Friday October 22nd, 2021 6:43AM

ICYMI: Week 8 previews: Playoffs on the line for several area teams; Rabun County update

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Region 8-2A becomes the final region to open region play this week as 18 of the 22 northeast Georgia area teams covered by AccessWDUN are in action on Friday and Saturday.

Eleven games will take place on Friday with Chestatee heading to East Hall for a rare Saturday afternoon showdown at Valhalla.

Including the Chestatee-East Hall showdown, three huge games in Region 8-4A will help shape the final month of the season. Flowery Branch is at home against a surging North Oconee team while Jefferson, which has pummeled everyone in its path so far, plays host to talented Cedar Shoals team that has won two straight.

Region 7-3A, which already has shown propensity for upsets, also has three big games on tap. Dawson County, which has Class 3A’s leading passer in Zach Holtzclaw, entertains Gilmer while White County and West Hall face off in Cleveland in a virtual do-or-die playoff scenario to stay alive for a playoff berth. North Hall, fresh off its overtime upset win over the Warriors, takes on Lumpkin County looking to avoid its own upset loss.

Union County and Banks County will open their Region 8-2A schedules in Homer. All four 8-2A teams will automatically qualify for the playoffs but that doesn’t mean both teams won’t be looking to build momentum heading toward the playoffs.

UPDATE: No. 3 Rabun County initially was scheduled to play Pacelli but he two teams mutually agreed to cancel that contest. The Wildcats instead will play Columbia Academy of Tennessee out of Chattanooga on Friday night.

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: GoFan app, 300 tickets available for visiting fans; 50 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
-- CEDAR SHOALS (2-3, 2-0 Region 8-4A): Defeated Madison County 23-7 last week
-- JEFFERSON (6-0, 2-0 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 2 in Class 4A; off last week, received a forfeit win over East Hall
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks recommended, required for students, no temperature check. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Both teams received forfeit wins over East Hall, which was quarantined the last two weeks. ... On paper this looks like a major mismatch. The Dragons are yielding just 11.1 ppg on defense and the Jaguars have scored just 29 total points on the season. ... The Jefferson offense is 3rd in 4A in average (39.0 ppg) and is averaging 331 yards/game on the ground. The Dragons have four players with 220 or more yards (Kolton Jones, Malaki Starks, Reese Johnson, Jordan Perry). But the Cedar Shoals defense has given up just 77 points in four games played (19.2 ppg) and held a powerful St. Pius rushing attack to just 25 points and has forced 6 turnovers (4 fumbles) in four games. ... The Dragons have won 8 straight at Memorial Stadium. The Jaguars have been a very good road team posting an 8-5 record the past two-plus seasons.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: At the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
-- RADIO: 
-- GILMER (3-2, 1-1 Region 7-3A): Defeated Lumpkin County 62-7 last week
-- DAWSON COUNTY (2-3, 1-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; defeated White County 42-35 two weeks ago
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Gilmer leads series 7-1. Dawson County won the last meeting in 2015, 23-9, in Ellijah. ... Despite the close proximity of the two schools, it is a relatively new rivalry in that this will be the fifth meeting since 2010. ... The Tigers have never beaten the Bobcats (0-4) in Dawsonville. ... The key to this one will be if the Bobcats defense, which has given up the 2nd-fewest points in 7-3A (88, 17.6 ppg), can stop the explosive Tigers offense and 3A’s top passer in Zach Holtzclaw (1,327 yards, 16 TD, 2 INT). Dawson is 7th in 3A in scoring with 180 points (36 ppg) but has averaged 43.2 ppg over its last four games. ... The Tigers defense is still a work-in-progress giving up the 8th-most (187, 37.4 ppg) but has shown improvement allowing just 55 points (27.5 ppg) in their last two games, both wins. ... The Gilmer option offense is averaging 252 yards/game rushing, led by Jr. RB Kobe Stonecipher (737 yards (7 TD) who has 4 100-yards outings in five games. ... A win for the Bobcats would match their 2019 total with 3 games still left. They have not won more than 4 games in a season since 2014. ... The Tigers have not lost more than 3 regular season games since 2014.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Dacula
-- RADIO: 99.3 FM WCON
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (3-3, 1-1 Region 8-6A): Lost 44-7 to Buford last week
-- DACULA (3-2, 2-0 Region 8-6A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 6A; defeated Winder-Barrow 40-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: Dacula leads series 6-2. The Falcons won 41-0 in 2019 and have won four straight in the series. The last Habersham win came in 2007, 42-7, in Dacula. ... The Falcons are just two plays from being undefeated with a 4 OT loss to Brookwood included. ... In the four years since the Raiders joined Region 8-6A, it has not been a favorable matchup. They have been outscored 134-35 and been shut out twice by Dacula in that span. ... This is the second of a three-week gauntlett of Buford, Dacula, and Lanier in consecutive weeks for the Raiders. After last week, they are 0-9 vs. that trio in the last four years. ... This Hab Central team may be the one its most physical in recent years with one of the best rushing attacks in the region behind Joshua Pickett and Jackson Clouatre, and are averaging 260 yards/game and 25 ppg. ... The defense was the issue last week for the Raiders giving up the final 37 points after the score was tied at 7. ... The Falcons defense held the Bulldoggs scoreless last week while the Raiders had to rally to be Winder 27-21 the week before.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Gofan app; 50 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Panther Stadium, Jefferson
-- JOHNSON (0-6, 0-3 Region 8-5A): Lost 56-7 to Walnut Grove last week
-- JACKSON COUNTY (2-3, 1-1 Region 8-5A): Off last week, lost 38-10 to Clarke Central two weeks ago
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: No temperature check but masks are expected to be worn inside the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Johnson leads series 5-3. The first meeting between the two programs since 2011. The Panthers won 2012 in 2011 and have won three straight over the Knights. The last Johnson win in the series came in 1996, 34-18, in Jefferson. ... The Knights have had a tough season with late coaching changes and small numbers. They have scored the fewest points (17) and given up the most (297) in Class 5A. ... It is a game the Panthers are expected to win and can set themselves up for a serious playoff run with the final four games against teams they are tied with or within one-half game in the standings. ... The Panthers are 12th in 5A in defense among teams that have played five or more games (94, 18.5 ppg) but the offense, which lost its starting QB for the year in Week 2, is still struggling averaging just 15.8 ppg. 

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Students and parents only, partial capacity
-- WHERE: Jock Horner Stadium, Gainesville
-- KING’S RIDGE (2-1, 0-0 Region 6-A Private): Off last week; lost 27-0 to No. 10 Darlington two weeks ago
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (2-3, 0-1 Region 6-A Private): Had to forfeit last week vs. Fellowship Christian due to COVID
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are required,but  no temperature checks. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: King’s Ridge leads series 2-0. The Tigers won 13-3 in 2011. ... The Lions have made tremendous strides already under new coach Lee Shaw. They are averaging 21.7 ppg in games played, which is nearly double their 2019 average. ... Both teams have played Darlington, with each losing by 25 or more points. Lakeview has yielded just 35 points since then (11.6 ppg). The Tigers have been tough on defense allowing just 40 points (13.3 ppg), including last week. But they have scored just 46 points (15.3 ppg) on the season. ... A win for the Lions would put them at .500 for the first time this late in a season since they began playing a region schedule in 2014. 

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 RM The Lake
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (0-5, 0-1 Region 7-3A): Lost 62-7 to Gilmer last week
-- NORTH HALL (3-3, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated White County 34-31 in OT 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 21-7. The Trojans won 59-0 in 2019 and have won five straight and 12 of the last 13 meetings going back to 1983. The only Lumpkin win in that span came in 2010, 34-26, at The Brickyard. ... A very young Indians group has battled injury and COVID-19 issues much of the season.  They have allowed the 2nd-most points (210, 42 ppg) and scored the 3rd-fewest (31, 6.2 ppg) in 3A. ... After a rough 0-3 start, North Hall has found its groove, led by a bend-but-don’t-break defense that after giving up 113 points (37.6 ppg) in its first 3 games has yielded just 24 ppg since, and a punishing wing-T offense that has come alive averaging 263 yards/game and 41.3 ppg during a 3-game win streak. ... Trojans’ Sr. RB Clark Howell led Class 3A in rushing before last week and now has 878 yards, 11 TD, and 5 100-yard games on the season. ... A win for North Hall would put the Trojans at 3-0 in region play for the first time since 2013.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: GoFan app; 50 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Eagles Stadium, Commerce
-- MONROE AREA (5-1, 1-0 Region 8-3A): Defeated Stephens County 41-21 last week
-- EAST JACKSON (1-4, 0-1 Region 8-3A): Lost 36-14 to Class 3A No. 2 Oconee County last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Monroe Area leads series 4-0. The Purple Hurricanes won 56-7 in 2019. All four meetings have been since 2016. ... The Hurricanes are just a PAT from an undefeated season to this point and have been one of the best in 3A on the defensive side. They are 3rd in the classification among teams that have played 6 games (72, 12.0 ppg). ... The Eagles have played much better than their record with a pair of top 3 teams and an aggregate record of 17-5 for their last four opponents. ... East Jackson scored double what Oconee County had been giving up on defense and the improved offense is averaging 25 ppg, which is more than 2 1/2 times their total average the past two seasons combined. ... The Eagles defense (205, 41 ppg) will have to find a way to slow down a Monroe offense that has averaged 37 ppg the past two weeks.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- NORTH OCONEE (2-4, 2-0 Region 8-4A): Defeated Chestatee 44-0 last week
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (3-2, 0-1 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 6 in Class 4A; off last week; lost 40-10 to Jefferson two weeks ago
-- 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 Titans were a team expected to challenge in 8-4A but started the season 0-4. However, region play has gotten them back on track. After scoring just 82 points (20.5 ppg) in their first 4 games, they have exploded for 85 points (42.5 ppg) in their last two games in the region. ... The Falcons defense has been improving each week, the exception being against a powerful Jefferson offense. After allowing 80 points in their first 2 games, the Falcons have given up just 69 points (23.0 ppg) since. ... Branch piled up the yards vs. Jefferson but were just 1-for-5 (FG) in the red zone, including a crucial goal line stand to end the half with no points. QB David Renard is still among the state leader’s averaging just under 300 yards/game passing. ... The Titans defense is giving up  28.8 ppg but just 26 total points (13.0 ppg) in region play.

-- WHEN: 8 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 100 percent
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Commerce
-- TOWNS COUNTY (2-3, 0-1 Region 8-A Public): Off last two weeks, including a forfeit to Lincoln County in region play; lost 31-12 to Lakeview Academy on Oct. 2
-- COMMERCE (5-1, 1-0 Region 8-A Public): Ranked No. 4 in Class A Public; defeated Greene County 35-0 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks recommended, no temperature check. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 24-0. The Tigers won 56-16 in 2019 in Commerce. ... It has been a lopsided series with only two games (1984 and 1992) decided by 14 points or less. ... Commerce is hitting its stride. The Tigers are 6th in scoring in Class A Public (211, 35.1 ppg) and are averaging nearly 300 yards a game on the ground in their triple-option. They are in the top 10 in defense (93, 15.5 ppg) among teams that have played 5 games. ... The Indians have been much-improved behind a solid ground game as well, led by Kyle Oakes, who is still 2nd in the class in rushing (811 yards) and 6th in the state overall despite not playing the past two weeks. ... The Indians biggest improvement has been on defense where they have allowed just 90 points (18.0 ppg) so far after giving up 53.7 ppg in 2019. ... But turnovers and penalties have plagued the Indians in their losses. If they can cut down on the mistakes they could make it interesting.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Leopards Stadium, Homer
-- UNION COUNTY (2-2, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Off last two weeks; defeated Pickens 28-14 on Oct. 2
-- BANKS COUNTY (1-5, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Off last week; lost 44-0 to No. 8 Haralson County two weeks ago
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks recommended but no temperature checks. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Union County leads series 23-18. The Panthers won 14-7 in Homer in 2019 and have won four straight over the Leopards. The last Banks County win came in 2011, 16-14, in Blairsville. ... Both teams have had time rest and prepare for their region openers. Both offenses have struggled most of the season. Union County, which has been accustomed to being among the classification leaders, is averaging 25.2 ppg (31st in Class 2A) while the Leopards have managed just 96 points (16.0 ppg) which is 35th in 2A. ... The difference is on defense, where the Panthers have allowed just 89 points (22.2 ppg) and Banks County has given up 192 points (32 ppg) but they have face three of the state’s best offense in Commerce, Fannin County (2nd in 2A) and Haralson County (5th in 2A). ... There is no playoff pressure for either team since all four teams from Region 8-2A will automatically qualify for the playoffs in 2020.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Online at school and at the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Warriors Stadium, Cleveland
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM WDUN;
-- WEST HALL (2-4, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 35-7 to Cherokee Bluff last week
-- WHITE COUNTY (4-2, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 34-31 in OT to North Hall last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: White County leads series 13-9. The Warriors won 42-0 in 2019 in Cleveland. White County has won 3 straight and 11 of the last 12 in the series going back to 2006. West Hall’s only win in that span came in 2016, 35-14, in Oakwood. ... The Warriors, who were a preseason favorite to win the region, suddenly are behind the Eight-ball after two straight losses. Now, like the Spartans, they face a must-win to stay in the playoff race. The loser would need a ton of help to get back in the race. ... Defense has been the issue for White County, which has allowed 76 points (38.0 ppg) during the losing streak after giving up just 71 points (17.7 ppg) during its 4-game win streak to open the season. The other issue is the availability of Sr. QB J. Ben Haynes, who missed the 2nd half vs. Dawson County and DNP vs. North Hall. But even without Haynes, the Warriors still have scored the 2nd-most points in 3A (230, 38. 3 ppg). ... After averaging 30 ppg in the opening three games, West Hall is averaging just 11.3 ppg in its last three games. ... The 2nd half also has been the problem for the Spartans, who were tied with Bluff midway through the 3Q. They also led in the 2nd half vs. Jackson County and East Hall, both of which ended in close losses.

(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
-- WHEN: 3 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- CHESTATEE (0-5, 0-1 Region 8-4A): Lost 44-0 to North Oconee last week
-- EAST HALL (3-3, 0-2 Region 8-4A): Forced to miss last two weeks due to COVID and forfeit region games vs. Cedar Shoals and Jefferson
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Mask/face coverings and temperature will be required to get into the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Series tied 4-4. Chestatee won 34-26 in 2019. ... The two teams have played each of the past four seasons and split, 2-2, with the road team winning all four games. The road team is 5-3 overall in the series. ... The Vikings were as hot as any team in the area before COVID hit with their best start since 2017. The ‘Air Raid’ offense was averaging 35.2 ppg behind QB Clete Cooper and RB/WR Macere Walker, who were both among the state leaders in passing and receiving at the time. ... The East Hall defense, which allowed 42.7 ppg in 2019, was among the area’s most improved units in 2020 yielding just 90 points (22.5 ppg) in their first four games. ... The War Eagles suffered a huge blow before the campaign started when Tennessee-commit Christian Charles (QB/DB) was lost for the season to injury. The offense has struggled with turnovers with new pieces averaging just 13.8 ppg, which has not helped the defense, which is surrendering 38.8 ppg on the season. ... Neither team is out of the playoff race to date but a loss for the Vikings would be devastating to their chances with a loss already to Cedar Shoals, a team they expected to battle for a No. 3 or 4 seed.

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