For most Northeast Georgia football teams, region play began Friday night. And through the driving rain, several teams made statements that will have implications for the rest of the season.
Here are five things we learned from Week 6:
1. Jefferson's dominance will be hard to slow down (for anyone in the state)
No team in the state of Georgia may have made a more emphatic statement than the Jefferson Dragons Friday night. Entering a road contest with 7th-ranked Flowery Branch to open Region 8-4A play, many were expecting a slugfest. Instead, Jefferson (5-0, 1-0) turned it into a runaway, running past the Falcons (3-2, 0-1) 40-10. While yardage numbers between the two teams were nearly identical, it was Jefferson's ability to make key play after key play that proved to be the difference. A pair of 4th down stops, including one just inches from the goal line with the first half expiring, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and an offense that didn't turn the ball over once during the rain-drenched contest (Jefferson's lone fumble came on special teams) were more than Flowery Branch could handle. The Falcons became the latest victim of a Dragons team that seems unflappable, only having one game decided by less than 14 points so far this year. With Flowery Branch and Rabun County now notches in their belts, along with Class 7A Mountain View and a solid Hart County team, Jefferson looks like a machine that will be hard for anyone to slow down.
2. Dawson County's offense shines, even in rain
Another Northeast Georgia team that made a statement Friday was Dawson County. The Tigers (2-3, 1-0) stunned previously unbeaten White County (4-1, 0-1) 42-35. While the win in and of itself was impressive, the fact that the team's passing attack seemed wholly un-phased by the downpour that swept across the region Friday. While some area offenses seemed to struggle in the wet conditions, the Tigers kept on rolling with Zach Holtzclaw throwing for 352 yards and six touchdowns, including a 77-yard bomb to Jaden Gibson for the game-winning score with just under four minutes to play. A passing offense that could rack up those totals against a strong White County team in driving rain is one that any opposing defense the rest of the year will need to be wary of, especially with Isaiah Grindle providing a steady ground game. Grindle ran for more than 120 yards Friday. Dawson County's win shakes up the Region 7-3A playoff race, meaning that a showdown with Cherokee Bluff, which features the best scoring defense in the area, could be one that decides the region title.
3. Gainesville is ready to tangle with Class 7A
If it wasn't already clear after their region-opening win at Forsyth Central two weeks ago, it should be now. Gainesville is fully prepared for the jump to Class 7A. The Red Elephants lost a heartbreaker to Hillgrove Friday 28-27, falling on a failed two-point conversion attempt with under a minute to play, but they made their point with their performance. There doesn't appear to be any competitive gap between Gainesville (3-2, 1-0) and their 7A opposition so far. The Hawks have made the playoffs in the state's largest classification every year since joining it in 2016 and were in the state quarterfinals just two years ago. The meat of Gainesville's non-region play is up next, starting with 4-1 Lambert this Friday at City Park Stadium. With a defense that continues to look solid and sophomore running back Naim Cheeks providing perhaps the most potent ground attack in Region 6-7A, the Red Elephants are looking more and more like a 7A playoff team every week.
4. Cherokee Bluff defense proves its worth in region win
In the non-region schedule, Cherokee Bluff blew past its opposition like a wood-chipper. The Bears outscored their first four opponents 187-14 and showed virtually no signs of weakness. The true measure of any team, however, is how they stand up to a test, and the Bears received their first real test of the season last week against Gilmer. The Bobcats defense was able to keep the Cherokee Bluff offense in check, holding them to their lowest scoring output of the season and putting the game on the back of the Bears' defense. That unit, which was allowing just 3.5 points per game entering the contest, stood up to the challenge, holding Gilmer to just 6 points and leading Cherokee Bluff to a 21-6 win to move to 5-0 and, most importantly, 1-0 in Region 7-3A play. That defense will get its share of tests through the rest of region play, with a high-flying Dawson County passing attack, North Hall's wing-t starting to find its groove and a White County team that is still capable of putting up big point totals on seemingly anybody. It looks like a unit, though, that could keep Cherokee Bluff in any game the rest of the year.
5. Don't look now, but North Hall is finding itself
It looked like North Hall had finally found its offensive rhythm two weeks ago in a 48-28 win at Chestatee. Friday night against West Hall seemed to confirm that suspicion. The Trojans (2-3, 1-0) ran past the Spartans (2-3, 0-1) 42-13, this time with the defense looking almost as impressive as their offensive counterparts. They held a talented West Hall offense to just two scores while Clark Howell paced the ground attack to the tune of 173 yards and four touchdowns. After an 0-3 start to the year that saw North Hall score just 29 points, the Trojans are starting to look like themselves again, and just in time as well. Region 7-3A appears to be up for grabs, with previously unbeaten White County falling Friday night. North Hall will get their crack at the Warriors in their annual rivalry meeting in Cleveland this week, and if they can continue to improve, White County should beware of a team capable of handing them their second consecutive defeat. A North Hall team with momentum is something football fans in North Georgia know is not to be counted out of any contest.