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Friday November 27th, 2020 8:29AM

Coaches Corner: Region play opens for 7-3A, 8-4A, 8-6A; continues for 8-5A

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

The second half of the high school football season marks another milestone in the COVID-19 delayed slate as games that count begin across the area. Week 6 has seven region contest openers on tap with Jackson County and Johnson playing their second straight region game.

Jefferson-Flowery Branch and White County-Dawson County headline Week 6 as huge region battles that will put the winner in the driver's seat to the region title. North Hall will play host to West Hall in a crucial region opener, Cherokee Bluff welcomes Gilmer to begin region play, Buford has Central Gwinnett at Tom Riden Stadium and Habersham Central will look to get back on track in its first region game at Winder-Barrow.

Friday Game Night checked in with the area’s coaches to find out how Week 5 played out, and what are the keys to getting a win this week.

You can track these games on the FGN twitter page @FridayGameNight  or the live scoreboard at www.accesswdun.com/fridaygamenight. Below are comments from the area’s coaches:

Buford's Bryant Appling on the off week ... 

"[It was] much needed. It was a good time to heal up the minor things we have going on with our players."

On the keys to beating Central Gwinnett ... 

"Your first region game is always important. It sets the tone for the next 5 to 7 weeks. We have to play sound in all phases and find ways to neutralize Central Gwinnett's athletic football team. We also have to improve on the mistakes we keep making and find a way to play clean for a full 48 minutes."


Cherokee Bluff's Tommy Jones on his teams 4-0 start to the season ... 

"We have been fortunate to earn some early season wins so far. As a young program, it’s been good to get a little confidence and taste some tangible success on our journey. Especially for the number of kids that endured the first couple of tough years. I’m not sure I’ve ever been any prouder of a group in my coaching career. Regardless of wins and losses, they have committed to a “one at a time” process bigger than themselves."

On the keys to beating Gilmer ...

"Every region game has huge implications. Particularly in 2020 with the parity in Region 7-3A and the uncertainty that exists for everyone on any given week. Gilmer has an excellent football team. They are physical, disciplined, and well-coached. They play with a ton of confidence and intensity. It is going to take a tremendous week of preparation that carries over to a high level of execution on Friday."  


Commerce's Michael Brown on the off week ... 

"We were off from school for Fall Break as well as having an off week, so we gave the kids 4 days to rest and recover."

On the keys to beating Mt. Paran ...

"Our execution must get better on offense for us to have a chance Friday night. We are still making way too many mistakes and busting too many assignments."


Dawson County's Sid Maxwell opening region against No. 7 White County ... 

"White is a really good football team. We've had our ups and downs and had some battles. So hopefully we've learned from them, but it's another week for us to go out and raise our level of play to compete with them."

On the keys to beating White County ... 

"We have to take care of the football and count on our quarterback to put us in the right play to move the chains. If we can drive the football, we can keep it away from their explosive offense."


East Hall's Michael Perry says the Vikings are improving every day ...

"I really feel like that our offensive line is getting better each week. Senior Eric Osorio and senior Lando Mayweather are doing a great job for us. We still have to keep improving each day especially at some of the skill positions, but as long as we keep making progress then I will be happy."

On the keys to beating Cedar Shoals ...

"Cedar is extremely athletic and big on the lines of scrimmage. We are going to have to play much better in the special team's department this week. Offensively, we are going to have to keep scoring and on defense, we must get some turnovers."


East Jackson's Cameron Pettus on his team's desire to get better ... 

"I have been around a lot of football and coached a lot of really good teams, but this team is so special because of how they work and how they play so dang hard until the end of each and every game that we have played. I could not be more proud of a group of players and just enjoy working with these young men daily. I know we will keep working hard and we will keep building this program."  

On the keys to beating Class 2A No. 2 Rabun County ...

"What a chance and opportunity for our kids to play one of the best teams in the state. As a competitor, these are opportunities you live for, you want to play the best and see how you compare. This is a great opportunity for our guys to get some great tape against one of the nation's best quarterbacks. They are extremely talented at more than QB. They are a solid team in every aspect. We must minimize our mistakes on offense, tackle great on defense and flip the field on special teams. I feel we are getting better every week and must continue on that path. Go Eagles!"


Gainesville's Heath Webb on what his team learned in Week 5 ...

"We learned that the game isn't over until the clock says 0:00. We finished, but we let them back in a game that we should've put away in the fourth quarter. We also learned that these teams in our new region will compete until the bitter end, so we've got to be prepared to do the same thing. We learned that we can win a game with a backup freshman QB in Baxter Wright making his first start. This gives our team great confidence moving forward."

On the keys to beating Hillgrove ...

"Hillgrove is an extremely talented team. We've got to tackle their great athletes in space. That's the key defensively.  We have to win the turnover battle and play great special teams."


Flowery Branch's Ben Hall on opening region against No. 2 Jefferson ... 

"I'm not going to crown the winner of this game region champs, but it does put you in the driver's seat and that's a position that we would love to be in. We're going to have to play our best game by far and continue to grow."

On the keys to beating Jefferson ... 

"We're going have to tackle better than we've tackled all year. With all the athletes that Jefferson has, if you miss a tackle they'll take it the distance. Offensively, we're going have to be able to run the ball and be efficient in our passing game." 


Habersham Central's Benji Harrison says mistakes have led to two-game losing streak ... 

It's pretty simple, we have to cut down on our penalties for one thing. The mistakes we have made the last couple of weeks had nothing to do with our opponent. It was just us hurting ourselves. We are the same team that started out 2-0 -- nothing has changed -- we have just killed ourselves the last two weeks."

On the keys to beating Winder-Barrow on the road ...

"We just have to play solid. We have to play physical. We have tackle really well because their running back can take it to the house really fast. Offensively, we just have been consistent.  And we have to win 1st down."


Jackson County's Rich McWhorter on the impact a win over Clarke Central would have at this point in the season ...

“Look, a win would be great, for sure,” he said. “But all it would really mean at this point (in the season) is that we’d be 3-2 and the pizza afterward would probably taste a little better. We would still have a lot of laundry to do no matter what.”

On the keys to beating Clarke Central ... 

"Clarke Central is by far the most talented team we’ve seen and will face, all year. It will come down to which offense executes the best. We cannot turn the ball over and get behind the chains. It’s hard to win a football game at any level when you’re constantly behind the chains.”


Jefferson's Gene Cathcart on opening region play against Flowery Branch ... 

"We knew going into the season what an outstanding job coach [Ben] Hall and his staff do and what a great program they have and even though we are in a deep and talented region, both our programs would likely be involved in being a part of the competition pursuing the region championship. The two programs and coaching staffs know each other very well and familiarity and proximity breed rivalry as well ... it is early in the season for such a big region game but we are excited to be playing against such a quality opponent and one we have so much respect for and who play and coach the game the right way 

On the keys to beating the Falcons ... 

"We have to correct the uncharacteristic mistakes from last week and play our type of game. Ben and his Falcons lead the state in passing and present quite a challenge spreading the football around among so many talented receivers and with such a gifted back  Chris Warbington is an extremely gifted line coach, and they are good up front and as long as Coach Hall is the coach they will maintain a very physical style of play. Defensively, they have had a game facing the option which gives them a leg up. They are well-coached and tackle very well in space defensively and have improved every week."  


Lakeview's Lee Shaw on his team's two-game win streak ... 

"We continue to play with great effort. Our players are gaining confidence in what they are doing and have been very coachable."

On the keys to beating Coosa ...

"We are facing an improved Coosa team from last season. Defensively, will have to do a great job adjusting to their wing-T offense. We have to trust our keys and reads. Once again, we have to get a lot of hats to the ball. On offense, we need a complete game on this side of the ball to be successful, meaning no turnovers or critical drive stoppers in scoring positions. Special teams could be the difference in this one."


North Hall's David Bishop on his offense's improvement ...

Our offense has steadily improved over the past two games. We are still far from where I would like to be, but if we continue to make strides, we will be in much better shape each week."

On the keys to beating West Hall ... 

"In order to have success against West Hall on offense, we must improve our play by making the block and running our feet on contact at the line of scrimmage. All region games are very important and factor into the playoff equation, but to get a win, we have to execute our game plan, limit turnovers and play discipline football in all phases. West Hall has players that can score anytime they touch the ball, so we will have to tackle the ball carrier and swarm to the ball on defense."


Rabun's Jaybo Shaw on his team's off week ... 

"The bye week came at a great time for us. We were able to start our preparation early on East Jackson, correct some things that we normally wouldn't have time to address in a regular game week, as well as getting some of our guys' extra treatment and letting their bodies heal up. We are as healthy as we can be at this point into our season."

On the keys to beating East Jackson ... 
"Playing our brand of football which will be playing with relentless effort and being as physical as possible. Those two things will always be important for us every Friday night. We will need to win the turnover margin as well as being efficient on 3rd down whether that is converting on offense or getting off the field on defense."


West Hall's Krofton Montgomery on his team's turnaround after starting 0-2 ... 

"The key to the turnaround is to stay the course and improve the “Little Things” that we have been harping on when it comes to fundamentals. Our defense has been playing at a high level the past few weeks and really all season for the most part. We got to start taking care of the ball more. It’s plain and simple it’s cost us in our two losses and about cost us in one of our wins. If we can eliminate the turnovers that are self-induced primarily, I feel we can compete against the teams we are facing."

On the keys to beating North Hall at The Brickyard ... 

"It’s a huge game for the region and to get the second half of your season started off on the right foot. North Hall maybe 1-3, but they’ve played some highly talented and well-coached teams. When you get into the film, you realize that the Trojans are still a highly disciplined team that will attack you offensively where they can get the numbers and advantages through formations. They have some players on the defensive side of the ball that rally to the ball fast and make a lot of plays sideline to sideline. To combat their offense, you have to play disciplined at all times. It’s so easy to get caught up in the window dressing and not play your gap defensively, and that is key to being successful against them. The biggest key for us offensively is to get out of our own way as far as turnovers. If we can do that, it gives us a chance to let playmakers make plays."


White County's Tim Cokely on opening region against Dawson County ... 

"It's a momentum game for both teams. It's not do or die but, I think, we're two of the better teams in our region and so we'll certainly have a way to measure our teams after Friday. So, it's really important because it's a region game."

On the keys to beating Dawson County ... 

"Most road games are always about special teams. For us, Friday night, it's a pretty even matchup so I think we have to gain that one percent advantage with the hidden yards on special teams."

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