Saturday April 4th, 2020 1:32AM

ICYMI: Week 3 previews: Monster showdowns highlight light schedule for area teams

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

It is the lightest schedule of the 2019 campaign for northeast Georgia area football teams.

But this week may pack one of the biggest punches of the season as several high-profile, monster matchups highlight Friday night around the area.

In a rescheduled tilt from two weeks, playoff stalwart, and Class 5A No. 4-ranked Buford (1-0) will travel to sixth-ranked and defending Class 7A state champion Milton (1-0). The game was originally set to be played at Coolray Stadium but was rained out. It may very well be the biggest matchup of the night in the state.

Not far behind in big showdowns is Flowery Branch (1-0) heading to Athens to take on Clarke Central (2-0). The Gladiators are coming off a quarterfinal run in the playoffs in 2018 while the Falcons are projected a serious contender to challenge for the Region 7-4A crown in one of the toughest regions in the state, any classification.

And, there is Class A-Public No. 5-ranked Commerce (2-0) making the trek to Hartwell and a showdown with the Bulldogs (2-0) who were the preseason pick to win a very tough Region 8-3A.

North Hall (2-0) travels to Canton to take on Class 7A Cherokee (2-0) which is off to its best start since 2015. West Hall (0-2) looks to avoid an 0-3 start against powerhouse Jefferson (0-1) on the road while White County (1-0) heads to Mt. Airy to take on Habersham Central (0-2) in what has become one of the better county border wars in recent years. 

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: 8 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Eagles Nest, Alpharetta 
-- BUFORD (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Ranked No. 4 in Class 5A; defeated Jonesboro 41-0 last week.
-- MILTON (1-0, 0-0 Region 5-7A): Ranked No. 6 in Class 7A; defending Class 7A state champions; defeated Alpharetta 45-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: Milton leads series 4-0. First meeting between the two schools since 1983. ... The Eagles are just one of four teams the Wolves have never beaten in a series with four or more meetings (Buchanan, Coosa, West Point). ...  Buford is 6-3 against higher classification teams since 2014. ... The Wolves are now 23-2 in season openers since the Dexter Wood-era began in 1995 after last week’s victory. ... This was supposed to be one of the marquee matchups of the Corky Kell Classic two weeks ago and was scheduled to be played at Coolray Field. But it was postponed due to rain and moved to this week. This also is Buford’s first true road game since taking on Loganville in October of last season. ... RB Gabe Ervin rushed for 102 yards, and new QB Jarvis Evans was 8-of-11 passing for 113 yards and 3 TDs for Buford last week. ... Last week also marked the 21st straight season that Buford has posted at least one shutout in a season. ... Milton pounded out 402 yards rushing against Alpharetta while holding the Raiders to minus-7 yards on the ground. The Eagles’ Ahmad Junearick will be a tough matchup for the Wolves after gaining 201 yards on 24 carries.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Pete Herndon Stadium, Hartwell
-- COMMERCE (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-A): Ranked No. 5 in Class A-Public; defeated Athens Christian 49-7 last week
-- HART COUNTY (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Defeated Stephens County 26-13 last week
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 12-2-1. The Tigers won 33-20 in 2018 in Commerce. Last year’s meeting was the first since 1985. ... Commerce extended its unbeaten streak over the Bulldogs to 13 last year. The last Hart County win in the series came in 1955 in Hartwell ... Both teams come in having rolled over their first two opponents. Hart County has outscored its first two opponents 65-20 while the Tigers have outscored their first two opponents 97-24. ... The Bulldogs are 2-0 for the first time since 2015. ... It should be a titanic ground battle. Commerce is averaging well over 300 yards on the ground while Hart County got big games from Malachi Thomas, who had 118 yards and a TD on 26 carries., and J.L. Lackey, who had 122 yards and 2 TDs on just 14 carries last week. ... The Tigers are looking for their fourth straight 3-0 start.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Death Valley Field at Billy Henderson Stadium, Athens
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (1-0, 0-0 Region 7-4A): Off last week; defeated East Hall 50-0 two weeks ago
-- CLARKE CENTRAL (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Defeated Oconee County 28-21 last week 
-- NOTABLE: Flowery Branch leads series 5-4. The Falcons won 28-14 in 2018. The two teams have met each season since 2010 and The Branch has won two straight in the series. This is the first meeting in Athens since 2016. ... Clarke Central has a plethora of weapons on offense, led by RB O'Brien Bennett, who had 135 yards last week, QB Isaac Ward, who was 9-of-12 passing for 3 TDs and 214 yards, and WR Jalen Gary had 6 catches for 115 yards and 2 TDs. ... The Gladiators defense, however, was the savior stopping the Warriors twice inside their territory in the final five minutes. ... The Branch showed against the Vikings that despite the loss of QB Elijah Gainey they can still put up some offensive numbers. So. QB David Renard filled in nicely and Jaizen Ellingham had 126 yards and scored 3 TDs rushing for the Falcons. ... The Branch defense, though, pitched its first shutout since a 42-0 win over White County last September. ... Clarke Central is 15-3 at home under David Perno. The Falcons are 8-4 on the road under Ben Hall.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Lambert Stadium, Suwanee
-- RADIO: 94.5 The Lake
-- GAINESVILLE (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Lost 21-7 to North Forsyth last week 
-- LAMBERT (0-2, 0-0 Region 5-7A): Lost 46-28 to Chattahoochee last week 
-- NOTABLE: Lambert leads series 1-0. The Longhorns won 16-15 in 2018 in Gainesville on a field goal in the waning seconds. ... The Red Elephants could not ride the momentum of their upset win over Mary Persons in their opener with a disappointing loss last week. With looming matchups against behemoths Jefferson, Flowery Branch, and Dacula over the next four weeks, they could use another positive step against a Longhorns team that is currently mired in a program-worst 8-game losing streak. Lambert’s last win was almost a full calendar year ago (Sept. 7) over Peachtree Ridge. ... Gainesville’s offense, which pounded out 344 yards vs. Mary Persons had just 174 total yards against the Raiders. ... The Longhorns defense should offer some opportunities. They are allowing 44 ppg and nearly 400 yards of offense a game so far on the season. ... The Longhorns are just 1-5 vs. lower classification teams since 2014. However, all five losses have come against Lanier. Their lone win came last year vs. Gainesville.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Gainesville Middle School, Gainesville
-- HOLY SPIRIT PREP (0-1): Off last week; lost 40-7 to Cherokee  Christian two weeks ago
-- LANIER CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (0-2): Off last week; lost 49-14 to Lafayette Christian two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... The Lightning are still getting used to a new region and opponents and are still working out the kinks with several guys in new positions. ... After averaging more than 24 ppg in 2018, Lanier Christian is averaging just 16 ppg so far. Defensively they are yielding 35 ppg compared to just 25 ppg last season. ... The Lightning needs some momentum as their next four opponents are a combined 5-3 in the early going.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Bears Stadium, Flowery Branch
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- JOHNSON (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Defeated West Hall 30-27 last week 
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 41-0 to Denmark last week 
-- NOTABLE: Johnson leads series 1-0. The Knights won 34-13 in 2018. ... The Knights pulled off the biggest upset of the night last week knocking off their arch-rivals for the first time since 2012 with a Steven Flores FG as time expired. The defense was the key holding a potent West Hall offense to just 175 total yards. ... The Bears, just in their second season, are still young and have faced a tough opening schedule with a pair of teams (Whitefield Academy and Denmark) that are projected playoff teams in 2019. Their first six opponents are a combined 8-1 so far in the early going. ... The Bluff, which has scored just 3 points in its first two games, will have to find some offense. The Knights defense has allowed 23.5 ppg so far in their first two games. ... A Johnson win would give the Knights their first 3-0 start since the 2003 team opened 4-0.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Panthers Stadium, Jefferson
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 49-6 to White County last week 
-- JACKSON COUNTY (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Lost 16-0 to North Hall last week 
-- NOTABLE: Jackson County leads series 6-1. The Panthers won 45-0 in 2018 in Dahlonega. Jackson County has won two straight in the series, which resumed in 2016 after taking a 25-year hiatus. The last Indians’ win came in 2016 in Dahlonega. ... Lumpkin County has never won at Panthers Stadium. ... The Indians’ offense has struggled under new coach Caleb Sorrells as they learn a new spread attack. After scoring 19 points in their first two quarters of the season they have managed just 9 total points over their last six quarters. They also are surrendering 37 ppg on defense. ... The Panthers also sport a new coach in Rich McWhorter and also are struggling to learn a new spread offense scoring just 7 total points in their first two games. However, their defense is stout and has yielded just 16 total points, all coming against North Hall last week.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tommy Baker Field, Canton
-- NORTH HALL (2-0, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Jackson County 16-0 last week 
-- CHEROKEE (2-0, 0-0 Region 4-7A): Defeated Sequoyah 14-0 last week 
-- NOTABLE: North Hall leads series 1-0. The Trojans won 27-17 in 2018 at The Brickyard in the only previous meeting. ... The Warriors have been one of the surprise teams in Class 7A in the early going. They are 2-0 for the first time since 2015. However, they have not started a season 3-0 since 2007. ... Cherokee is 5th in fewest points allowed among 7A teams that have played two or more games. They are led by DB Patrick Dahlen, who had 17 tackles and two interceptions and broke up a pass last week, which was Cherokee's first shutout since 2014. ... The Trojans are 2-0 for the second straight season and third time in four seasons. ... Usually known for its bruising wing-T offense, North Hall is getting things done on the defensive side so far as well. The Trojans have allowed the second-fewest points among Class 3A teams that have played two or more games.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Eagles Stadium, Commerce
-- OGLETHORPE COUNTY (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Defeated Georgia Military College 14-7 last week 
-- EAST JACKSON (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Off last week; defeated Lumpkin County 25-22 two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: East Jackson leads series 6-1. The Eagles won 10-7 in 2018 and have won three straight in the series. ... Both teams are early surprises despite the small sample size. The Eagles won their first season opener since 2013 while Oglethorpe has not been .500 or better since the second week of the 2012 campaign. ... The Patriots snapped an 11-game losing streak last week, though they are still just 5-56 since the beginning of the 2013 season. East Jackson’s come-from-behind win snapped an 8-game losing streak. ... Something will have to give in this one. East Jackson has not been 2-0 since their lone playoff season of 2009 while the Patriots have not been 2-1 since that 2012 season, which was also the last time they won more than one game in a season.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville
-- TOWNS COUNTY (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-A): Lost 56-12 to Class 4A Gilmer last week 
-- UNION COUNTY (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Defeated East Hall 49-8 last week 
-- NOTABLE: Union County leads series 30-1. The Panthers won 45-7 in 2018. ... Union County has won 19 straight over the Indians. Towns County’s only win in the series came in 1993, 27-17, in Blairsville. ... It has been a lopsided series with only three games being decided by one score or less. ... The Panthers’ offense, which usually will feature QB Pierson Allison and one of the state’s best receiving groups, broke out the run game last week. Jonah Daniel rushed for 180 yards and 3 TDs and caught two passes for 41 yards and a touchdown. ... Towns County is in the midst of six consecutive games against playoff teams from 2018.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
-- WEST HALL (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-4A): Lost 30-27 to arch-rival Johnson last week 
-- JEFFERSON (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Off last week; lost 21-20 to Oconee County two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 1-0. The Dragons won 48-6 in 2018 in Oakwood. ... The Spartans get little time to try and recover from a brutal loss last week as the Knights kicked a FG as time expired. The Dragons are the second of seven playoff teams on the schedule for West Hall. ... The Dragons have had two weeks to digest a tough loss as well when a botched extra point decided their opener. ... Something will have to give in this one as well. West Hall has not started a season 0-3 since 2011 while Jefferson has not started a season 0-2 since 2005. ... The Spartans have been plagued by turnovers in the early going. The Dragons created 16 turnovers in 2018.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Raider Stadium, Mt. Airy
-- WHITE COUNTY (1-0, 0-0 Region 7-4A): Defeated Lumpkin County 49-6 last week in season opener
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Lost 26-20 to Madison County last week 
-- NOTABLE: Habersham Central leads series 6-3. The Raiders won 34-20 in 2018. ... White County holds a 3-2 edge since the series resumed in 2012. The Warriors also have won the last two meetings in Mt. Airy (2012 and 2017). ... The two teams split the last four meetings with the road team winning each of the last three. ... The Raiders are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2015. Turnovers and allowing big plays on special teams and defense have been the issues early in the season. They also are breaking in several new offensive pieces. ... The Warriors defense was the encouraging sign in their opener. They yielded just 69 total yards and the 6 points were the fewest allowed in a game since shutting out Franklin County to open the 2017 campaign. ... The White County offense, behind QB J. Ben Haynes, piled up 632 yards of offense. Haynes was 11-for-18 with 210 yards and Zion McMullen had 12 carries for 123 yards and 3 TDs.
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- WOODLAND, CARTERSVILLE (1-0, 0-0 Region 7-5A): Off last week; defeated Southeast Whitfield 35-7 two weeks ago
-- EAST HALL (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 49-8 to Union County last week 
-- NOTABLE: Woodland leads series 1-0. The Wildcats won 55-6 in 2018 in Cartersville. ... The Vikings are still trying to iron the kinks out under new systems implemented by new coach Michael Perry. A reworked defense has allowed 49.5 ppg to two of the better offenses in the area, if not the state, in Flowery Branch and Union County. But the offense was expected to improve under Perry’s high-flying style but has managed just 8 total points so far. ... The Wildcats offense, which averaged just 20 ppg in 2018, if off to a hot start as well. It doesn’t get any easier for the Vikings, who have offense powerhouses Chestatee, GAC, and Dawson County over the next month... East Hall is trying to avoid back-to-back 0-3 starts for the first time since the 2008-09 seasons.
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