Monday October 19th, 2020 8:05PM

ICYMI: Week 6 previews: More regions open playoff race around NE Georgia; COVID forces East Hall to cancel

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Regions 8-6A, 8-4A, and 7-3A will join the playoff chase as they open region play on Friday around the northeast Georgia area.

And all three have huge games on tap that could even decide not just critical playoff seeding but the region title itself.

In Region 8-4A, No. 2-ranked Jefferson travels to No. 8 Flowery Branch in a battle that most felt coming into the season would decide the region title. Both teams are hot with offenses that have been steamrolling opponents in the early going. But both also feature stout defenses.

East Hall was looking forward to making a splash in Region 8-4A beginning this week, but the Vikings were forced to cancel their Region 8-4A opener against Cedar Shoals on Friday and next week's contest against No. 2 Jefferson due to the coronavirus, East Hall coach Michael Perry confirmed Thursday evening. The Vikings were off to their best start since 2017.

In Region 7-3A, No. 7 White County heads to Dawson County in a showdown of two of the state’s best offenses. The Warriors are off to their best start since 1975. The Tigers snapped a three-game losing streak two weeks ago. It is expected to be a shootout and will have huge implications in the region, no matter who comes out victorious.

And Buford and Habersham Central both open their Region 8-6A schedules with crucial games. The No. 2-ranked Wolves are just now starting to heat up and will entertain a Central Gwinnett squad that is better than its 1-3 record. The Raiders travel to Winder-Barrow against a Bulldoggs team that has won three of the last four meetings between the two programs.

There are plenty of other key matchups on Friday, including Cherokee Bluff looking to open its 7-3A slate with a win against an improved Gilmer team and Jackson County looking to make history against a Clarke Central program the Panthers have never beaten in a huge Region 8-5A battle.

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 the 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: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- CENTRAL GWINNETT (1-3, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Off last week; lost 52-27 to South Forsyth two weeks ago
-- BUFORD (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Ranked No. 2 in Class 6A; off last week; defeated Clarke Central 47-0 two weeks ago
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Central Gwinnett leads series 6-4-1. Buford won the last meeting, 43-21, in 2005 at home. The Black Knights’ last win in the series was in 2004, 20-14, in Lawrenceville. ... It is the region-opener for both teams, who seem to be headed in opposite directions. ... The Wolves are 6th in defense (34, 11.3 ppg) in Class 6A among teams that have played three or more games. They currently are just 14th in scoring (100, 33.3 ppg) but have scored 86 points in their last two games, both wins. ... The Black Knights have lost three straight and have allowed the 2nd-most points in 6A (134, 33.5 ppg) and scored just 55 points (13.7 ppg) on the season. ... Buford has won 7 straight region openers. Central has dropped four straight region openers, but all were while being in Class 7A. ... The Black Knights have lost 10 straight games to ranked teams on the road. Their last road win over a ranked team came in the 2015 playoffs when they knocked off Walton in Marietta.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Mount Paran Stadium, Kennesaw
-- COMMERCE (3-1, 0-0 Region 8-A Public): Ranked No. 6 in Class A-Public; off last week; defeated Elbert County 55-28 two weeks ago
-- MOUNT PARAN CHRISTIAN (0-4, 0-0 7-A Private): Lost 20-0 to Stratford Academy last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Eagles are off to their worst start since 2012. Defensively they are only allowing 20.5 ppg but they have really struggled offensively scoring just 28 points (7.0 ppg) and have suffered consecutive shutout losses for the first time since 2008. ... The Tigers, meanwhile, have had two weeks to work out some kinks despite averaging 33.7 ppg on offense, which is 3rd in Class A Public. Turnovers have been a problem at times. The 84 points allowed (21 ppg) are the most through the first four games by a Tigers defense since they gave up 83 in that span in 2014. ... Mount Paran is just 1-5 in its last 6 games vs. ranked opponents. The Tigers are 33-2 (Hebron, 2019; RMA, 2018) in games vs. unranked opponents going back to the 2016 season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Bears Stadium, Flowery Branch
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM WDUN
-- GILMER (2-1, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; defeated East Jackson 28-19 two weeks ago
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (4-0, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Lakeside-DeKalb 42-0 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Mask/face coverings and temperature will be required to get into the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Bears have been as dominant as any team in the area in the early going. They have outscored their opponents 187-14 with three shutouts on defense. ... Bluff is the top-scoring team in 3A (46.7 ppg) and has allowed the fewest points in 3A (14, 3.5 ppg) among teams that have played three or more games. ... The Bobcats have staged one of the biggest turnarounds in the state over the past 1 1/2 seasons. Since a 30-game losing streak from 2016-18, they have gone 6-7 under second-year coach Kevin Saunders. ... This could be a pivotal game for both teams where head-to-head matchups could very well decide playoff seedings in what is expected to be a tight region race. ... The Bobcats are yielding just 20 ppg on defense but they have scored just 64 points (21.3 ppg) on offense. .. The Bears are 4-2 in their last 6 home games, including 2-0 in 2020. ... After dropping 15 straight road games, the Bobcats are 4-3 on the road under Saunders.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: W. Clair Harris Stadium, Winder
-- RADIO: 99.3 FM WCON 
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (2-2, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Lost 27-12 to Stephens County last week
-- WINDER-BARROW (1-2, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Off last two weeks; lost 21-14 to Glynn Academy at home on Sept. 18
-- NOTABLE: Habersham Central leads series 16-9. Winder-Barrow won 41-40 in 2019 in Mt. Airy. The Bulldoggs have won 3 of the last 4 meetings but the Raiders have won 7 of the last 10 going back to 2006. ... The Raiders have 4 of the last 5 meetings at W. Clair Harris Stadium, including a 34-17 win in 2018. ... Habersham has dropped two straight but led in the second half in both games. The Raiders have lost 8 straight region openers. Winder is 5-1 in their last 6 region openers. ... The key will be if the Bulldoggs can slow down the Raiders ground game behind Joshua Pickett (646 yards, 4 TD) and Jackson Clouatre (602 yards, 4 TD). Habersham is averaging 325 yards/game rushing. ... Winder-Barrow is yielding 25 ppg on defense while the Raiders are averaging 29 ppg on offense. The Bulldoggs are averaging just 20.6 ppg while the Raiders are giving up 24 ppg on defense. ... The Bulldoggs are just 6-19 in their last 25 games following a 9-3 season in 2017.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate
-- WHERE: Leopards Stadium, Homer
-- HARALSON COUNTY (4-0, 0-0 Region 5-2A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 2A; off last week; defeated Model 49-7 two weeks ago 
-- BANKS COUNTY (1-4, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Lost 49-13 to Fannin County last week 
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks recommended but no temperature checks. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Despite the record, Banks County is just a few plays from sporting a winning record. But their ridiculously tough non-region schedule doesn’t get any easier this week. Haralson is ranked for the first time since 1976. ... Banks’ first six opponents are a combined 15-7 and if you take out winless Lumpkin, they’re 15-3 collectively. ... Last week the Leopards were their own worst enemy throwing 6 INTs, with three returned for touchdowns, two while deep inside Fannin territory. They trailed just 14-6 at halftime but the INTs helped Fannin to a 35-point third quarter. ... Banks is averaging 19.2 ppg, which despite last week’s issues, is still up from last year’s 15.1 ppg. The defense actually held Class 2A’s leading offense to just 28 points. ... Haralson’s option attack has been nearly unstoppable averaging 368 yards a game behind Marc Harris (718 yards, 4 TD) who led the state and Class 2A in rushing, all classifications, going into last week.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: GoFan app only; 25 percent capacity
-- WHERE: City Park Stadium, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- HILLGROVE (2-1, 0-0 Region 3-7A): Defeated Westlake 42-21 last week
-- GAINESVILLE (3-1, 1-0 Region 6-7A): Defeated Forsyth Central 33-28 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks/face coverings will be required but no temperature check. Condensed concessions.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Red Elephants are off to their best start since 2015 and are getting solid production from all phases of the game. ... GHS sits 11th in 7A in scoring (140, 35 ppg) and 12th in defense (80, 20 ppg) in the state’s highest classification. The special teams have been solid blocking four kicks on the season and getting the game-winning field goal last week from Giovanni Martinez (30-yards) with 8 seconds left. ... Hillgrove is averaging 33 ppg in an offense that is averaging over 400 yards a game. ... The Hawks' only loss was to Class 7A fifth-ranked Norcross in their season-opener. ... Hillgrove over the last few years has been one of the best road teams around going 10-3 away from Powder Springs but they dropped their last three road games in 2019. This is their first road contest of 2020. ...  Gainesville is 4-2 at home since the start of the 2019 season and finishes the season with 4 of its final 6 games at City Park. ... GHS RB Naim Cheeks had a breakout game last week with 178 yards rushing and 3 TDs. ... Hillgrove Fr. QB Chase McCravy also had a career game going 14-of-19 passing for 286 yards and 3 TDs coming off the bench last week.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Billy Henderson Stadium, Athens
-- JACKSON COUNTY (2-2, 1-0 Region 8-5A): Defeated Walnut Grove 20-0 last week
-- CLARKE CENTRAL (2-2, 1-0 Region 8-5A): Defeated Apalachee 28-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: Clarke Central leads series 6-0. The two teams met every year from 2002-07. The Gladiators won the last meeting, 49-6, in 2007 in Athens. ... The Panthers are 0-10 all-time against Athens public schools (0-4 vs. Cedar Shoals) and are 0-5 in games played in Athens. But this could be the year they put all of that to rest. ... The Jackson County defense (14.0 ppg) has been solid all season behind guys like Sr. LB Colto Boone (33 tkl), Jr. LB JT Sosebee (29 tkl, 6 TFL), and Sr. DL Andrew King, who has 23 tkl, 11 TFL, and 2 sacks in just 3 games. ... The Panthers offense will be the key. Penalties and inconsistency have been the issue that has limited them to just 69 points (17.2 ppg). They had multiple touchdowns called back in losses to Stephens County and Franklin County. ... The Gladiators are similar in that penalties and inconsistency have plagued their offense, which is averaging just 11.2 ppg, significantly down from the 33.4 ppg in 2019. ... Defensively the Gladiators are yielding 18.5 ppg but take out Buford’s 47 and they have given up just 27 points (9.0 ppg) in their other three games.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- RADIO: WDUN AM 550 
-- JEFFERSON (4-0, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 2 in Class 4A; defeated Hart County 26-19 last week
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (3-1, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 4A; defeated Hiram 34-7 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Mask/face coverings and temperature will be required to get into the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 2-0. The Dragons won 35-29 in 2017. ... Many that follow this region predicted that these two teams were the preseason favorites to win the region title. So, the winner of this one will hold the hugely-important head-to-head tiebreaker. ... Expect it to be a tremendous clash of styles as Jefferson is averaging nearly 400 yards a game on the ground in its triple-option attack led by Malaki Starks and Kolton Jones. Flowery Branch is paced by the state's leading passer in David Renard (1,324 yards) and a slew of receivers, led by Connor Larson (9th in state last week) but also has one of the area's top running backs in Jaizen Ellingham. ... The Dragons defense, until a late fourth-quarter surge last week by Hart County, had been nearly impenetrable, allowing just 28 points 9.3 ppg) over its first three games. A young Branch defense has gotten better each week. After giving up 40 ppg in their first two games, the Falcons have allowed just 29 points (14.5 ppg) in their last two contests. ... This one may be decided by whichever defense can hold up best under the pressure. ... Only three teams -- Jefferson, Branch, and East Hall -- have winning records so far in 8-4A, and the Dragons, who play host to the Vikings next week, have a chance to take quick command of the region if they can sweep their first two region games.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Red Devil Stadium, Loganville
-- JOHNSON (0-4, 0-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 47-7 to Eastside last week
-- LOGANVILLE (1-3, 0-1 Region 8-5A): Lost 28-20 to Greenbrier last week
-- NOTABLE: Loganville leads series 8-2. The Red Devils won 35-14 in 2019 and have won 7 straight in the series. The last Johnson win in the series came in 1996, 27-10, in Oakwood. ... Both teams are struggling at the moment. Loganville has lost three straight and been outscored 84-27 in that span. They let a 20-0 lead slip away in last week’s loss. ... The Knights have been outscored 182-10 on the season but this is their first game vs. a team with a losing record they have faced. Their first four opponents are a combined 12-4 on the season. They did manage to score their first TD of the season last week. ... Johnson is just 1-21 in 8-5A play since joining the region in 2016. ... The Red Devils loss last week was their first loss in a region opener since 2013. They have not opened region play 0-2 since 2013.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Eagle Stadium, Rome
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (2-1, 0-0 Region 7-A Private): Defeated Towns County 31-12 last week
-- COOSA (2-1, 0-0 Region 7-2A): Off last week; lost 10-0 to Class 4A Pickens two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Lakeview is in the middle of its first 2-game win streak since the end of the 2016 season. Now, the Lions are taking their first jump out of Class A taking on an Eagles team that is mirroring them with more wins already in 2020 than all of 2019. ... Lakeview’s turnaround in new coach Lee Shaw’s first half of the season is noticeable on both sides of the ball. The Lions have averaged 32.5 ppg in their two wins and given up just 12 points (6.0 ppg) in that same span. ... The Eagles scored 92 points in their first two games but were shut out by Pickens. They have yielded just 18.3 ppg on defense with one shutout. ... Lakeview is 0-1 on the road in 2020 but the Lions had won two straight road games to end the 2019 season. The Lions could use some road momentum with unbeaten Fellowship Christian looming next week to open region play on the road.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: GoFan app; 50 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Eagles Stadium, Commerce
-- RABUN COUNTY (3-1, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 3 in Class 2A; off last week; defeated No. 8 Bremen 48-34 two weeks ago
-- EAST JACKSON (1-2, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Lost 49-34 to East Hall last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: East Jackson leads series 2-0. The Eagles won 38-6 in 2009. ... This is the third of five straight home games for the Eagles, but it has not been a kind homestand so far as they have dropped the first two. The Wildcats may offer them their biggest challenge yet. ... Rabun sits 6th in 2A in scoring (33.7 ppg) and is led by Jr. QB and South Carolina-commit Gunnar Stockton, who is averaging 288 yards/game passing and rushing with 17 total TDs on the season. ... The Eagles showed off their passing game last week as well with QB Greg Huggs passing for nearly 250 yards. WR Randy Smith had a breakout game with 8 catches for 176 yards and a TD. ... The difference may be on the defensive side. The Wildcats are yielding 23.2 ppg but most of that came against three of the top offenses in the state in Prince Avenue, Jefferson, and Bremen. The Eagles are giving up 33 ppg so far after allowing 33.6 ppg in 2019.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- WEST HALL (2-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; defeated Chestatee 14-8 two weeks ago
-- NORTH HALL (1-3, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Chestatee 48-28 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Mask/face coverings and temperature will be required to get into the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: North Hall leads series 9-5. The Trojans won the last meeting, 24-10, in 2015 at The Brickyard. The last West Hall win came in 2014 in Oakwood. ... The Trojans have won 8 of the last 9 meetings going back to 2003 and none of them have been decided by less than 14 points. ... It will be a huge game for both teams, who need a quick start in what is expected to be a tight region race the entire way. ... Something will have to give there. The Spartans are 7-3 in their last 10 region openers. The Trojans are 16-2 in their last 18 region openers. ... The Trojan’s wing-T finally got some traction last week piling up 489 yards with Clark Howell rumbling for 260 yards and 4 TDs and Kevin Rochester 172yards and 3 scores. After scoring just 7 points in their first two games, the Trojans have reeled off 70 points (35 ppg) in their last two games. ... West Hall will look more to its passing game behind Sr. QB Clayton Jenkins, who is 20th in the state, all classifications, with 727 yards passing. His favorite target, Rodrigo Lopez, leads Class 3A in receiving with 348 yards, which is 16th overall. ... West Hall has not won at The Brickyard since a 27-0 victory in 2001. 

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: At the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
-- RADIO:;
-- WHITE COUNTY (4-0, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Ranked No. 7 in Class 3A; off last week; defeated Habersham Central 28-21 two weeks ago
-- DAWSON COUNTY (1-3, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; defeated Northview 42-20 two weeks ago
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: White County leads series 6-2. The Warriors won 45-42 in 2017 in Cleveland. The last Dawson County win in the series came in 2016, 46-0, in Dawsonville. ... There is a lot riding on this one in what should be one of the best 7-3A games of the season. The winner will send a strong message to the rest of the region while the loser will immediately be scrambling in what is also expected to be a tight region race. ... The Warriors are 4-0 for the first time since 1975 but have never started a season 5-0 in their history. ... Dawson County has won its last five region openers going back to 2015. ... Expect plenty of offense. The game features two of the state’s best QBs in the Tigers’ Zach Holtzclaw, who leads 3A in passing yards with 975 to go with 11 TDs. The Warriors countered with J. Ben Haynes (739 yards passing, 5 TD; 504 yards rushing, 12 TD). The Warriors are 2nd in Class 3A in scoring (164, 41 ppg) while the Tigers are 5th (138, 34.5 ppg). ... The difference could be on defense. Dawson County has allowed the 5th-most points in 3A (152, 35.5 ppg) while White County has given up just 81 points (20.2 ppg). ... The Tigers are 0-2 home  in 2020 after going 19-2 at Tiger Stadium over the past three seasons

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