Wednesday July 18th, 2018 11:56PM

Week 7: Tonight's showdowns could be key playoff factors

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

There are no more dress rehearsals -- every game, in every region, now counts toward the playoffs.

Two huge matchups that are sure to play pivotal roles in determining not only the region champ but also seeding for the state playoffs highlight the action as 8-AAAAAA gets fully under way.

Habersham Central, which sports the No. 3-rated offense in Class AAAAAA, travels to City Park to take on a Gainesville squad that struggled through non-region. The Raiders four losses by have been by just 11 total points. But both teams come in 1-4, and the winner will take a huge step toward the playoffs.

Also in Region 8-AAAAAA, Winder-Barrow (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAAA) brings its unbeaten and best start since 1989 to Sugar Hill to take on Lanier, which has finished first or second in the region each of the last three seasons. But the Bulldoggs bring a top 10 offense to face the Longhorns' (3-2, 1-0 8-AAAAAA) traditionally stingy defense.

Meanwhile, Region 7-AAAA also offers a pair of crucial showdowns, as Chestatee (4-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAAA) heads to West Hall (4-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAAA) in a game that features the War Eagles high-powered offense against a tough West Hall defense. Also, an improved White County (5-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAAA) travels to Roswell to see if it can knock off No. 4-ranked Blessed Trinity (5-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAAA).

Region 7-AAA offers a trio of critical matchups, including Union County (4-2, 0-2 Region 7-AAA) playing host to Dawson County (3-2, 1-0 Region 7-AAA), North Hall (1-5, 1-1 Region 7-AAA) entertaining winless Lumpkin County (0-5, 0-1 Region 7-AAA), and East Hall (5-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) taking the state’s overall No. 1 offense to No. 3 Greater Atlanta Christian (5-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) in what is the first battle of region unbeatens.

For a look at all of the night's contests involving area teams, simply scroll down. And be sure to check back with AccessWDUN's Friday Game Night throughout the night for score updates and game stories and video highlights. You can also check for scores and highlights on our Twitter feed: @FridayGameNight

(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood
-- BUFORD (3-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA): Ranked No. 3 in Class AAAAA; defeated Clarke Central 45-7 last week
-- JOHNSON (0-6, 0-2 Region 8-AAAAA): Lost 42-0 to Walnut Grove last week
-- NOTABLE: Buford leads series 1-0. The Wolves won 48-0 in 2016. ... This will be the first time since Aug. 25 that Buford has played games on back-to-back weeks. Hurricanes and cancellations wreaked havoc on the Wolves schedule early. But, this is the second of six consecutive region games to close out the season. ... The Buford defense has allowed some points in 2017 (74, 18.5 ppg) but a new spread attack, led by the best running back tandem in the state in Anthony Grant and Christian Turner, is averaging 36.7 ppg despite not being able to get into a groove with all the bye weeks. ... Johnson is struggling allowing 50.7 ppg and scoring just 39 total points (6.5 ppg) on offense. ... The Knights have lost a program-record 20 straight games going to October 2015.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Spartan Field, Oakwood
-- CHESTATEE (4-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAAA): Bye last week; defeated Habersham Central 41-37 two weeks ago
-- WEST HALL (4-2, 0-0 Region 7-AAAA): Bye last week; lost 49-8 to Class AA No. 5 Rabun County two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: West Hall leads series 7-6. The Spartans won 35-28 in 2016. West Hall has won three straight in the series. The last Chestatee win was a 15-14 victory in 2013. The two teams have met every year but twice since Chestatee opened in 2002. ... The key to this one may be the West Hall defense and whether it can slow down Chestatee’s Nick Lyles. The Sr. running back was 6th in the state in rushing (958 yards, 18 TDs) going into last week and averaging 3 TOUCHDOWNS a game. ... The Spartans defense, however, has been tough most of the season. They have allowed just 107 points (17.9 ppg) but take away the Rabun game and they have yielded just 11.6 ppg vs. everyone else. ... Because of the quick-strike nature of its offense, the Chestatee defense has given up some points (190, 31.7 ppg). However, they do have 19 sacks on the season. ... Turnover-margin could play a factor. Chestatee is at (-1) while the Spartans are a (+4) on the season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Norcross
-- COMMERCE (4-1, 3-1 Region 8-A): Lost 21-6 to No. 3 Prince Avenue Christian last week
-- PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN (1-4, 1-3 Region 8-A): Lost 28-0 to George Walton Academy last week
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 3-0. The Tigers won 63-0 in 2016. ... Commerce has more than owned the series outscoring the Storm 157-10 in the three previous meetings. ... The Tigers went into last week’s showdown sitting No. 1 in Class A Public power rankings but only dropped one spot to No. 2 after the loss. ... Commerce scored first against the powerful Wolverines but could not hold on giving up two big plays that were the difference. ... The Storm, however, are the lowest scoring team in 8-A (44, 8.8 ppg) while the Tigers are yielding just 16.2 ppg. ... The Commerce offense was held to less than 14 points for just the second time in its last 27 contests.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: R. Harold Harrison Stadium, Bethlehem
-- DACULA (1-4, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAAA): Bye last week; lost 34-20 to Walton two weeks ago
-- APALACHEE (1-5, 0-1 Region 8-AAAAAA): Lost 56-14 to Winder-Barrow last week
-- NOTABLE: Dacula leads series 1-0. The Falcons won 26-7 in 2016. ... Don’t let the record fool you. Dacula is still considered one of the top teams in Class AAAAAA and is expected to make another run at a region title and a run in the state playoffs. The combined record of their first five opponents, which includes three ranked teams, is 20-7. ... The Falcons were in the exact same position a year ago and ran the table to win the region. They have allowed just 21 ppg against some explosive offenses. The Wildcats are averaging 15.7 ppg but scored just 58 points (11.6 ppg) in region play in 2016. ... Dacula is averaging just 15.6 ppg on offense but Apalachee has yielded 248 points (41.7 ppg) on defense so far.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Blairsville
-- RADIO: 
-- DAWSON COUNTY (3-2, 1-0 Region 7-AAA): Defeated North Hall 30-7 last week
-- UNION COUNTY (4-2, 0-2 Region 7-AAA): Lost 62-42 to East Hall last week
-- NOTABLE: Union County leads series 18-12. Dawson County won 57-26 in 2016. The Tigers have won two straight and 8 of the last 10 meetings since 2003. ... There is still a lot of football left but the Panthers almost have to treat every game the rest of the way as a must-win after opening region play with two consecutive losses. They had not opened region play 0-2 since 2011 (Region 8-AA). Union County still has tough road games at North Hall and Lumpkin County left. ... The Tigers, after scoring just 48 points in their first three games (16 ppg), have gotten the offense rolling behind Sr. QB Coey Watson scoring 72 points (36 ppg) over their last two contests. ... Last week snapped a two-game losing streak for the Tigers. Dawson County’s two losses were by a total of 6 points. ... The Panthers defense will face another tough challenge after allowing 109 points to similar spread attacks in losses to GAC and East Hall. ... The Union offense righted itself last week after scoring just 7 against GAC but struggled early with four punts in the first half while the Vikings pulled ahead for a 35-14 halftime lead. ... The Tigers have won three straight and 5 of their last 6 region road games.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Mill Creek Community Stadium, Hoschton
-- DISCOVERY (1-5, 0-2 Region 6-AAAAAAA): Lost 45-12 to Collins Hill last week
-- MILL CREEK (4-2, 1-1 Region 6-AAAAAAA): Lost 35-21 to North Gwinnett last week
-- NOTABLE: Mill Creek leads series 1-0. The Hawks won 62-0 in 2016. ... The Hawks are sure to be looking to get back on track after seeing their 19-game region win streak come to an end. The two overall losses also match their total amount from the 2015-16 seasons combined. ... The offense has been the real issue. Averaging roughly 40 ppg the last two seasons, they are averaging 25.5 ppg so far with 10 turnovers. ... The Titans defense has forced 9 turnovers is yielding 26 ppg while the offense has scored just 76 points (12.7 ppg). ... Mill Creek has not lost back-to-back games in the same season since falling to Peachtree Ridge and Norcross in 2013.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Spartans Field, Norcross
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- EAST HALL (5-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA): Defeated Union County 62-42 last week
-- GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN (5-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA): Ranked No. 3 in Class AAA; defeated Fannin County 55-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: GAC leads series 5-0. The Spartans won 69-12 in 2016. ... This may be the highest-profile game for the Vikings in two decades. They come into this one with the state’s most prolific offense, covering all classifications, averaging 53.8 ppg behind underrated dual-threat Sr. QB Austin Parker (2,140 yards, 25 TD, 1 INT) who sits 2nd among all QBs in the state in passing yards. RB Cambren Harrison has had a breakout season with 750 yards and 13 TDs rushing for East Hall. ... However, GAC is 2nd in AAA in offense (253, 42.1 ppg) and the Spartans are 6th in scoring defense yielding just 12.8 ppg. ... The East Hall defense, after surrendering 72 to Habersham Central in the season-opener, has given up just 126 points since (25.2 ppg). But, spread-oriented offenses have scored 151 points (50.3 ppg) in three games against the Vikings. ... GAC is balanced averaging 171 yards passing and 190 yards rushing and is led by Sr. RB and Clemson-commit Kyler McMichael (55 car., 548 yards, 9 TD).

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: City Park Stadium, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 1240 ESPN Radio
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (1-4, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAAA): Bye last week; lost 41-37 to Chestatee two weeks ago
-- GAINESVILLE (1-4, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAAA): Lost 39-14 to Class AAAA No. 3 Marist last week
-- NOTABLE: Gainesville leads series 14-11. The Red Elephants won 24-7 in 2016. Gainesville has won two straight in the series but it is just the fourth meeting between the two teams since 1991. ... Injuries have ravaged the Red Elephants during the first half of the season. But, they got back starting QB Tre Luttrell last week and are getting some key defensive personnel back as well. ... The offense figured to be a work-in-progress for Gainesville but without Luttrell most of the first half they have scored just 58 points (11.6 ppg). The defense, however, with missing several key pieces, has allowed a whopping 143 points (28.6 ppg) so far. The Red Elephants allowed just 210 points all of last season. ... It won’t get any easier for the Red Elephants as Habersham brings in the highest-scoring offense in Class AAAAAA (44.2 ppg) behind Sr. QB A.J. Curry, who sat 5th in the state, all classifications, in passing (1,517 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT) following the Chestatee game. He also leads the Raiders in rushing with 615 yards (7.4 ypc) and 8 TDs. Three receivers -- Jim Barnett (35 rec., 527 yards, 4 TD), Donovan Curry (20 rec., 463, 8TD), Bryce Tanner (19 rec., 319 yards, 2 TD) -- give A.J. Curry plenty of big-time playmakers. ... However, the Raiders defense has been the issue. They have given up the 5th-most points in AAAAAA (215, 43 ppg). But, Habersham’s four losses have been by a combined 11 points.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Ed Bryant Stadium, Carnesville
-- JACKSON COUNTY (3-3, 0-1 Region 8-AAA): Lost 42-14 to No. 8 Monroe Area last week
-- FRANKLIN COUNTY (1-5, 0-1 Region 8-AAA): Lost 41-14 to Hart County last week
-- NOTABLE: Franklin County leads series 10-3. Jackson County won 21-14 in 2016. The Lions have dominated the series overall but the Panthers are 3-3 in their last 6 meetings with Franklin County going back to 2001. ... The Panthers have lost three straight vs. three solid offensive teams who scored 118 points on their defense, which had given up just 30 points (10 ppg) during a 3-game win streak to open the season. ... Jackson County and Noah Venable (1,196 yards, 10 TDs rushing) were held in check last week by the No. 2-rated defense in AAA. The Lions should offer plenty of opportunities this week. ... Franklin County has allowed the most points of any 8-AAA team and the 4th-most points in AAA (231, 38.5 ppg). The Lions have scored just 95 points (15.8 ppg) on the season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (0-5, 0-1 Region 7-AAA): Bye last week; lost 42-14 to East Hall two weeks ago
-- NORTH HALL (1-5, 1-1 Region 7-AAA): Lost 30-7 to Dawson County last week
-- NOTABLE: North Hall leads series 18-7. The Trojans won 28-20 in 2016. North Hall has won two straight and 9 of the last 10 meetings going back to 1983. ... Despite it being early in the region schedule, both teams need this one to stay in the playoff race. ... The Trojans finish the season against Union County, GAC, and East Hall, the top three offenses in Class AAA. Lumpkin County still has GAC, Dawson County, and Union County. ... The Indians have struggled as they try and implement new systems on both sides of the ball. They did hold East Hall to its lowest output of the season but the offense has scored just 74 points (14.8 ppg) while the defense has yielded the 4th-most points in AAA (211, 42.2 ppg) so far. ... North Hall, which battled injuries early against a tough non-region schedule (20-8 combined opponents records), has managed just 14.1 ppg on offense while giving up 30.8 ppg. ... While the offense has only turned the ball over once, the Trojans defense has managed just 1 takeaway on the season. ... The Indians have 11 turnovers on offense (7 fumbles) while generating just 3 takeaways on the season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Eagles Stadium, Commerce
-- MONROE AREA (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAA): Ranked No. 8 in Class AAA; defeated Jackson County 42-14 last week
-- EAST JACKSON (1-3 0-1 Region 8-AAA): Lost 56-6 to Morgan County last week
-- NOTABLE: Monroe Area leads series 1-0. The Purple Hurricanes won 28-16 in 2016. ... The Eagles have struggled on both sides of the ball. They have scored just 73 points (18.2 ppg) and yielded 146 points (36.5 ppg). They have another tough challenge ahead this week. ... The Hurricanes are 5th in offense in AAA (233, 38.8 ppg) and are 2nd in AAA in defense (73, 12.1 ppg). Jr. RB Chandler Byron has 845 yards and 13 TDs with 6 100-yard games and is averaging 140 yards a game rushing for Monroe. Defensively, the Hurricanes have forced 8 turnovers and have 11 1/2 sacks on the season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Forsyth County Stadium, Cumming
-- NORTH FORSYTH (3-2, 0-0 Region 5-AAAAAAA): Bye last week; lost 49-17 to Woodstock two weeks ago
-- FORSYTH CENTRAL (0-5, 0-0 Region 5-AAAAAAA): Bye last week; lost 42-34 to Kennesaw Mountain two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: North Forsyth leads series 9-6. The Raiders won 28-15 in 2016. The Raiders have won three straight in the series. The last Forsyth Central win came in 2007. ... Both teams have had two weeks to get tough loses out of their system. The Bulldogs have seen their offense and defense switch places during the first half of the season. In their first two games, the defense allowed just 16 total points but the offense suffered two shutouts. Over their last three games, the offense averaged 34 ppg but the defense yielded 113 points (37.7 ppg). ... The Raiders offense has been among the classifications most consistent behind Ben Bales, who was 6th in the state in passing (1,451 yards) before last week. Bales has 15 TDs to just 4 INT and has weapons with four receivers amassing over 150-plus yards and 14 combined TD catches and three receivers with 366 yards or more and 12 combined TDs. ... The North Forsyth defense had allowed just 88 total points (22 ppg) over its first four games until running into a hot Woodstock offense that averaged over 38 ppg in September. ... The Raiders have won two straight and 3 of their last 4 region openers.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Jock Horner Field, Gainesville
-- PRINCE AVENUE CHRISTIAN (6-0, 5-0 Region 8-A): Ranked No. 2 in Class A; defeated Commerce 21-6 last week
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (2-3, 1-3 Region 8-A): Lost 34-30 to Athens Christian last week
-- NOTABLE: Prince Avenue leads the series 7-0. The Wolverines won 49-0 in 2016. ... It has not been a good matchup for the Lakeview. Prince Avenue has dominated the series outscoring the Lions by an average 44-7. ... Lakeview was leading until the final minute last week before giving up a late touchdown. The Lions sit 24th in the Private power rankings and an upset over the Wolverines would give them a huge boost in the rankings. But, the Wolverines offer a major challenge with a blend of speed and power on offense and a defense that has allowed just 74 points (12.7 ppg). ... Prince Avenue has won 15 straight region road games and 17 straight road games overall going back to the 2013 playoffs.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Tiger
-- PUTNAM COUNTY (4-2, 1-1 Region 8-AA): Defeated Oglethorpe County 26-8 last week
-- RABUN COUNTY (5-0, 1-0 Region 8-AA): Ranked No. 5 in Class AA; defeated Banks County 45-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Rabun County leads series 57-0. The Wildcats won 57-0 in 2016. ... Rabun County continues to roll having now won 23 consecutive regular season games. The Wildcats last regular season loss was to Jefferson to open the 2015 season. They have won 22 straight region contests going back to a 52-7 loss to Washington-Wilkes in 2013. ... Putnam County snapped a two-game losing streak last week. But, the War Eagles face a Rabun County team that is 3rd in AA in scoring (46.6 ppg) and 7th in defense allowing just 13.6 ppg. ... Rabun Sr. QB Bailey Fisher is having another solid season averaging 325 all-purpose yards (243 pass/79 rush) a game with 24 combined TDs. ... Defense has been the key for the War Eagles. In their four wins, they have yielded just 43 points (10.7 ppg) and allowed 97 points (48.5 ppg) in their two losses.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Reservation, Toccoa
-- ST. PIUS (0-5, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA): Bye last week; lost 36-33 to Lanier two weeks ago
-- STEPHENS COUNTY (3-2, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA): Bye last week; defeated Hart County 33-21 two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Stephens County leads series 1-0. The Indians won 27-13 in 2016. ... The Golden Lions are in the same position as in 2016 when they lost their first 8 games but rallied with two victories to make the playoffs. They are improved having lost two games by just 3 points each, one to Class AAAA No. 5 Marist and then AAAAAA Lanier, games they lost by 39 combined points and were shutout in both last season. ... The key for Stephens County is its offense, led by Sr. QB Jackson Bell and Sr. RB, who are combining for over 200 yards a game. In their three wins, the Indians have scored 36.7 ppg. They have scored just 12 total points in their two losses. ... St. Pius is still struggling on defense allowing 34.2 ppg but offensively they are averaging 19 ppg after scoring just 137 total points in 2016.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- WALNUT GROVE (2-4, 1-1 Region 8-AAAAA): Defeated Johnson 42-0 last week
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (5-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA): Defeated Cedar Shoals 35-21 last week
-- NOTABLE: Walnut Grove leads series 1-0. The Warriors won 41-7 in 2016. ... The Falcons come in sitting atop the region standings but played perhaps their sloppiest game of the season last week. They were tied with the Jaguars (14-14) early in the third quarter before exploding for 21 consecutive points. ... Flowery Branch used a power running game in the second half behind Malik Drayton (25 car., 226 yards, 3 TDs) and Malik Damons (129 yards, 2 TDs). ... The Falcons are 4th in scoring (230, 38.3 ppg) and 6th in defense (75, 12.5 ppg) while the Warriors have allowed 25.5 ppg. But, the Walnut Grove defense has forced 16 turnovers, including 9 fumbles, on the season. However, the Warriors offense has turned the ball over 13 times so far. ... Flowery Branch is off to its best start since opening up 9-0 during the 2011 season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Blessed Trinity Stadium, Roswell
-- WHITE COUNTY (5-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAAA): Bye last week; defeated Dawson County 45-42 two weeks ago
-- BLESSED TRINITY (5-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAAA): Ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA, bye last week; defeated McCallie (Tenn.) 45-19 two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Blessed Trinity leads series 5-0. The Titans won 34-7 in 2016. All five meetings have been since 2012, with a pair of playoff showdowns. ... This is your classic unstoppable force vs. the immovable object contest. The Warriors are 7th in AAAA in scoring (222, 37 ppg) while the Titans are tied for 11th in a very defensive-minded classification (87, 14.5 ppg). ... Sr. RB Kaleb Crane leads White County and was 7th in the state, all classifications, in rushing going into last week with 935 yards. The Titans obviously will try and stack the box on Crane and make Fr. QB J. Ben Haynes beat them. Haynes has improved each week leading their spread attack but the Titans have not allowed more than 27 points in any game this season. ... The Warriors are looking for their first 6-1 start since 2010.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Lanier Community Stadium, Sugar Hill
-- WINDER-BARROW (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAAA): Ranked No. 8 in Class AAAAAA; defeated Apalachee 56-14 last week
-- LANIER (3-2, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAAA): Bye last week; defeated St. Pius 36-33 two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Lanier leads series 3-0. The Longhorns won 34-21 in 2016. ... A classic matchup between a balanced Winder offensive attack against the traditional defensive strength of the Longhorns. ... The Bulldoggs are 7th in AAAAAA in scoring (210, 35 ppg) while Lanier has yielded 102 points (20.4 ppg). Winder is led by QB Brock Landis (1,038 yards passing 8 TD, 340 yards rushing, 7 TD), WR Jaiden Turner (20 rec., 283 yards, 2 TD), and RB Jamar Mack (540 yards rushing, 5 TD). Landis has spread the ball around with seven different players catching TD passes. ... The Lanier defensive core of Erick Turner, Peyton Bergman, Kameron Brown, Malik Johnson, and Jake Ludwig combined for 12 tackles for loss and three sacks in a win over AAAAAAA Lambert last month. ... The key will be if the Lanier offense, which is averaging just 18.8 ppg, can find some rhythm against a Winder defense that has allowed just 93 points (15.5 ppg) so far. QB Zach Calzada has 774 yards and six TDs passing for the Longhorns. ... Jr. DE Logan Cash leads the Bulldoggs defense with 13 tackles for losses.

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