Sunday June 16th, 2019 1:46PM

Week 7 previews: Crucial region showdowns highlight area action

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Friday represents a relatively thin schedule around northeast Georgia's prep gridiron as area teams take midseason bye weeks to rest and hopefully get healthy.

But for the programs playing on Friday, there are huge playoff implications.

The biggest game of the night sees Dawson County traveling to Greater Atlanta Christian in what many are considering the ultimate battle for the Region 7-3A title. The Spartans are coming off a big win over North Hall last week in the first major skirmish and can put a stamp on things with a win over the Tigers in Norcross. But the Tigers bring the highest scoring team in Class 3A and a punishing ground game that is averaging over 400 yards a game.

Another massive region showdown will take place in Mt. Airy as Gainesville travels to take on Habersham Central in a Region 8-6A matchup where the loser is essentially on the outs for a playoff berth. The loser is not officially eliminated but would almost certainly have to win out to stay alive. The winner jumps right into the middle of the race.

In Region 8-5A, both Buford and Johnson face tough road contests. The Wolves whipped the Knights last week but Johnson heads to Walnut Grove looking for their first region win since joining 8-5A and has a solid rushing attack that has been hard to slow down in 2018. Buford travels to Athens to take on a resurgent Cedar Shoals squad that snapped a 10-game losing streak to arch-rival Clarke Central last week.

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: Waters-Wilkins Stadium, Athens
-- BUFORD (4-2, 1-0 Region 8-5A): Ranked No. 3 in Class 5A; defeated Johnson 49-0 last week
-- CEDAR SHOALS (4-2, 1-0 Region 8-5A): Defeated arch-rival Clarke Central 17-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Buford leads series 2-0. The Wolves won 56-14 in 2016 and 56-0 in 2017 in only two meetings between the two schools. ... Buford is looking for its first back-to-back wins on the season and the Jaguars have been a favorable matchup in their brief history. However, Cedar Shoals has won 3 of its last 4 and is off to its best start since 2008 when the Jaguars also opened that season 4-2. ... Last week’s win over Clarke Central snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Gladiators. The Jaguars have been doing it with their defense, which sits 4th in Class 5A in points allowed (59, 9.5 ppg). The have 20 TFL and 10 sacks and have forced 12 turnovers so far in 2018. They will be tested this week by a Buford offense that is 5th in points scored (239, 39.8 ppg) behind Derrian Brown, who is 2nd in Class 5A in rushing yards and TDs (128-928, 7.3 ypc, 13 TDs). ... The Wolves defense has allowed 115 points (19.1 ppg) but the Cedar offense is only scoring 19.1 ppg on the season. The Jaguars have been prone to turn the ball over with 12 on the season, including 7 fumbles.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- CHESTATEE (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-4A): Lost 59-7 to No. 6 Marist last week
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (5-0, 1-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 5 in Class 4A; defeated White County 42-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: Flowery Branch leads series 10-2. The Falcons won 43-7 in 2017 and have won 9 straight overall. The last Chestatee win came in 2004, 17-7, in Gainesville. ... This will be the second of three consecutive top 6 teams for Chestatee, which has No. 1 Blessed Trinity next week. ... This has been a lopsided series with none of the last nine meetings being decided by less than 17 points. On paper it looks like it could be more of the same as the Falcons come in as the 8th-highest scoring team in Class 4A averaging 38.2 ppg behind Jr. QB Elijah Gainey, Sr. WR Jalin Strown, and So. RB Jaizen Ellingham. Gainey was 20-of-35 passing for 334 yards, almost all of that in the first half last week. Meanwhile, the War Eagles defense has yielded the most points in 4A (339, 56.5 ppg). ... The Chestatee offense is led by dynamic playmaker So. QB Charles Christian, wholeads Class 4A in rushing with 1,002 yards and 12 TDs. He has added 1,083 yards passing while Jr. WR Seth Pressley leads Class 4A with 50 catches for 730 yards and all 6 of Charles’s TD throws. ... However, the Falcons have allowed just 46 points (9.2 ppg) so far in 2018.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Spartans Sports Complex, Norcross
-- DAWSON COUNTY (6-0, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 3A; defeated East Hall 64-0 last week
-- GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN (4-2, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Ranked No. 4 in Class 3A; defeated North Hall 21-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: GAC leads series 7-1. The Spartans won 49-10 in 2017 in Norcross. GAC has won seven straight in the series. The only Dawson County win came in the teams’ first-ever meeting in 2000, 21-16, in Dawsonville. ... This one could very well determine the region champion. However, a Dawson County victory would set up a season finale showdown with North Hall for the outright clincher, assuming no upsets. A GAC win would give the Spartans the tiebreaker edge over both North Hall and Dawson County and all but assure them of a 3rd consecutive title. ... It offers a juicy matchup between a devastating Dawson County rushing attack and a GAC defensive line that is big and fast and led by Michigan-commit DE Chris Hinton (6-foot-4, 290-pounds) and his book-end brother Miles Hinton (6-7, 320) and they held the Trojans’ wing-T to just 171 yards rushing last week. ... The Tigers have been as dominant as any team in the state in any classification behind their ground game led by Sr. QB SeVaughn Clark (75-479, 10 TDs) and Sr. RB Ahmad Kamara (66-669, 9 TDs, 4 100-yard games) that is averaging over 400 yards a game and leads Class 3A in scoring (273, 45.5 ppg). But those aren’t the only two in the backfield as Dawson County features five others with at least 100 yards and four with 191 or yards rushing. Clark has also shown efficiency in the passing game with 481 yards and 5 TDs with just 1 INT on the season. GAC has yielded just 90 points (15.0 ppg) on the season. ... The Spartans offense is not as potent as in recent campaigns but QB Josh Rose and WR Ty James, who leads Class 3A in receiving (586 yards) are a solid combination with big-play ability. Rose has thrown for 933 yards and rushed for 383. James and Jake Floyd (405 yards) have 11 TD receptions between them.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Rebels Stadium, Blue Ridge
-- EAST HALL (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 64-0 to Dawson County last week
-- FANNIN COUNTY (2-3, 1-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Cherokee Bluff 45-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: East Hall leads series 104. The Vikings won 47-27 in 2017 in Blue Ridge. East Hall has won six straight. The last Rebels win came in 2011, 35-19, in Rabbittown. ... Practically a must-win for East Hall if it has any hopes of staying in the playoff race. Last week’s region win for the Rebels snapped a 15-game Region 7-3A losing streak and has them poised for a playoff push. ... East Hall has been battling injuries and inconsistency with a young roster. The offense looked to be coming around until last week scoring 76 points in consecutive games. But the Vikings have scored 6 points or less in four games. However, the defense has been the real issue as the Vikings have allowed the most points in all of Class 3A (317, 52.8 ppg). ... Fannin County needs a win with 3 of their 4 games on the road, including next at North Hall and a season finale at GAC. The Rebels are averaging 23.6 ppg (142 points ) in 2018 after scoring just 126 points all of last season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Raiders Stadium, Mt. Airy
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- GAINESVILLE (0-6, 0-1 Region 8-6A): Lost 37-7 to Dacula last week
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (3-3, 0-1 Region 8-6A): Lost 38-10 to Lanier last week
-- NOTABLE: Gainesville leads series 15-11. Gainesville won 30-27 in 2017. The Red Elephants have won three straight over the Raiders. Habersham’s last win in the series was in 2000, 25-0, in Mt. Airy. ... It’s not complete desperation time for both teams but the loser will drop to the bottom of the region standings with three games remaining and almost certainly would need to win out for any chance at a playoff berth, especially with the reemergence of Apalachee. ... The Raiders ran into a defensive buzzsaw last week and were held to their lowest offensive output in over two seasons. They are still 12th in Class 6A (177 points, 29.5 ppg) despite last week’s showing. Sr. QB Tre Luttrell is 3rd in 6A in passing with 1,268 yards. ... They catch a Red Elephants defense that has been solid at times but has struggled the last month allowing 107 points (35.7 ppg) over their last three contests. ... The Gainesville offense has not been able to find any traction at all in 2018 sitting 48th (72, 120 ppg) out of 58 6A teams. ... The Habersham defense, however, while improved from 2017, is still yielding 31 ppg (186 points, 45th out of 58 Class 6A teams).

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
-- HART COUNTY (2-3, 1-0 Region 8-3A): Bye last week; defeated Jackson County 30-13 on Sept. 21
-- JEFFERSON (5-1, 2-0 Region 8-3A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 3A; defeated Franklin County 17-10 last week
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 3-1. The Dragons won 43-27 in 2015. All four meetings have been since 2010. Jefferson has won the last three meetings. ... A critical game for both teams with the winner owning the tiebreaker and staying at the top of the region standings while the loser will drop to third place with both still set to play No. 3 Monroe Area in the coming weeks. ... The Dragons sit 3rd in 3A in defense allowing just 53 points (8.8 ppg) but have not faced any real offensive juggernauts to this point. The Bulldogs have scored just 88 points (17.6 ppg). ... The problem for the Dragons is that they have suffered a rash of injuries the last two weeks, including RB Kade McNally and QB/LB Colby Clark last week. McNally is most likely out for the year along with Kadin Bailey, Brian Habeck, Grant Tacto and Malaki Starks. Clark is expected to miss several weeks as well. ... But they managed a remarkable fourth quarter rally last week after trailing the Lions 10-3 in the second half. ... But the Bulldogs defense has begun to make strides allowing just 27 points in their last two games after yielding 78 points in their first three contests. Look for Jefferson to lean on its rushing attack, which is averaging 318 yards, which still has 6 players with more than 100 yards on the season without Clark, who is their leading rusher.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee
-- HEBRON CHRISTIAN (3-2, 1-0 Region 8-A North): Ranked No. 18 in Class A Private power rankings; defeated Lakeview Academy 51-14 last week
-- TOWNS COUNTY (2-4, 0-1 Region 8-A North): Ranked No. 23 in Class A Public power rankings; lost 48-14 to Riverside Military Academy
-- NOTABLE: Hebron leads series 6-4. The Lions won 29-7 in 2017 and have won four straight. The last Indians win came in 2013, 34-19, in Dacula. ... Both teams would make the playoffs if they were held this week but both also are looking to improve their positioning. A win for either would do that while a loss would certainly drop them in the standings. ... The Indians have lost three straight overall but have played a ridiculous schedule with Union County, which leads Class 2A in offense, Class A Private No. 1 Athens Academy and George Walton (No. 9 in Private) and a uber-talented Riverside team last week that is just now finding its stride. ... Towns County has yielded 135 points (45.0 ppg) during the losing streak while the Lions have scored 100 points during a current two-game win streak. ... The Indians could use some momentum with Commerce up next in two weeks.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Legion Field, Monroe
-- JACKSON COUNTY (2-4, 0-2 Region 8-3A): Lost 26-14 to Morgan County last week
-- MONROE AREA (6-0, 2-0 Region 8-3A): Ranked No. 3 in Class 3A; defeated East Jackson 62-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: Monroe Area leads series 3-1. The Hurricanes won 42-14 in Monroe in 2017. The two teams have split the last two games since 2016, each winning at home. ... In very tough classification the Hurricanes are considered among the top three or four teams to challenge for the state title. They are led by a potential Georgia Player of the Year candidate in QB Chandler Byron, who is 2nd in the state and Class 3A in rushing with 1,264 yards and 18 TDs, and is averaging 10.4 ypc. He's 31-for-55 through the air for 698 yards and 9 TDs and just 1 INT. ... The Panthers are yielding just 17.9 ppg against some tough offenses but have struggled on offense (95 points, 15.8 ppg) being shut out twice and scoring 14 or fewer in 4 of their 6 games. ... It is almost a must-win for Jackson County, who would fall two games out of fourth place with just three games left with a loss.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Warriors Stadium, Walnut Grove
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- JOHNSON (4-2, 0-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 49-0 to No. 3 Buford last week
-- WALNUT GROVE (1-5, 0-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 28-21 to Loganville last week
-- NOTABLE: Walnut Grove leads series 4-0. The Warriors won 42-0 in 2017. Walnut Grove has dominated the series and outscored the Knights 70-0 the last two seasons. ... A huge game for the Knights, who come in as one of the most improved teams in the state and looking to make a run for their first playoff berth since 2004. A win would set up a showdown next week with Cedar Shoals, who takes on No. 3 Buford this week, for a shot at second place in the region standings. ... Johnson features a punishing ground game behind Sam Corbett that is 16th in Class 5A (168, 28.0 ppg) and the second-highest scoring team in 8-5A. By comparison, the Knights only scored 74 points in all of 2017. ... The Warriors have lost four straight, are the lowest scoring team in 8-5A (94, 15.6 ppg), and are giving up 25..1 ppg on the season. ... The Johnson defense has allowed just 68 points (13.6 ppg) in its other five games discounting Buford.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Commerce
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (0-5, 0-1 Region 8-A North): Lost 51-14 to Hebron Christian last week
-- COMMERCE (5-0, 0-0 Region 8-A North): Ranked No. 3 in Class A Public power rankings; bye last week; defeated Madison County 35-8 on Sept. 21
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 6-0, The Tigers won 55-21 in 2017. ... A young Lakeview team is still struggling to find the right combinations on both sides of the ball. The Lions have been outscored 197-57 and has not scored more than 21 points in any game. ... Commerce has been as dominant as any team in the area and state. The Tigers have yielded just 47 points (9.4 ppg) including two Class 4A teams and one 3A. ... Commerce is 5-0 for first time since 2002 and is looking for its first 6-0 start since 1999 when the Tigers completed an unbeaten regular season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Bears Stadium, Flowery Branch
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (2-3, 0-1 Region 7-3A): Bye last week; lost 36-6 to No. 8 Dawson County on Sept. 21
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (0-6, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 45-7 to Fannin County last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... The Bears are still looking for their first win in program history and it won’t get any easier this week against a Indians offense that is averaging over 200 yards a game on the ground and has had a week off to rest. Sr. QB Luke Smith has been the catalyst with 495 yards, 5 TDs, and 3 100-yard games so far. ... A young Bears defense is still developing and has allowed the 4th-most points in 3A (251, 41.8 ppg) and has struggled against power rush teams like Dawson County Johnson. ... The Indians, who are just 2-10 in their last 12 Region 7-3A contests, cannot get caught looking ahead with GAC and North Hall in the following weeks if they have any playoff aspirations. ... The Bluff has scored just 40 points (6.6 ppg) on the season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Norcross
-- RIVERSIDE MILITARY (2-3, 1-0 Region 8-A North): Ranked No. 24 in Class A Private power rankings; defeated Lakeview Academy 48-14 last week
-- PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN (2-3, 0-2 Region 8-A South): Ranked No. 23 in Class A Private power rankings;
-- NOTABLE: Series is tied 1-1. Providence Christian won 17-14 in 2017. Both games have been decided by three points. ... This one will not affect subregion standings but it will have a big impact on the power rankings as both teams occupy the final two spots in the top 24. ... The Eagles have played a tough non-subregion schedule with Private No. 2 Christian Heritage, No. 4 Private Prince Avenue and Class 5A Johnson, which is 4-2 on the season. In their two wins, the Eagles have 75 points and the defense has yielded just 17 points. ... The Storm just completed a brutal 3-game stretch against ranked teams Prince Avenue, Commerce, and George Walton and were outscored 161-14. ... The two wins to open the season for Providence matched their entire win total since beginning varsity play in 2014.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Hughes-Spalding Stadium, Atlanta
-- WEST HALL (2-4, 1-1 Region 7-4A): Defeated Denmark 48-27 last week
-- MARIST (5-1, 2-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 6 in Class 4A; defeated Chestatee 59-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Marist leads series 2-0. The War Eagles won 41-6 in 2017 in Atlanta. ... The Spartans arguably have played the toughest schedule in the area with ranked teams Commerce, Jefferson, and Dawson County already behind them. The War Eagles will make the fourth team ranked team in seven games and they have Flowery Branch still looming down the road. ... Last week West Hall got a total team effort forcing 6 Denmark turnovers while the offense capitalized with its biggest output of the season. However, the defense has allowed the 3rd-most points in 4A (208, 37.0 ppg). ... Marist is a balanced team as the offense is averaging 32.8 ppg while the defense is yielding just 11.8 ppg. The War Eagles are tough at home winning 17 of their last 21 at Hughes-Spalding and they have won 30 straight games against unranked opponents going back to a 10-9 loss to St. Pius in 2014 at home. ... Marist WR/DB Kyle Hamilton scored on a 28-yard fumble return, 23-yard reception and 66-yard punt return last week.

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