While there were few games played in Northeast Georgia Friday night compared to the first six weeks of the season, what games were played saw dramatic finishes and some heavy region implications.
Here are five things we learned from Week 7:
1. North Hall upset proves Trojans are still a 7-3A factor
There were likely many who wrote off the North Hall Trojans as a Region 7-3A contender after their 0-3 start to the season. Hopefully those folks wrote that in pencil and not pen. The young Trojans have been improving each week and that growth culminated in a massive upset of rival White County Friday night in Cleveland, 34-31 in overtime. It was another classic North Hall-White County battle that saw a number of lead changes and a wild finish, but the fact that North Hall would take the Warriors to the wire would have seemed highly unlikely if you had asked just one month ago. Now, the Trojans are back to .500 on the season (3-3) and are 2-0 in region play. With a matchup with a struggling Lumpkin County team coming up this week, North Hall seems poised to be in position to compete for the region championship with Cherokee Bluff and Dawson County down the stretch. That alone shows how far this football team has come. Now the question is: how far can they go from here?
2. Gainesville has given a spot in the 6-7A title race
Of all the regions in Northeast Georgia, Region 6-7A may be the most evenly matched from top to bottom. To illustrate that, Gainesville currently sits atop the region standings after a 42-35 win over Lambert Friday night, with Forsyth Central at the bottom. The Red Elephants beat the Bulldogs three weeks ago by five points in a wild finish. There appears to be little separation between anybody in the region, meaning every game has huge implications for not only playoff seeding, but the region championship. That is why Gainesville's first two region wins have been huge as the program looks to put itself on the map in its first year in Class 7A. The Red Elephants will now get to take their BYE week and watch some of the slugfests from a distance, resting up for a late-season push that will see heavyweight matchups with South Forsyth, North Forsyth, and a Denmark team that suddenly looks very dangerous, rattling off back-to-back wins after an 0-3 start to the year. It should be fun to watch how this region shakes itself out and how Gainesville factors in to that mix.
3. Buford's matra: bend, then break the opponent
There are a number of high-flying offenses in the area, but none may be more demoralizing to play than the Buford Wolves. There haven't been any style points to be found with how Buford has beaten their last four opponents, including a 44-7 rout at Habersham Central Friday night. Instead, they've used a bruising running game to slowly beat defenses into submission, playing off of a defense that is looking like one of the best in the state, allowing just 8 points per game. Friday night was a prime example, as the heavily-favored Wolves led just 10-0 at halftime, but finally wore the Raiders down enough to begin running away with the game in the 3rd quarter. Victor Venn and Gabe Ervin, Jr. each finished with over 100 yards rushing, with neither having to carry the ball more than 18 times. If any team wants to beat Buford, they will need a level of depth and physical endurance that is usually only seen in the elite state championship contenders.
4. Rabun County is settling into form
After an early-season loss to Jefferson and finding themselves in an unexpected dogfight with Bremen just a few weeks ago, Rabun County looks to be back on track. The Wildcats hammered Class 6A Pope on the road Friday night 63-17 to move to 5-1 on the season, as they continue to play through one of the lenthiest non-region slates Northeast Georgia has ever seen. The Wildcats defense was in perhaps its best form of the year after allowing 28 or more points in their last four games prior to Friday night, but it was once again Gunner Stockton and the offense that stole the show. The South Carolina-committ scored 9 touchdowns in the game (7 passing, 2 rushing) and Rabun County piled up nearly 550 yards of total offense. The Wildcats have now scored 133 points in their last two games and looking more and more like the state title contender that they expect to be. If the defense can continue to improve and the offense can keep piling up the points, it should be another deep playoff run north of the gorge.
5. Coronavirus quarantines can be costly for playoff hopefulls
The old addage is you can't win if you don't play. That is ringing true for some area teams that had to forfeit region contests this past Friday. East Hall suffered their second consecutive forfeit as they were set to play Jefferson in 8-4A play. Both will go down as losses and both were region games, putting the Vikings behind the 8-ball as they try to make the postseason for the first time since 2017 and appeared to be primed to do it after a 3-1 start to the season. Lakeview Academy had to forfeit their region opener against Fellowship Christian, as did Towns County against Lincoln County. All three teams that were quarantined were teams that appeared much improved from last season and are looking to snap postseason droughts. Suffering region losses in games not even played will certainly not help those causes. While the exact causes of the Coronavirus cases among area players is unknown, but other teams in the area may want to dot their T's and dot their I's with their COVID-19 protocols because even one week out could have major playoff implications.