FBS recruits, including running back Joshua Thomas, linebacker Austin Smith, defensive tackle Shug Frazier and tight end Isaac Nauta.<br /> <br /> The Conquerers, meanwhile, boast a roster that includes cornerback Kevin Toliver II (an LSU commit), outside linebacker Jeffrey Holland, lineman Kendrick Norton, running back Jalin Buie (Auburn commit) and safeties Ben Edwards and Deontai Williams.<br /> <br /> The contest is part of a huge early season slate for Buford, which will also face Class AAAAAA preseason No. 1 McEachern on Sept. 5, and should have the Wolves well prepared for the rigors of Class AAAA after moving up to their highest-ever classification this offseason.<br /> <br /> Speaking of McEachern, the Indians will take on another area team on Saturday when they play fourth-ranked North Gwinnett at 8:45 p.m. as part of the 2014 Corky Kell Classic.<br /> <br /> The Bulldogs, which reached the 2013 Class AAAAAA championship contest -- defeating McEachern 27-21 en route (in the semifinals) -- are rebuilding their roster somewhat after graduating a number of standouts, but North Gwinnett has not won fewer than 10 contests in a season since 2005. Rebuilding certainly qualifies more as reloading in Suwanee.<br /> <br /> The Indians will get to host the Kell contest at Cantrell Stadium -- as they will every game of the showcase -- due to a scheduling conflict with the Georgia Dome; the Atlanta Falcons have a home preseason game scheduled for Saturday.<br /> <br /> Mill Creek will also take part in the Kell Classic, facing off with Colquitt County at 11:45 a.m. at Cantrell Stadium.<br /> <br /> The Hawks fell short of the playoffs last year -- but were just a few plays away from reaching the postseason at 6-4 -- and are looking to get back to state.<br /> <br /> Colquitt will present a great early season test for Mill Creek, as the Packers also reached the 2013 Class AAAAAA semifinals, playing eventual champ Norcross within 14-9.<br /> <br /> Mill Creek brings back seven starters to an offense that averaged 40.3 points per game in 2013. Defensively, the Hawks feature a talented secondary and defensive front.<br /> <br /> It should make for some thrilling contests, and we can't wait to see them kick off.<br /> <br /> NOTES: Gainesville came in at No. 8 in Class AAAAA, and Jefferson No. 5 in Class AAA in the <i>Atlanta Journal-Constitution's</i> preseason prep football rankings. No other area teams made their respective top 10s.<br /> <br /> <b>AREA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE, Aug. 22-23</b><br /> <b>FRIDAY, Aug. 22</b><br /> Rabun County at Jefferson<br /> Hebron Christian at East Jackson<br /> Lumpkin County at Model<br /> Johnson at Madison County<br /> <br /> <b>SATURDAY, Aug. 23</b><br /> Mill Creek vs. Colquitt County at McEachern (Corky Kell Classic), 11:45 a.m.<br /> North Gwinnett at McEachern (Corky Kell Classic), 8:45 p.m.<br /> Trinity Christian at Buford, 9 p.m. on ESPN2
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