Tuesday September 18th, 2018 7:41PM

5 things: What we learned from Week 7 of high school football

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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Here's a look at five things we learned from Week 7 of the high school football season...

1. ​Branch quietly set up for biggest games in years

Flowery Branch is a play or two away from being undefeated,and they have dominated their first three region contests of the season. The Branch looks a dead certainty to get back into the state playoffs for the first time since 2013. It's safe to say things have swung dramatically for the Falcons, and because of that they now face their two biggest contests since that last playoff berth. The Branch travels to Loganville this week and then plays host to Clarke Central and Buford to close out the regular season. The Red Devils lost to Clarke Central last week and surely will feel like their backs are against the wall with a dangerous Cedar Shoals team and Buford to follow the Falcons. Look for Loganville to pull out all the stops. Flowery Branch already has proven much further ahead than our expectations in its first season under Ben Hall (we expected improvement, 6-1 already with almost 100 more points scored than last season is way more than simple improvement). Flowery Branch has won three straight and certainly would like to keep riding that momentum to set up a one-game showdown with Buford for the region title.

2. Jackson County can win without its offensive star

Noah Venable entered Friday's battle at Franklin County as the leading rusher in Class AAA and fourth best in the entire state (1,196 yards). He was well on his way to another incredible night when an akle injury forced him from the game in the second quarter after 158 yards and a touchdown (coach Brandon Worley says Venable may return as early as this week). But his loss could end up being the Panthers' gain in the long run, as it forced the team to respond to some major adversity. Already on the road and looking to buck a three-game losing skid, Jackson County found itself trailing and suddenly minus its offensive leader. Instead of panicking, however, the Panthers reached down and produced a stirring comeback that went a long way toward a playoff berth -- and showed themselves that they can do it together, no matter the odds.

3. Gainesville is far from finished

Things looked bleak for the Red Elephants in the fourth quarter of Friday's first Region 8-AAAAAA showdown with Habersham Central, trailing 27-20 with just a few minutes to play. Gainesville showed it not only has ability, however, it also has grit and determination left to spare, as GHS ripped off 10 straight points to close out the contest and claim a 30-27 victory that ended a four-game losing skid and got the Red Elephants right back into the state playoff mix. The return to health of quarterback Tre Luttrell made a huge difference for an offense lacking spark, as he put up 426 yards and three touchdowns -- including the tying score on an 81-yard catch and run from Trey Blackwell. The good news for Gainesville is that Luttrell and his offensive teammates will only get better as they get back used to playing together. And after playing a extraordinarily tough non-region schedule, the Red Elephants' defense should be prepared for anything left on the schedule -- and they showed as much on Friday, holding Habersham's offense (the third-highest scoring in all of Class AAAAAA) to two touchdowns below its season average. There are still plenty of huge challenges ahead, but Gainesville can be pleased by the progress shown Friday.

4. North Hall has weapons aplenty

The Trojans' stat sheet made strange viewing on Friday night. The normally ground-heavy North Hall wing-T had 533 total yards of offense -- and almost half of that came through the air. In fact, the Trojans produced two 100-yard receivers and no 100-yard rushers -- a feat that coach David Bishop, who's been at the program since its rebirth almost two decades ago, could not recall that ever happening during his time at The Brickyard. Quarterback David Seavey was a deadly-efficient 8 of 9 passing, and his ascent as a signal caller, and the weapons arraying the Trojans' attack, have helped push North Hall right into the thick of the Region 7-AAA playoff race (more on that below). Entering the season, Bishop knew his young team might take some lumps as it learned on the fly. That proved the case early on, as North Hall opened 0-4. But now the Trojans have won two of three, both in league play. And they are definitely one of the most improved teams in northeast Georgia this season. Win one or two more, and that group will find itself in the postseason.

5. 7-AAA playoff teams could be defined this week

With Greater Atlanta Christian threatening to run away with the region crown (the Spartans still have Dawson County -- 2-0 in 7-AAA -- to face) at 3-0, and the Tigers, East Hall and North Hall already with two wins apiece, the time is running out for Union, Fannin and Lumpkin counties to make their bids to get in the playoff race. The Panthers face a huge showdown on Friday at The Brickyard against the Trojans, while the Rebels travel to Dawson County this week. Lumpkin County will also play host to GAC. (East Hall is a on a bye). If the leaders all win this week, it would almost seal up the four postseason spots for 7-AAA with two games to go for most of the teams. In other words, expect some intense play in 7-AAA this weekend.

Blessed Trinity 50, White County 14
Buford 70, Johnson 0
Commerce 55, Providence Christian 0
Dacula 49, Apalachee 13
Dawson County 52, Union County 21
Flowery Branch 49, Walnut Grove 13
Gainesville 30, Habersham Central 27
Greater Atlanta Christian 59, East Hall 0
Jackson County 28, Franklin County 21
Mill Creek 45, Discovery 7
Monroe Area 55, East Jackson 0
North Forsyth 58, Forsyth Central 0
North Hall 55, Lumpkin County 14
Prince Avenue Christian 71, Lakeview Academy 7
Rabun County 59, Putnam County 0
St. Pius 28, Stephens County 13
West Hall 28, Chestatee 14
Winder-Barrow 24, Lanier 21

Athens Christian at Towns County
Banks County at Oglethorpe County
Blessed Trinity at Chestatee
Cedar Shoals at Buford
Duluth at North Gwinnett
Fannin County at Dawson County
Franklin County at East Jackson
Flowery Branch at Loganville
Gainesville at Dacula
George Walton Academy at Lakeview Academy
Greater Atlanta Christian at Lumpkin County
Jackson County at Hart County
Johnson at Clarke Central
Lanier at Habersham Central
Mill Creek at Peachtree Ridge
North Forsyth at Lambert
North Oconee at Jefferson
Rabun County at Social Circle
Riverside Military Academy at Commerce
Stephens County at Madison County
Union County at North Hall
West Hall at Marist

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