Week 3 of the high school football season was filled with eye-opening performances by a number of teams around Northeast Georgia.
Here's what we learned from those results:
1. Buford back to the ABC's of victory
It didn't take long for Buford head coach Bryant Appling to find his first signature win. The longtime Wolves' defensive coordinator led the team to a massive 26-23 road win at defending Class 7A champion Milton Friday night in just his second game as the team's head coach. Not only did the caliber of team the Wolves defeated seem more in line with what the program had become known for over the last 20 years than some of the frustrating losses of the past two seasons, but the way the win was accomplished brought back good memories as well. Buford (2-0) leaned on its ground game, sparked by an early 64-yard touchdown run from Elijah Turner. Appling and staff only needed to dial up seven pass plays on the night. Buford will get two more big tests in non-region play against Life Christian Academy (Virginia) and Archer, but the message was sent Friday night: Buford can beat anybody the state has to offer.
2. Flowery Branch can play a punishing brand of football
Flowery Branch head coach Ben Hall cut his teeth early in is coaching career as an offensive line coach, including a stint at Flowery Branch in 2008. He had to be grinning ear-to-ear at the style of football the Falcons played Friday night. The Falcons (2-0) rolled to more than 350 yards rushing on their way to a 38-0 win at Clarke Central. The offensive line blew open holes for any running back that stepped onto the field, but senior Chandler White led the way with 225 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Not only was the run game dominant for Flowery Branch, the defense was too. The unit shut out a Gladiators offense that had scored an average of 36 points in its first two games. If the defense and running game can continue to dominate, Flowery Branch could be a team no opponent looks forward to facing.
3. Cherokee Bluff has officially joined the party
There were finally fireworks on and off the field at Cherokee Bluff Friday night. The Bears' program had lost its first 12 games dating back to its inaugural 2018 season, but that streak was snapped emphatically with a 37-7 home win over Johnson. Cherokee Bluff (1-2) did not leave the game to chance, racing to a 27-0 first quarter lead before the Knights (2-1) had a chance to blink. Any program starting from scratch as the Bears did last year is expected to go through some early struggles, but the win showed that the team is indeed making progress. How fast and how far that progress will take Cherokee Bluff is still yet to be seen, but finally chalking a win into the record book had to be a hopeful sign for northeast Georgia's youngest program.
4. Jefferson can pile up points in a hurry
For the second year in a row, Jefferson had to spend two weeks stewing on a frustrating early-season loss to Oconee County. For the second year in a row, the Dragons responded in dominant fashion. Jefferson (1-1) raced past West Hall (0-3) 62-7 for its first win of the season Friday night. The 62 points scored by the Dragons offense was eye-opening, as was the amount of players who reached the end zone. Any Dragon who touched the football in Gene Cathcart's triple option attack was a threat to go the distance on any given play, and that explosiveness will give any defense cause for concern throughout the season. With Region 8-3A shaping up to be a tough slate (Hart County, Morgan County, Monroe Area, East Jackson and Jackson County all sport winning records so far), Jefferson's offensive potency will likely be put to the test several times this year.
5. Jackson County's defense showing early signs of dominance
As Jackson County looks to build its program under first-year head coach Rich McWhorter, the team is already showcasing some outstanding defensive play. In the first three games of the year, the Panthers (2-1) have only surrendered 16 points, with two of those coming in the form of a safety against the team's offense in a loss to North Hall in Week 2. The unit has pitched two shutouts, including last Friday's 31-0 win over Lumpkin County. While it may be unrealistic to expect Jackson County to continue its pace of 5.6 points allowed per game through the remainder of the season, the defense appears good enough to give them a puncher's chance against anybody on the schedule. The unit will certainly be tested, with strong offenses like Hart County and Jefferson on the team's Region 8-3A docket.