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Sunday October 20th, 2019 1:21PM

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

By Caleb Hutchins Reporter

Only 8 of Northeast Georgia's 24 teams picked up wins Friday night, but there was a lot to be learned from the week nonetheless.

Here are five things we learned from Week 7 of the high school football season:

1. Union County defense bounces back, primes team for region run

Perhaps the most meaningful win of last Friday night was Union County's 35-14 victory over Elbert County. The win was important for a number of reasons. First, the Panthers and Blue Devils both came in with a 2-0 Region 8-2A record, making the game an early look at who might be the top challenger to five-time defending champion Rabun County. Second, it was a test for a Union County defense coming off a sloppy Week 6 performance that saw them allow 57 points in a shootout win over Putnam County. Not only did the defense respond, but they almost single-handedly delivered the Panthers the victory. Tied 14-14 at the start of the 4th quarter, the unit forced three Elbert County turnovers, each of which was capitalized on by Class 2A's highest scoring offense with touchdowns to turn a great back-and-forth game into a runaway 21-point win for the home team. The win now puts Union County (6-0, 3-0) in control of its own destiny as it looks to find itself in another region championship game with the rival Wildcats at the end of the regular season.

2. Region showdowns set for 7-3A, 8-3A

While there will certainly be enough football left on the schedule to allow the possibility of more chaos, two regions could very well be decided this Friday. In Region 7-3A, three-time defending champion Greater Atlanta Christian took down North Hall last Friday 45-21, setting up a showdown with Dawson County (5-1, 2-0) that now seems likely to decide the region. The Spartans and Tigers were the top two teams in the region last year and Dawson County provided GAC. the toughest test its received since joining the region in 2016. This year, the game will be in Dawsonville and while Fannin County still has yet to lose a region game, the eyes of the region will be on this matchup. In Region 8-3A, Jefferson will travel to Hart County in a matchup of two teams ranked in the top 10 in the classification. The Dragons (4-1, 2-0) are on a four-game winning streak after a season-opening loss to Oconee County and have outscored those four opponents by a combined score of 206-20, the most recent being last week's 33-0 shutout of Franklin County. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have cruised to a 5-0 start and have appeared to be the region's front runner. The wildcard in this region could be Morgan County, who has started region play 2-0 with wins over Monroe Area and Jackson County.

3. Dawson County offense shines as Tigers prepare for GAC

With the above-mentioned matchup with GAC now just days away, the Dawson County offense got a nice tune-up with a 52-34 win over East Hall Friday night in Dawsonville. It was the highest scoring output of the season for the Tigers, who now appear to have found a balanced identity after entering the season looking to place no less than 10 graduated starters from 2018. Friday night, Dawson County got a solid game from quarterback Zack Holtzclaw, who went 11-for-16 for 197 yards and two touchdowns through the air, with 137 of those yards and both of those touchdowns going to receiver Dakhota Sonnichsen. That passing game could give the Tigers an offensive element that last year's potent ground-and-pound attack lacked at times. Running back Isaiah Grindle made sure that the rushing attack was still alive and well, running for 111 yards and two touchdowns of his own. While the Dawson County defense will likely need to play better than last Friday, the Tigers offense appears ready for battle as a potential region championship matchup looms this week.

4. Dacula, Lanier still the class of Region 8-6A

While several teams in Region 8-6A have shown improvement this year, the region's two Gwinnett County schools made one thing perfectly clear Friday night: they are still the teams to beat in the region. Dacula (6-0, 1-0) and Lanier (6-0, 1-0) both rolled to key wins over the two teams that appear to be their top challengers. The Falcons ran past Gainesville 42-7, while Lanier outlasted Habersham Central 42-22 in Mt. Airy. The Raiders and Red Elephants will still have plenty to play for, as both appear well-positioned to once again make the playoffs. The two will face each other this Friday at City Park Stadium in a game that will have big postseason ramifications. However, hopes for either team to reach a home seed were damaged last Friday. The Falcons and Longhorns not only appear to be dominant forces in Region 8, but strong contenders for the state championship in Class 6A. Both teams made the 6A semifinals a year ago and Dacula has spent the past two weeks ranked at either number one or two in the state depending on which publication's rankings you read.

5. Jackson County defense continues to keep Panthers in 8-3A playoff race

It would have been easy to take a "wait until next year" mentality about Jackson County after it lost three out of four games including a 56-13 loss at Hart County in Week 6. In Week 7, however, the Panthers showed progress, spearheaded by a defensive unit that has continued to be one of the stingiest in northeast Georgia. Jackson County was unable to hold a late lead as they fell to Morgan County (5-1, 2-0) 20-17, but the game showed that the team is improving and could be closer than some thought to being competitive in a tough Region 8-3A. It was also a strong performance by the Jackson County defense, which held the Bulldogs to nine points below their season average. Whether or not the Panthers can make the postseason will likely come down to this Friday's home game against Monroe Area, as an 0-3 region start would make getting into the playoffs a tall order. A defense allowing just over 18 points per game should give Jackson County a puncher's chance against the Purple Hurricanes.

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