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Friday October 18th, 2019 8:01PM

ICYMI: Week 8 previews: Front-runners could emerge on key night for area regions

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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Week 8 of the high school football season won’t officially decide anything for northeast Georgia area regions. But several key games Friday night will most certainly reveal the top front-runners in all seven regions that AccessWDUN covers.

Perhaps the biggest showdown of the night will take place in Hartwell as Jefferson and Hart County battle for the top spot in Region 8-3A. Both teams have been dominating so far but the Dragons have owned the short series. More than half-a-dozen legitimate Division I players will be on the field almost the entire time in what is expected to be a fight down to the final seconds.

Region 7-3A also will stage its biggest game so far as Greater Atlanta Christian heads to Dawsonville to take on Dawson County. The matchup has decided the region title each of the past three seasons and the two teams come into this one unbeaten in region play once again.

Gainesville and Habersham Central both will be looking to stay in the playoff race in Region 8-6A with a huge matchup at City Park Stadium. Both teams are coming off losses to ranked teams Dacula and Lanier. The loser will drop to 0-2 in the region and may have to win out to grab a playoff spot.

Buford will play host to Cedar Shoals in region 8-5A in a showdown between the top two teams from last season. The Jaguars are coming off a loss to Clarke Central but can have a huge say in the final standings with an upset win. The Wolves, however, are looking very much like the Buford of old walloping every comer so far this season, including a trio of Class 7A teams.

Also in Region 8-5A, an improved Johnson squad will try and end its 18-game region losing streak at home against a winless Walnut Grove team. The Knights have not advanced to the playoffs since 2004 but a win Friday would put them in a position for a legitimate playoff run.

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

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE FOR Oct. 11
(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
CEDAR SHOALS at BUFORD
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- RADIO: WDUN AM 550
-- CEDAR SHOALS (4-2, 0-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 34-10 to rival Clarke Central last week
-- BUFORD (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-5A): Ranked No. 1 in Class 5A; defeated Johnson 56-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Buford leads series 3-0. The Wolves won 55-6 in 2018 in Athens. ... All three meetings have come since 2016 and it has been a lopsided series with Buford outscoring the Jaguars 167-20 in those contests. ... The Wolves have gone back to their roots pounding the ball on the ground and playing hard-nosed defense. Few teams in the state have played a more challenging schedule than Buford with three Class 7A teams and they have allowed just 94 points (15.6 ppg) and are fourth in scoring (227, 37.8 ppg) in Class 5A. ... The Jaguars offense will pose a tough challenge averaging over 215 yards rushing with four players over 180 yards on the season, led by So. RB Jerdavian Colbert, who has 580 yards and 6 TDs rushing and is averaging just under 100 yards a game.

CHEROKEE BLUFF at LUMPKIN COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega
-- RADIO: www.northgeorgiasportslink.com 
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 21-7 to Fannin County last week
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (1-4, 0-1 Region 7-3A): Off last week; lost 45-0 to Dawson County two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Lumpkin County leads series 1-0. The Indians won 42-19 in 2018 in Flowery Branch. ... Both teams have found wins hard to come by but the Bears are making progress in their second season and the Indians are still acclimating to new coach Caleb Sorrells and a change in offensive and defensive systems. ... The Bluff’s first six opponents have gone 25-8. They were more than competitive last week as they outgained the Rebels and had two drives stopped inside the 10. ... Lumpkin is still very much alive in the region standings and has had two weeks to prepare for the stretch run. They have yielded 171 points (34.2 ppg) but the Bears are averaging just 10.1 ppg and have scored 7 or fewer points four times. ... The Indians, however, have scored the 3rd-fewest points in Class 3A (57, 11.4 ppg) while the Bears have allowed 25.0 ppg on the season.

COMMERCE at LAKEVIEW ACADEMY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Jock Horner Stadium, Gainesville
-- COMMERCE (4-1, 0-0 Region 8-A Subregion B): Ranked No. 6 in Class A-Public; off last week; defeated Madison County 42-14 two weeks ago
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (4-1, 0-1 Region 8-A Subregion B): Lost 42-7 to Hebron Christian last week
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 7-0. The Tigers won 42-0 in 2018 in Commerce. ... It has been a tough matchup for the Lions. Lakeview has scored more than 7 points just twice while the Tigers have averaged 45.7 ppg in the series. ... Commerce is churning out more than 300 yards rushing for the season. The Lions are yielding 45 ppg on defense. ... Lakeview is just 3-17 in their last 20 games vs. all Region 8-A opponents (Towns County, Riverside, Providence Christian) while Commerce is 16-4 in its last 20 region contests.

FANNIN COUNTY at EAST HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- FANNIN COUNTY (4-1, 1-0 Region 7-3A Region 7-3A): Defeated Cherokee Bluff 21-7 last week
-- EAST HALL (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 52-34 to Dawson County last week
-- NOTABLE: East Hall leads series 10-5. Fannin County won 59-36 in 2018 in Blue Ridge, which snapped a 6-game losing streak to the Vikings. ... The Rebels are off to their best start since 2008 when they opened the season 6-1 playing in Region 8-2A. ... Defense has been the biggest difference for Fannin. They have allowed a region-low 93 points (18.6 ppg) to this point compared to 129 points (25.8 ppg) at the same point last season. ... Which should make for an interesting matchup with an East Hall offense that has scored 101 points (25.25 ppg) in its last four games behind So. QB Clete Cooper, who is among the top 21 in passing (1,263 yards). ... However, the Vikings defense is still struggling. They have yielded 262 points (43.6 ppg) which is the 3rd-most in Class 3A. The Rebels are averaging 30.6 ppg on offense.

FLOWERY BRANCH at CHESTATEE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: War Eagle Stadium, Gainesville
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (5-0, 1-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 4A; defeated White County 45-20 last week
-- CHESTATEE (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-4A): Lost 56-13 to No. 2 Marist last week
-- NOTABLE: Flowery Branch leads series 11-2. The Falcons won 69-13 in 2018. The Branch has won 10 straight in the series. The last Chestatee win came in 2004. ... The two programs opened in the same year (2002) and the War Eagles won the initial meeting that season. Since then, it has been all Falcons. Only one game, the first one -- a 14-13 Chestatee win -- has been decided by less than 10 points. ... The Branch has been as dominant as any team in the area over the first half of the season. The Falcons are 6th in Class 4A in points allowed (41, 8.2 ppg) and are averaging just under 38 ppg on the season. ... Defense is again the weakness of the War Eagles, who have allowed the 3rd-most points (253, 42.1 ppg) in Class 4A. They do have dynamic offensive players in Jr. QB Christian Charles, who is 11th in the state in passing (1,452 yards) and Sr. WR Seth Pressley, who is 2nd in the state in receiving (824 yards) but turnovers have again derailed some chances to win games. ... The Branch cannot afford a letdown as it prepares for back-to-back games beginning next week against Blessed Trinity and Marist.

GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN at DAWSON COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
-- RADIO: www.northgeorgiasportslink.com
-- GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN (5-1, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Ranked No. 4 in Class 3A; defeated North Hall 45-21 last week
-- DAWSON COUNTY (5-1, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated East Hall 52-34 last week
-- NOTABLE: GAC leads series 8-1. The Spartans won 23-20 in 2018 in Norcross. The only Tigers’ win came in their first-ever meeting in 2000, 21-16in Dawsonville. ... The two teams’ are nearly even when it comes to offense and defense. The Spartans are averaging 35.6 ppg and giving up just 19.6 ppg. The Tigers have scored the 3rd-most points in Class 3A (227) and are averaging 37.8 ppg. They are giving up 21.1 ppg on defense. ... GAC is led by OL Myles Hinton (Stanford-commit), RB Tyler Bride (Georgia Southern), WR Christian Thomas (Georgia State) and QB Jackson Hardy (Richmond-commit). ... Dawson features a balanced attack averaging 170 yards passing and 165 yards rushing. QB Zach Holtzclaw has thrown for 977 yards and 10 TDs. RB Shawn Thomas has 473 yards rushing, and WR Dakohta Sonnichsen has 371 yards receiving. ... The winner will take over sole possession of first place in the region.

HABERSHAM CENTRAL at GAINESVILLE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: City Park Stadium, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (3-3, 0-1 Region 8-6A): Lost 42-22 to No. 8 Lanier last week
-- GAINESVILLE (2-4, 0-1 Region 8-6A): Lost 42-7 to No. 1 Dacula last week
-- NOTABLE: Gainesville leads series 15-12. Habersham Central won 49-32 in 2018 in Mt. Airy. ... It has been a streaky series. The Raiders’ win last season snapped a 3-game losing streak to the Red Elephants. That came after the Raiders had beaten Gainesville four straight times. The last time the two teams traded wins in four consecutive seasons was between 1986 to 1989. ... Both teams are coming off losses in their region openers and a loss for either could put them behind the Eight-Ball in their quest for a playoff berth. ...It looks like an even showdown with both defenses allowing 27 ppg. But the Raiders offense has been much more consistent averaging 26.3 ppg while Gainesville has struggled of late managing just 35 points (11.6 ppg) over its past three games. ... It could come down to which rushing attack will get the most traction. The red Elephants feature RB Dez Brown and QB Gionni Williams behind a big offensive line while the Raiders have RB Jackson Clouatre and an improving line as well.

JEFFERSON at HART COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Pete Herndon Stadium, Hartwell
-- JEFFERSON (4-1, 2-0 Region 8-3A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 3A; defeated Franklin County 33-0 last week
-- HART COUNTY (5-0, 1-0 Region 8-3A): Ranked No. 5 in Class 3A; off last week; defeated Jackson County 56-13 two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 4-1. The Dragons won 35-7 in 2018 in Jefferson. All five meetings have been since 2010 and Jefferson has won four straight. ... The Bulldogs are one of just four unbeatens left in Class 3A (Haralson County, Pierce County, Liberty County) and they are 5-0 for the first time since 2014. ... It could go either way as far as a shootout or a defensive struggle. Jefferson is 2nd in Class 3A in defense (41, 8.2 ppg) while the Bulldogs are 6th in defense (62, 12.4 ppg). The Dragons are 4th in offense averaging 45.2 ppg while Hart County is 9th scoring 36.6 ppg. ... Two of the state’s best ground attacks also should be on display. Hart County is led by Malachi Thomas, who already is closing in on 1,000 yards. Jefferson has six players with 100 or more yards on the season, led by So. Malaki Starks (354 yards) who also is the team’s leading receiver. ... Bulldogs’ TE Cane Berrong is a Notre Dame-commit and DE Kaimon Rucker is committed to North Carolina were preseason all-state picks. ... Hart County needs just one win to clinch its first winning season since 2015. However, the Bulldogs have lost 16 straight games to top-10 teams from their own classification, going back to 2006.

LANIER CHRISTIAN ACADEMY at JOHN HANCOCK
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Sparta
-- LANIER CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (3-3, 0-0 GAPPS AA Region 1): Lost 33-12 to Cherokee Christian last week
-- JOHN HANCOCK (0-5, 0-2 GAPPS A Region 2): Lost 29-27 to Sherwood Christian Academy last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two teams. ... Both teams have had trouble stopping offenses at times yielding 156 points each. The Lightning have averaged 19.6 ppg while the Rebels have scored just 83 points (16.6 ppg) on the season.

MARIST at WEST HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Hot Gates, Oakwood
-- MARIST (6-0, 2-0 Region 7-4A): Ranked No. 2 in Class 4A; defeated Chestatee 56-13 last week
-- WEST HALL (0-6, 0-2 Region 7-4A): Lost 49-0 to Denmark last week
-- NOTABLE: Marist leads series 3-0. The War Eagles won 51-14 in 2018 in Oakwood. ... The Spartans’ brutal schedule continues as the War Eagles are third straight top 10 team and the fifth in seven games they have faced. ... Offense has been tough to come by for West Hall, which has managed just 13 total points over the last four games. The defense has also been beaten up giving up the 2nd-most points (261, 43.5 ppg) in Class 4A. ... The War Eagles are in the top 10 in defense in Class 4A (41, 6.8 ppg).

MONROE AREA at JACKSON COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Panther Stadium, Jefferson
-- MONROE AREA (4-2, 1-1 Region 8-3A): Defeated East Jackson 56-7 last week
-- JACKSON COUNTY (2-4, 0-2 Region 8-3A): Lost 20-17 to Morgan County last week
-- NOTABLE: Monroe Area leads series 4-1. The Hurricanes won 63-0 in 2018 in Monroe. The Panthers lone win came in 2016 in Jefferson. ... The Panthers have lost three straight but two of the losses were by 7 points or less and the third was to No. 5 Hart County. ... They have been solid defensively all season. They were torched for 56 by an explosive Hart County offense two weeks ago. But in five other games, they have given up just 57 points (11.1 ppg) with two shutouts. ... The Monroe offense is not as explosive as last year when they were among the state’s leaders (525 points, 40.3 ppg). They have scored just 150 points (25.0 ppg) so far in 2019 and been held to 17 points or less four times. ... The Panthers offense has managed just 82 points (13.6 ppg) so far while the Hurricanes have given up just 82 points on defense.

PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN at RIVERSIDE MILITARY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Maginnis Field, Gainesville
-- PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN (1-4, 0-2 Region 8-A Subregion A): Lost 44-7 to George Walton Academy last week
-- RIVERSIDE MILITARY (3-2, 1-0 Region 8-A Subregion B): Defeated Towns County 68-6 last week
-- NOTABLE: Riverside leads series 2-1. The Eagles won 34-0 in 2018 in Lilburn. ... Riverside is off to its best start since 2008 and can match that 2008 team with four wins in its first six games with a victory against the Storm. ... It has been a wild two weeks for the Eagles. The 68 points last week were the most since a school-record 84 was scored in a win over Morgan School (Petersburg) (TN) in October 1936. That came one week after allowing the most points in program history in a 70-27 loss to Prince Avenue. ... Despite their struggles this season, the Storm are 3-3 in their six road games going back to last season.

TOWNS COUNTY at HEBRON CHRISTIAN
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Hebron Christian, Dacula
-- TOWNS COUNTY (0-6, 0-1 Region 8-A Subregion B): Lost 68-6 to Riverside Military Academy last week
-- HEBRON CHRISTIAN (3-2, 1-0 Region 8-A Subregion B): Defeated Lakeview Academy 42-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Hebron leads series 7-4. The Lions won 47-0 in 2018 in Hiawassee. The Lions have won five straight in the series. ... Hebron has won three straight after an 0-2 start and has done it with defense. They have allowed just 12.6 ppg during the win streak after surrendering 74 points in their two losses. ... Towns County has struggled on defense allowing 344 points (57.6 ppg) the most in Class A. Offensively the Indians have scored just 44 points (7.3 ppg) on the season.

WALNUT GROVE at JOHNSON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood
-- RADIO: WDUN 102.9 FM
-- WALNUT GROVE (0-6, 0-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 42-0 to Loganville last week
-- JOHNSON (3-3, 0-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 56-7 to Buford last week
-- NOTABLE: Walnut Grove leads series 5-0. The Warriors won 35-14 in 2018 in Walnut Grove. ... Something will have to give in this one. The Knights have never won a Region 8-5A game (0-18) while the Warriors are mired in a 9-game losing streak going back to their win over the Knights. ... However, Walnut Grove has given up the 2nd-most points (235, 39. 1 ppg) and scored the 2nd-fewest points (33, 5.5 ppg) in Class 5A so far in 2019. ... Johnson is averaging over 200 yards rushing behind Nolan Bullock, Jack Luttrell, and Xzavier Ramsey. ... The Warriors have lost 7 straight road games and are 1-14 in their last 15 road games going back to the 2016 season.

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