Tuesday July 23rd, 2019 9:40AM

Week 8 previews: Light but potent night set for gridiron action around northeast Georgia

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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It’s another light week across northeast Georgia on the gridiron as several area teams have the night off to prepare for the final three weeks of the season.

In the meantime, several huge matchups that will go a long way to determine not only playoff positioning but possible region titles highlight Friday night’s action around the area. 

The entirety of Region 8-6A is taking the week off to prepare for the final three-week push toward the playoffs. But Regions 8-5A, 7-4A, 7-3A, 8-2A, and 8-A North all have critical showdowns that could set up an exciting finish to the regular season.

The marquee game will be take place at Falcons Field as Class 4A No. 5 Flowery Branch plays host to No. 1-ranked and defending 4A state champion Blessed Trinity. Both teams come in undefeated and tied atop the region standings.

Also in Region 7-4A, White County travels to West Hall trying to keep its season alive while the Spartans are looking to begin a playoff push of their own.

In Region 7-3A, North Hall plays host to surprising Fannin County, which is unbeaten in region play. The Trojans have had two weeks to put a frustrating loss to Greater Atlanta Christian behind them but know they can’t look ahead with Dawson County still looming down the road. 

Rabun County will play host to Elbert County in Region 8-2A with a chance to knock the Blue Devils down another notch in the standings and continue to set up a season-ending showdown with arch-rival Union County.

Commerce and Hebron Christian meet in Dacula with a chance to grab the top spot in the subregion all alone.

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: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville 
-- BANKS COUNTY (3-3, 2-1 Region 8-2A): Bye last week; lost 68-7 to Rabun County on Sept. 28
-- UNION COUNTY (6-0, 3-0 Region 8-2A): Bye last week; defeated Elbert County 29-28 on Sept. 28
-- NOTABLE: Union County leads series 21-18. The Panthers won 31-6 in 2017 in Blairsville. Union County has won two straight but it has been an even series for its history as the teams have split the last 4, 6, and 14 meetings. However, Banks County has won 3 of the last 4 meetings in Blairsville going back to 2007. ... It should be a game of contrast of styles. Union County uses a spread passing attack while the Leopards employ a power wing-T. ... The Leopards face their second straight high-powered offense as Union County is 6th in Class 2A in scoring at 41.8 ppg behind Pierson Allison, who is among the state leaders in passing with 1,633 yards and 11 TDs. He also leads the team in rushing with 420 yards. RB Chad Buzzard has 360 yards and 9 TDs. ... Banks County, in its three wins, has averaged 37.6 ppg and given up just 27 points. In their three losses, the Leopards have been outscored 108-7 with two shutouts. They will face another tough defense as the Panthers are 5th in Class 2A allowing just 70 points (11.6 ppg). The Panthers have 59 TFL, with Sloan Sutton, Chayton Schafer, and Jackson Colwell with 9 each. ... Union County also is looking for its second 7-0 start in the last four seasons.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- BLESSED TRINITY (6-0, 2-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 1 in Class 4A; defeated Denmark 47-6 last week
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (6-0, 2-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 5 in Class 4A; defeated Chestatee 69-13 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... What a setting for their first-ever showdown with a share of first place in the region at stake and a chance for the Falcons to show they are a title contender against the defending state champions. ... This one could go any numbers of ways as both teams are near the top in Class 4A in offense (Falcons are 5th at 43.3 ppg; Titans are 7th at 40.5 ppg) and defense (Titans are 3rd allowing just 9.3 ppg; Falcons are 4th at 9.8 ppg). ... Blessed Trinity is led by Division I prospect Sr. RB/LB and Ohio State-commit Steele Chambers (632 yards, 15 TDs, 3 100-yard games). Defensively they are led by another top recruit in Sr. LB J.D. Bertrand (team leader on defense, 36 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks), who has more than a dozen D-I and recently decommitted from Georgia). DE J.R. Bivens (committed to Middle Tennessee). QB Jake Smith is more than efficient (58-of-85 passing, 883 yards, 6 TDs). ... The Falcons will counter with Jr. QB Elijah Gainey (1,352 yards) who passed for 336 yards and 5 TDs last week, and Sr. WR Jalin Strown, who is a big-play receiver and 9th in the state (694 yards, 8 TDs, over 20.0 ypc) and could offer matchup issues for the Titans. ... The winner will keep pace with Marist atop the standings while the loser will drop to third place.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Red Devils Stadium, Loganville
-- BUFORD (5-2, 2-0 Region 8-5A): Ranked No. 3 in Class 5A; defeated Cedar Shoals 55-6 last week
-- LOGANVILLE (3-4, 1-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 8-3 to Clarke Central last week
-- NOTABLE: Buford leads series 11-1. The Wolves won 49-0 in 2017 at Tom Riden and have won five straight in the series. The last Red Devils win came in 1986, 25-7, in Buford. ... The Red Devils were held to their lowest output of the season last week after averaging 24.3 ppg in their first 6 games. It won’t get any easier against a Buford defense (121 points) that is allowing just 12.1 ppg to teams not named Archer. ... Meanwhile, the Wolves offense has scored 49 or more points in 3 of their last 6 games and is averaging 57 ppg in region play. ... Sr. RB and Michigan-commit Derrian Brown continues to ravage opposing defenses with 1,001 yards and 14 TDs rushing. Buford is averaging 241 yards rushing on the season. ... Loganville allowed 97 points (48.5 ppg) to the first two ranked teams it played (Monroe Area and St. Pius) this season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood
-- CEDAR SHOALS (4-3, 1-1): Lost 55-6 to No. 3 Buford last week
-- JOHNSON (4-3, 0-2): Lost 35-14 to Walnut Grove last week
-- NOTABLE: Cedar Shoals leads series 11-0. The Jaguars won 41-18 in 2017 in Oakwood. This is just their third meeting since 1987, however. ... With every team in the region still within two games of first place and just two games left after Friday, it is almost a must-win for both teams with tiebreakers at stake. ... The Knights are the only winless team in region play but can get right back in the playoff race with two of their last three games at home, where they are 2-1 this season. Cedar Shoals, however, is 3-1 on the road in 2018, including wins at Madison County, Oconee County, and rival Clarke Central. ... The Jaguars are still in the top 10 in defense (114, 16.2 ppg) in Class 5A despite last week’s rough outing but have shown they have trouble with power rushing teams. The Knights’ option attack is averaging 26 ppg and over 200 yards a game behind Sam Corbett. ... The Johnson defense is yielding just 21.7 ppg on the season while the Cedar Shoals offense has struggled scoring just 121 points (17.2 ppg) the fewest in Region 8-5A, and scored 14 or fewer points in 5 of its 7 games.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (0-7, 0-3 Region 7-3A): Lost 42-19 to Lumpkin County last week
-- EAST HALL (1-6, 0-3 Region 7-3A): Lost 59-36 to Fannin County last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... The Bears face the toughest finish in 7-3A with GAC and Dawson County to follow the Vikings to close out the season and need a win to avoid elimination. East Hall can stay in the race with a win and games against rivals North Hall and Lumpkin County to end the season. ... Look for points to be scored in this one. The Vikings have surrendered the most points in Class 3A (376, 53.7 ppg) while the Bears have yielded the 4th-most in 3A (293, 41.8 ppg). ... East Hall is averaging just 18.5 ppg on offense while the Bears have scored just 59 points (8.4 ppg) on the season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Hebron Stadium, Dacula
-- COMMERCE (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-A North): Ranked No. 4 in Class A Public power rankings; defeated Lakeview Academy 42-0 last week
-- HEBRON CHRISTIAN (4-2, 2-0 Region 8-A North): Ranked No. 19 in Class A Private power rankings; defeated Towns County 47-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 6-0. The Tigers won 29-26 in 2017. ... This is the first of a three-week, three-team showdown, including Riverside Military Academy, for the top spot in the North subregion. Hebron plays RMA Next week so the Lions can take control this week with an upset win. The Lions, who have won three straight, have had perhaps their most dominating three-game stretch in program history scoring 147 points (49 ppg) and giving up just 24 (8.0 ppg) in that span. ... However, they play a Tigers team that is as dominant as any in Class A. Commerce is in the top 10 in scoring (247, 41.1 ppg) and is 3rd in defense allowing just 47 points (7.8 ppg) on the season. The Tigers’ power wishbone has been grinding up its opponents while the defense has been hard-hitting. ... Commerce can take temporary control in the subregion with a win and will close out the subregion schedule against RMA before the region play-in game.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- ELBERT COUNTY (4-2, 2-1 Region 8-2A): Bye last week; lost 29-28 to Union County on Sept. 28 
-- RABUN COUNTY (5-1, 3-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 3 in Class 2A; bye last week; defeated Banks County 68-7 on Sept. 28
-- NOTABLE: Rabun County leads series 2-0. The Wildcats won 35-7 in 2017 in Tiger. ... The Blue Devils need a win to have any chance at a top two spot in the region by season’s end. They face their second top-5 offense in as many games as Rabun is 5th in Class 2A (255, 42.5 ppg) behind Fr. QB Gunner Stockton (1,264 yards passing, 13 TDs, 2 INT) and Sr. WR Austin Jones (24 rec., 469 yards, 5 TDs). Elbert County has allowed just 95 points (15.8 ppg) but has yield 56 points (28.0 ppg) in their two losses. ... Rabun County has won 15 straight regular season games at home and is 22-1 at home since 2015. The Blue Devils, however, have not lost consecutive games since 2014.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 The Lake
-- FANNIN COUNTY (3-3, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated East Hall 59-36 last week
-- NORTH HALL (5-1, 1-1 Region 7-3A): Bye last week; lost 21-0 to No. 5 Greater Atlanta Christian on Sept. 28
-- NOTABLE: North Hall leads series 9-1. The Trojans won 13-0 in 2017 in Gainesville. This is the 9th meeting since 2002 and North Hall has won 9 straight overall. The only Rebels win came in 1984, 13-0, at The Brickyard. ... A huge matchup for both teams as the loser is likely to drop to fourth place in the standings. The Rebels have a tougher finish, however, with GAC and Dawson County still to come so a win may be more urgent to stay in the playoff chase. ... The Rebels feasted on the two bottom teams East Hall and Cherokee Bluff the last two games scoring 104 points. The 59 points last week was a new school record for points in a game. Also, the 2-0 start in region play is the first for a Fannin team since 2007. ... The North Hall defense, however, has allowed the 7th-fewest points in Class 3A (71, 11.8 ppg) ... The Fannin County defense is surrendering 27.5 ppg while the North Hall offense is still averaging 35.3 ppg and over 286 yards a game rushing in spite of the shutout loss to GAC. ... The Rebels have dropped 9 of their last 10 road games while North Hall has won 5 of its last 6 games at The Brickyard with the only loss coming to GAC.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Eagles Stadium, Commerce
-- FRANKLIN COUNTY (1-5, 0-2 Region 8-3A): Lost 40-21 to Morgan County last week
-- EAST JACKSON (1-5, 0-2 Region 8-3A): Bye last week; lost 62-0 to No. 3 Monroe Area on Sept. 28
-- NOTABLE: Franklin County leads series 6-0. The Lions won 38-6 in 2017 in Commerce. ... The loser is not officially eliminated but will join Jackson County, which is off this week, at the bottom of the standings. The winner will jump back into the playoff race. ... The Eagles have struggled most of the season scoring the fewest points in Class 3A (20, 3.3 ppg) and allowing the 5th-most points on defense (286, 47,6 ppg). The Lions have not been much better on offense scoring just 78 points (13.0 ppg) but have surrendered just 140 points (23.3 ppg). ... Something is going to give, however. East Jackson is just 1-7 at home since the 2017 season while the Lions are just 1-7 on the road during that same period.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega
-- GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN (5-2, 3-0 Region 7-3A): Ranked No. 4 in Class 3A; defeated No. 10 Dawson County 23-20 last week
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (3-3, 1-1 Region 7-3A): Defeated Cherokee Bluff 42-19 last week
-- NOTABLE: GAC leads series 8-0. The Spartans won 61-14 in Dahlonega in 2017. ... All nine meetings have been since 2000 and it has been a lopsided series with the Spartans winning by an average margin of 38.2 ppg. ... GAC still has a solid offense, though it’s not as potent as in recent seasons but is averaging 27 ppg behind QB Josh Rose and WR Ty James, who will be a tough matchup for a Indians defense that is allowing 25.5 ppg. James had 6 catches for 150 yards against Dawson County.... The Lumpkin wishbone attack is averaging over 250 yards a game behind Sr. QB Luke Smith, who leads the team in rushing with 659 yards and 8 TDs and 4 100-yard games. Smith rushed for 164 yards and 3 TDs and had 64 kick-return yards against Cherokee Bluff. ... The Indians will not be out of the playoffs race if they cannot produce the upset. They have North Hall next week on the road and finish at home against Fannin County and East Hall and figure to have a major say in who advances to the playoffs.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Legion Field, Madison
-- JEFFERSON (6-1, 3-0 Region 8-3A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 3A; defeated Hart County 35-7 last week
-- MORGAN COUNTY (3-4, 2-1 Region 8-3A): Defeated Franklin County 40-21 last week
-- NOTABLE: Morgan County leads series 11-6. The Bulldogs won 17-0 in 2015. Morgan County has won three straight but it is just the third meeting between the two teams since 1969. The last Jefferson victory over the Bulldogs came in 1968, 12-6, in Madison. ... It’s the beginning of a crucial two-week stretch for Jefferson, which can take control in the region. After the Bulldogs, they play host to No. 3 Monroe Area. ... The Dragons are coming off an impressive win last week considering they are missing four key starters and have had to turn to a Fr. QB in Carter Stephenson. But the Jefferson defense has continued to be a wall yielding just 60 points (8.5 ppg) which is 4th-best in Class 3A. ... The Jefferson ground attack has been punishing in 2018 averaging 296 yards a game with 7 players with 172 yards or more on the season. ... Morgan County is the two-time defending region champion and started slow opening the season 1-3. But the Bulldogs have won two straight after falling to No. 3 Monroe Area to open region play. ... Morgan County is tough at Legion Field winning 6 of its last 8 and 10 of its last 15 at home. Jefferson is just 5-4 in its last 9 road games and is 2-1 in 2018 on the road.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Jock Horner Field, Gainesville
-- RIVERSIDE MILITARY (3-3, 1-0 Region 8-A North): Ranked No. 22 in Class A Private power rankings; defeated Providence Christian 34-0 last week
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (0-6, 0-2 Region 8-A North): Lost 42-0 to Commerce last week
-- NOTABLE: Series is tied 1-1. Riverside won 48-28 in 2017. ... The Eagles have won two straight games for the first time since the 2013 season and are beginning to hit their stride behind Sr. QB Isaac Teasley, who has 815 yards passing and 472 yards rushing. So. RB Dylan Parr is having a breakout season with 550 yards and 5 TDs rushing with 3 100-yard games. Sr WR Khalid Duke, who draws constant double-teams, has still managed 16 catches for 313 yards and 3 TDs. ... Lakeview continues to struggle in a rebuilding year. The Lions have scored the 5th-fewest points in Class A (57, 9.5 ppg) in their spread attack. RMA has a solid secondary, led by Duke, that has picked off 5 passes in 2018. ... The Eagles cannot afford a slip-up with a two-week stretch of battling for the subregion title with games against Hebron Christian and Commerce to follow. ... RMA has not won three straight games since the close of the 2008 season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Spartans Field, Oakwood
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- WHITE COUNTY (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-4A): Bye last week; lost 42-0 to Flowery Branch on Sept. 28
-- WEST HALL (2-5, 1-2 Region 7-4A): Lost 51-14 to No. 6 Marist last week
-- NOTABLE: White County leads series 11-9. The Warriors won 33-28 in 2017 in Cleveland. White County has won 9 of the last 10 meetings going back to 2006 with the Spartans’ only win in that stretch coming in 2016, 35-14, in Oakwood. ... A must-win game for both teams to stay in the playoff race. West Hall, however, owns the tiebreaker over Denmark, who the Warriors play next week. ... Both teams are in the bottom half of Class 4A in points allowed with the Spartans giving up the 3rd-most (259, 37.0 ppg). The Warriors are allowing 32.1 ppg but have surrendered 83 points (41.5 ppg) in their first two region contests. ... West Hall also has played the toughest schedule in the state, any classification, with 4 of their first 7 opponents ranked in the top 10 in their respective classifications and a combined 33-7 record (82.5 percent winning percentage). ... Offensively neither team has been as explosive as years past with West Hall averaging just 20.7 ppg and the Warriors averaging 20.1 ppg, which is down dramatically from their 31.3 ppg average in 2017. White County has scored just 6 points in its last two games.

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