Thursday January 28th, 2021 11:18AM

ICYMI: Week 7 previews: Regions 8-A, 8-5A, 8-6A join the playoff chase

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

With Region 8-A, Region 8-5A, and Region 8-6A finally getting their region schedules under way beginning this week, every northeast Georgia team has now joined the race for the playoffs.

Several huge region matchups are on tap as a result.

Habersham Central plays host to 2018 semifinalist Lanier as both teams open Region 8-6A play in a game that matches one of the area’s best offenses the past three seasons, Habersham Central, against a Lanier defense that is among the state’s best year-in and year-out.

Union County, the state’s top offensive team, all classifications, entertains perennial power Elbert County in Blairsville. The two teams staged one of 2018’s best games as the Panthers held on for a 29-28 win at The Granite Bowl.

In Norcross, North Hall travels to No. 4 Greater Atlanta Christian in an effort to see if they can become the first Region 7-3A team to knock off the Spartans since the current region formed in 2016.

For a look at all of the weekend's contests involving area teams, simply scroll down. And be sure to check back with AccessWDUN's Friday Game Night throughout Friday and Saturday 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: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- BANKS COUNTY (3-2, 2-0 Region 8-2A): Defeated Oglethorpe County 49-14 last week
-- RABUN COUNTY (5-0, 2-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 6 in Class 2A; defeated Monticello 49-20 last week
-- NOTABLE: Rabun County leads series 19-10. The Wildcats won 68-7 in 2018 in Homer. ... It has been a streaky series. Rabun has won three straight which followed a 5-game win streak by Banks County. Those came after Rabun won 8 of 9 from 1998-2007. ... Both defenses have been solid so far with Rabun allowing just 13 ppg while the Leopards have yielded just 14.6 ppg, which is a significant improvement for Banks over last year’s 27.3 ppg allowed. ... However, the key in this one will be if banks County can slow down Gunner Stockton and a Wildcats offense that is 4th in Class 2A (44.0 ppg) and producing more than 440 yards a game. ... After being shut out twice and scoring just 15 total points in its first three games, the Banks offense has scored 94 points (47 ppg) during the Leopards’ two-game win streak. ... Rabun County has outscored Banks County 159-17 during its 3-game win streak in the series. The Leopards are just 4-10 all-time in Tiger.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium
-- BUFORD (5-0, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Ranked No. 1 in Class 5A; defeated Class 7A Archer 29-28 in OT last week
-- JOHNSON (3-2, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Off last week; defeated Cross Keys 56-0 two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Buford leads series 3-0. The Wolves won 49-0 in 2018 in Buford. Buford has dominated the series outscoring the Knights 167-0 in their three meetings. ... Johnson is much-improved the past two seasons but the Wolves look like they are back to their old ways when they won 10 state titles in 14 years between 2001 and 2014. Buford already this season has taken down three Class 7A teams, including defending state champion Milton. ... Buford is a perfect 17-0 in 8-5A play since moving up in 2016. Johnson, meanwhile, is still looking for its first region win (0-17 in 8-5A) of any kind since 2010 when the Knights played in Region 8-3A. ... After averaging just 21.5 ppg in 2018 the Knights are averaging 29.8 ppg in 2019 despite managing just 7 in a turnover-plagued loss to Cherokee Bluff. The Wolves are yielding 17.4 ppg on defense. ... Buford is 9th in offense in Class 5A (171 points, 34.2 ppg) while Johnson is giving up 23.2 ppg on defense.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Gainesville Middle School, Gainesville
-- CHEROKEE CHRISTIAN (2-3 GAPPS AA): Off last week; lost 24-22 to New Creation Christian Academy two weeks ago
-- LANIER CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (3-2 GAPPS AA): Defeated Central Christian 28-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... The two teams are headed in opposite directions as the final month of the regular season begins. Lanier Christian has won 3 of 4 averaging 23 ppg and giving up just 18.5 ppg in that span. The Warriors have lost three straight and been outscored 95-31 in that span.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Hughes-Spalding Stadium, Atlanta
-- CHESTATEE (1-4, 0-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 58-0 to Denmark last week
-- MARIST (5-0, 1-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 3 in Class 4A; defeated White County 35-20 last week
-- NOTABLE: Marist leads series 3-0. Marist won 59-7 in 2018 in Gainesville. ... Marist was pushed last week by White County while Chestatee was overwhelmed by a Denmark team that is getting better each week. ... A potent Chestatee offense that was averaging 30 ppg was stymied by the Danes. QB Christian Charles and WR Seth Pressley are still among the state leaders in passing and receiving yards. ... The 20 points by White County was more than the previous four Marist opponents (8 total) combined. Marist is actually 3rd in Class 4A in points allowed (28, 5.6 ppg) ... Marist is averaging 34.6 ppg on offense while an improved Chestatee defense is still yielding 39.4 ppg.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- RADIO: www.
-- DAWSON COUNTY (4-1, 1-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Lumpkin County 45-0 last week
-- EAST HALL (1-4, 0-1 Region 7-3A): Lost 49-7 to No. 4 Greater Atlanta Christian last week
-- NOTABLE: Dawson County leads series 11-2. The Tigers won 64-0 in 2018 in Dawsonville. Dawson County has won four straight in the series. The last East Hall win came in 2014, 36-29, in Dawsonville. ... Despite a major overhaul on offense, the Tigers sit 8th in Class 2A in scoring (175, 35 ppg) and is averaging 313 yards a game. ... East Hall is still rebuilding under new coach Michael Perry and staff. They have shown moments on offense behind So. QB Clete Cooper, who is in the top 20 in passing yards in the state. But the defense is still struggling giving up 210 points (42 ppg) which is tied for 5th-most in Class 3A. ... The Tigers are yielding just 18.6 ppg.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Hot Gates, Oakwood
-- DENMARK (4-0, 1-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 9 in Class 4A; defeated Chestatee 58-0 last week
-- WEST HALL (0-5, 0-1 Region 7-4A): Lost 38-6 to defending state champion Blessed Trinity last week
-- NOTABLE: West Hall leads series 1-0. The Spartans won 48-27 in 2018 in Alpharetta. ... The Danes got scores from all three phases last week. The offense was again led by QB Aaron McLaughlin and WR Ze'Vian Capers, who provided some big plays. But CB Justin Bradford a big game returning  one punt and one interception for touchdowns. ... The Danes are the second of three consecutive top 9 teams the Spartans are facing the fourth so far in six games. West Hall has lost 12 straight games to ranked teams. The Spartans last win over a ranked team came in 2017 in a 13-10 road win over Dawson County. ... The brutal schedule for the Spartans has showed. They are 45th out of 54 Class 4A teams in scoring (57, 11.4 ppg) and are 52nd in points allowed (212, 42.4 ppg) on defense.... Denmark is No. 1 in 4A in scoring average (200, 50 ppg) and 4th in defense allowing just 24 points (6.0 ppg) so far.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Purple Pit, Monroe
-- EAST JACKSON (3-2, 0-1): Lost 70-6 to Jefferson last week
-- MONROE AREA (3-2, 0-1): Lost 27-17 to Morgan County last week
-- NOTABLE: Monroe Area leads series 3-0. The Hurricanes won 62-0 in 2018 in Commerce. ... Another lopsided series. Monroe Area has outscored the Eagles 145-16 in the previous three meetings. ... Despite last week’s blowout loss, East Jackson is still one of the surprise teams in the area to this point. However, the Eagles have dropped 12 straight region games going back to the 2017 season. ... East Jackson had played well on defense allowing just 64 points over their first four games (18 ppg) until running into the Dragons juggernaut last week. The Hurricanes have scored just 94 points (18.8 ppg) with 42 of those coming against winless Walnut Grove. ... Sr. RB Nino Brown will be a key for the Eagles. He is averaging right at 100 yards a game with 3 100-yard efforts already. 

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Blairsville
-- ELBERT COUNTY (3-2, 2-0 Region 8-2A): Defeated Social Circle 56-7 last week
-- UNION COUNTY (5-0, 2-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 9 in Class 2A; defeated Putnam County 74-57 last week
-- NOTABLE: Union County leads series 1-0. The Panthers won 29-28 in 2018 at The Granite Bowl. ... Offense is the name of the game in Region 8-2A as three teams are in the top 10 in Class 2A in scoring. The Panthers lead the way at a whopping 53.8 ppg, which makes them the highest scoring team in the state, all classifications. The Blue Devils are 10th averaging 35.8 ppg... QB Pierson Allison vaulted to the top of the state's passing chart (1,553, 18 TDs, 0 INT) after his 426-yard effort last week and WRs Kyle Morlock (21 rec., 528 yards, 6 TDs) and Sawyer Drake (27-465 yards, 6 TDs) both are in the top 20 in the state. RB Jonah Daniel (71 car., 798 yards, 10 TDs) is 6th in the state in rushing. ... Elbert County (88 points, 17.6 ppg) is the best defense the Panthers have faced so far. ... Union County is 8-1 in its last 9 home games. The only loss in that time was to Bremen in last year’s playoffs. The Blue Devils are 4-4 in their last 8 road games.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Bears Stadium, Flowery Branch
-- FANNIN COUNTY (3-1, 1-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; defeated Chestatee 34-30 two weeks ago; region opener for the Rebels
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (1-4, 0-1 Region 7-3A): Lost 42-14 to North Hall last week
-- NOTABLE: Fannin County leads series 1-0. The Rebels won 45-7 in 2018 in Blue Ridge. ... The Bears have shown improvement in their second season despite last week’s loss. Defensively they are allowing 26 ppg, which is far less than the 42 ppg from 2018. ... The Bluff has scored the 7th-fewest points in Class 3A (54, 10.8 ppg) has faced four tough defenses. ... The Rebels have given up 63 points (31.5 ppg) in their last two games but offense may be the key in this one. Since the start of the 2018 season, Fannin is 7-1 when scoring 28 points or more and 0-7 when scoring less than 28. ... Sr. RB Treylyn Owensby has been a workhorse for the Rebels with 469 yards on 73 carries with three 100-yard games so far.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
-- FRANKLIN COUNTY (0-4, 0-0): Region opener; lost 34-19 to Habersham Central last week
-- JEFFERSON (3-1, 1-0): Ranked No. 10 in Class 3A; defeated East Jackson 70-6 last week
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 10-6. The Dragons won 17-10 in 2018 in Carnesville. ... It is only the third meeting since 1997 and Jefferson has won two straight overall over the Lions. The last Franklin County win in the series came in 1997, 34-14, as part of three straight victories for the Lions. ... The Dragons may be the most potent they’ve been in several years, especially on offense. They are pummeling defenses averaging 267 yards a game rushing with 6 guys with 94 or more yards on the season. ... Defensively they are 2nd in Class 3A allowing just 41 points (10.25 ppg). Franklin County has struggled to score points. The Lions are tied for 45th in scoring (61, 15.25 ppg) out of 56 Class 3A teams.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Dacula
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- GAINESVILLE (2-3, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Lost 35-21 to Flowery Branch last week
-- DACULA (5-0, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Ranked No. 1 in Class 6A; defeated Rockdale County 35-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: Dacula leads series 5-0. The Falcons won 37-7 in 2018 in Gainesville. Only one of the three meetings since 2016 have been close and Dacula has outscored the Red Elephants 65-7 the past two seasons. ... The Falcons are 5-0 for the first time since 2014 but their opponents are a combined 11-13. ... Dacula is 11-1 in its last 12 home games while Gainesville is just 3-12 on the road since the start of the 2017 season. ... The Red Elephants offense showed some life running the ball last week against a good Flowery Branch defense and will get another test this week. The defense, however, has been roughed up the last two weeks. After giving up just 49 points (16.3 ppg) in the first three games, the Red Elephants have surrendered 76 points (38 ppg) the last two weeks. Dacula is averaging 32.8 ppg on offense.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Jock Horner Field, Gainesville
-- HEBRON CHRISTIAN (2-2, 0-0 Region 8-A Subregion B): Defeated Athens Christian 35-10 last week
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (0-3, 0-0 Region 8-A Subregion B): Lost 55-12 to George Walton Academy last week
-- NOTABLE: Hebron leads series 7-4. Hebron won 51-14 in 2018 in Dacula. Hebron has won four straight in the series. Lakeview’s last win came in 2014. ... Hebron is rolling having won two straight while Lakeview has struggled learning new offensive and defensive systems. Lakeview is yielding 46 ppg on defense while Hebron is averaging 31.5 ppg on offense. ... Lakeview has scored 47 points (15.6 ppg) while hebron is allowing 26.25 ppg on defense.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Raider Stadium, Mt. Airy
-- LANIER (5-0, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 6A; defeated Lambert 43-6 last week
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (3-2, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Defeated Franklin County 34-19 last week
-- NOTABLE: Lanier leads series 3-0. The Longhorns won 38-10 in 2018 in Sugar Hill. ... The closest game in the series came two years ago in Mt. Airy when Lanier won a tough 25-21 contest. ... Habersham has been a tough out at home going 5-3 since the start of the 2018 season. They have averaged 29.6 ppg at home in 2019 compared to just 20 ppg on the road. ... Lanier is only averaging 25.2 ppg on offense but Taj Barnes has 503 yards rushing, 6 TDs, and 3 100-yard games already on the season. ... But the Longhorns have long lived on their defense. They have yielded just 10.2 ppg and have not allowed more than 20 in any game this season. They have allowed more than 20 points just three times over their last 17 games going back to last season. ... So far in 2019, the Longhorns have forced 8 turnovers with 34 TFL and 12 sacks. LB Phillip Webb had three sacks last week.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Panthers Stadium, Jefferson
-- MORGAN COUNTY (4-1, 1-0): Defeated Monroe Area 27-17 last week
-- JACKSON COUNTY (2-3, 0-1): Lost 56-13 to No. 6 Hart County last week
-- NOTABLE: Morgan County leads series 9-2. The Bulldogs won 26-14 in 2018 in Madison. Morgan County has won five straight in the series. The last Panthers win came in 2013, 38-35, in Jefferson. ... The Panthers defense had only allowed 37 points all season until getting roughed up by a punishing Hart County ground game last week. Morgan County is a more balanced offense but is averaging 170 yards rushing a game behind Jr. RB Kobridgette Lumpkin (62 car., 442 yards, 6 TDs, 2 100-yd games) and Sr. Quinton Proby (51-250 yards, 2 TDs). ... The Panthers are just 44th in offense (65, 13.0 ppg) and the Bulldogs are yielding just 19.4 ppg on the season. Morgan County DE Criston Foster was a one-man wrecking crew for the Bulldogs last week with 9 tackles, 3 TFL, and two sacks. 

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Spartans Sports Complex, Norcross
-- RADIO: WDUN FM 102.9
-- NORTH HALL (3-2, 1-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Cherokee Bluff 42-14 last week
-- GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN (4-1, 1-0 Region 7-3A): Ranked No. 4 in Class 3A; defeated East Hall 49-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: GAC leads series 3-0. The Spartans won 21-0 in 2018 in Gainesville. The Trojans played GAC tough last season trailing just 7-0 early in the fourth quarter. ... The Spartans ran their 7-3A win streak to 19 games with last week’s win. GAC has dominated the field during that span outscoring the rest of the region 880-188 (46.3 to 9.8). Only one team, Lumpkin County (21) in 2016, has scored more than 20 in any game against the Spartans in region play. ... North Hall is still battling back from some early-season injuries but the defense has played well despite many moving parts. The offense could present challenges to a GAC defense that has yielded 97 points (19.4 ppg) which is up from last year’s group that gave up just 16 ppg. ... Despite some major shuffling on defense, the Trojans have allowed just 86 points (17.2 ppg) in 2019. The offense also has been affected by the injuries for North Hall.  Until last week’s outburst, the Trojans were averaging just 21 ppg in an offense that scored 504 points (42 ppg) in 2018.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee
-- RIVERSIDE MILITARY (2-2, 0-0 Region 8-A Subregion B): Lost 70-27 to Prince Avenue Christian last week
-- TOWNS COUNTY (0-5, 0-0 Region 8-A Subregion B): Lost 77-6 to No. 1-ranked Athens Academy last week
-- NOTABLE: Riverside Military leads series 2-1. The Eagles won 40-0 in 2018. ... Riverside, which had its two-game win streak snapped, was on the upset-watch last week trailing Prince Avenue just 28-20 at halftime but the wheels fell off as the Eagles were outscored 42-7 in the second half. ... Towns County has struggled all season trying to break in new coach Jason Roquemore. The Indians have given up the most points in Class A (276, 55.2 ppg) and scored the 7th-fewest (38, 7.6 ppg) at the same time. ... The Eagles have played two of the top 11 Class A teams and Class 5A Johnson and sit 15th in power rankings.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- WHITE COUNTY (3-2, 0-1 Region 7-4A): Lost 35-20 to Marist last week
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (4-0, 1-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 4A; defeated Gainesville 35-21 last week
-- NOTABLE: Flowery Branch leads series 5-2. The Falcons won 42-0 in 2018 in Cleveland. The Falcons have won four straight in the series. The last White County win came in 2004, 21-7, in Cleveland. ... It is the region opener for Flowery Branch while it’s the second straight road game against a top 8 team for the Warriors. ... White County has dropped 10 straight games to ranked teams. The Warriors’ last win over a ranked team was in 2016 when they beat North Hall 24-23 in overtime. ... Despite the 21 points allowed to Gainesville, the Falcons still are among the leaders in 4A on defense. They sit 6th in scoring average (6.46 ppg). The White County offense behind J. Ben Haynes has been solid all year averaging 31.6 ppg, good for 13th overall in 4A. The 20 scored on Marist last week was the most allowed by the War Eagles in their last 9 games, including playoffs. ... The key matchup, however, may be the Branch offense, which is improving weekly with new QB David Renard, vs. the White County defense. The Falcons are averaging 40 ppg while the Warriors have yielded just 26.6 ppg against some of the best offenses in the area.

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