A region championship was secured and several other northeast Georgia teams stepped closer to securing their place in the 2019 state playoffs Friday night.
Here are five things we learned from Week 10 of the high school football season:
1. Region gauntlet completed, Jefferson now ready for a state run
The 2018 campaign was a strong season for Jefferson that ended in frustration. Injuries rattled a Dragons team that still managed to fight its way to the region championship game. That game ended with Jefferson losing big to Monroe Area at Memorial Stadium. This time, the Dragons were the ones causing the frustrations. Jefferson's defense shut down the Purple Hurricanes for a 26-7 win in Monroe that clinched Jefferson's fourth region championship in the last eight seasons. The Dragons (7-1, 5-0 Region 8-3A) will now have perhaps their toughest test of the season - having to wait two weeks to avenge their first round home playoff loss from a year ago. They certainly appear good enough to make a serious run at a state championship, winning seven straight games while scoring 40 points per game and allowing only 10 per game. Coach Gene Cathcart will look to keep his team's focus on this Friday's regular season finale against cross-county foe Jackson County, but Jefferson has already made this a memorable season.
2. Gainesville shows late-game resolve, now in prime playoff position
This has been a roller-coaster season for the Red Elephants. The team started the year with a massive 27-21 upset win over Mary Persons, but followed that up losing four of their next five. Now, they are once again on the high side of the ride. Gainesville beat Winder-Barrow 38-29 Friday night for their second straight Region 8-6A win. Beyond the region importance of the win, Gainesville (4-4, 2-1 Region 8-6A) flexed its late-game mettle by staving off a number of Bulldogg rallies in the second half. Three different times in the second half Winder-Barrow scored to cut a two-possession Gainesville lead to one. Each time, the Red Elephants responded with scores of their own to keep the Bulldoggs at arms'-length away. That kind of resolve is exactly what Gainesville will need if they want to continue their march to a 20th consecutive playoff appearance. They now stand only one win away from clinching their spot.
3. North Hall's offense is looking machine-like again
Do you remember a point earlier in this season when North Hall's offense was struggling to put up points? If not, don't feel bad. It feels like a lifetime ago. The Trojans (5-3, 3-1 Region 7-3A) have healed up from their early-season injuries and are now looking like a well-oiled machine just like 2018's high-powered attack. They have outscored their last two opponents 97-0, including last Friday's 59-0 rout at Lumpkin County. J.T. Fair has emerged as one of northeast Georgia's premier offensive weapons and his partner in the backfield, Jacob Dickey, is also emerging as a potent threat. North Hall could not have picked a better time to start playing their best football, as the playoffs are only three weeks away. The Trojans clinched the postseason with their win Friday and are now in contention for a home playoff game in the first round if they can win their next two games.
4. Dawson County's offense isn't bad either
Dawson County's offense struggled in Week 8 against Greater Atlanta Chiristian, but it put those struggles firmly in the rearview mirror Friday night. The Tigers exploded for a 51-7 rout of Fannin County, putting them right back where they were this time last year -- in control of their own destiny for a home playoff seed. Dawson County (6-2, 3-1 Region 7-3A) put up some big offensive numbers in 2018, but this is a very different unit from a year ago. The biggest change among the 10 new starters on the Tigers' offense is sophomore quarterback Zach Holtzclaw, who is a more traditional pocket passer than his predecessor Se'Vaughn Clark, who guided a dominant Dawson County rushing attack last season. Holtzclaw showed just how dangerous the new-look passing attack can be, going 20-of-24 through the air Friday night for 387 yards and five touchdowns. That passing game will be needed if Dawson County hopes to make a postseason run. It will also be needed for another much-anticipated matchup with North Hall in two weeks.
5. Rabun County, Union County are in peak from, ready for another region title showdown
It's been anticipated since the preseason, and now we know it is coming again in Week 12. Rabun County and Union County will once again meet in a showdown that will decide the Region 8-2A championship, just like a year ago, after clinching the top two spots in the region with dominant wins Friday night. The Wildcats and Panthers have both breezed to 8-0 records, with each only playing one or two games that have truly been competitive. The two mountain rivals feature high-powered offenses led by two of the state's premier quarterbacks, Rabun County sophomore Gunner Stockton and Union County senior Pierson Allison. The only thing that will differentiate the two heading into that matchup will be pedigree. Union County is off to their second straight 8-0 start, but has not won a region championship since 1973 and has never won a state playoff game in program history. Rabun County, on the other hand, has won five consecutive region titles and has made at least the state quarterfinals in Class 2A each year since 2015. Regardless of past records, Blairsville will host the biggest football game in northeast Georgia on November 8.