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Friday December 4th, 2020 6:24PM

ICYMI: Week 9 previews: Playoffs on the line for several NEGa area teams in key week; Banks-Rabun game moved to Saturday

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Several area teams face possible make-or-break showdowns this week as the 2020 campaign enters its final month as every game involves region contests.

Regions 7-3A and 8-4A in particular each have three huge matchups on tap Friday night. Gainesville in 6-7A can either cement its spot at the top of the region or find itself with a mad scramble the rest of the way.

Cherokee Bluff, Dawson County, and North Hall all are undefeated in 7-3A play. However, all three are on the road with potential trap games as they get set for a trio of games down the stretch to decide the region title.

Flowery Branch and East Hall in 8-4A also face big road contests while the Red Elephants, unbeaten in 6-7A, also are on the road against South Forsyth and what is expected to be another wild shootout in Cumming.

A surging Jackson County squad  in 8-5A can put itself in line for a top playoff seeding but faces a good Loganville group at home.

All four Region 8-2A teams will be in action on the weekend. The Banks County at Rabun County showdown in Tiger, however, was moved to Saturday due to power outages in Rabun County due to Hurricane Zeta. Friday as they look to position themselves for top seedings.

In Region 8-6A, Buford needs a big road win at Shiloh to keep pace with Dacula while Habersham Central tries to break into the top tier against Lanier.

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

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE FOR Oct. 30
(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
APALACHEE at JOHNSON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood
-- APALACHEE (0-6, 0-3 Region 8-5A): Off last week; lost 42-27 to Greenbrier two weeks ago
-- JOHNSON (0-7, 0-4 Region 8-5A): Lost 43-0 to Jackson County 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. ... Both teams have been struggling in 2020. The Knights late coaching changes and low numbers have played a huge part. But both have a chance to bury some frustrations. ... After beginning the 2019 season 2-3, the Wildcats are just 1-10 since. ... After a 4-3 start to 2019, Johnson has lost 10 straight. ... The Wildcats have shown they can score posting 27 or more points three times in 2020. But the defense has given up the 7th-most points in Class 5A (216, 36.0 ppg). ... However, the Knights have had an even tougher season. They have been shut out three times and have not scored more than 7 in any game. The defense has given up the most points in Class 5A (340, 48.6 ppg).


 

BUFORD at SHILOH
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 100 percent
-- WHERE: Shiloh Community Stadium, Lithonia
-- BUFORD (4-1, 2-0 Region 8-6A): Off last week; ranked No. 2 in Class 6A; defeated Habersham Central 44-7 two weeks ago
-- SHILOH (2-4, 1-1): Lost 35-28 to Winder-Barrow last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Series is tied 2-2. The two programs have not met since 1989, a 40-20 Shiloh win in Buford. ... On paper this has all the makings of a blowout. The Generals lost to Winder, who lost to Habersham, who was routed by Buford two weeks ago. The Generals are averaging 20.6 ppg but Bufod is 3rd in 6A in scoring defense surrendering just 41 points (8.2 ppg). The Wolves are 3rd in scoring average (195, 39.0 ppg) in 6A while Shiloh is giving up 26.0 ppg on defense. ... However an interesting stat is that the Generals are plus-11 in turnover ratio, including picking off 10 passes. The Wolves are minus-1 in turnover ratio. ... That may mean that Buford’s ground game, which has started to heat up behind Gabe Ervin (469 yards, 7 TD) and Victor Venn (452 yards, 7 TD) and is averaging 7.3 yards/carry on the season, gets more work than usual. ... Shiloh has lost 43 straight games to ranked opponents going back to a 20-7 win over Southwest DeKalb in the first round of the 2000 Class 5A playoffs.


CHEROKEE BLUFF at LUMPKIN COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 100 percent
-- WHERE: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (6-0, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; ranked No. 10 in Class 3A; defeated West Hall 35-7 two weeks ago
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (0-6, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 33-10 to North Hall last
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Series tied 1-1. The Bears won 45-14 in Dahlonega in 2019. ... Although it’s a new series, the road team so far has won both games. ... This will be the first-ever game for the Bluff as a ranked team. ... It’s a huge game for the Bears, who need a win to keep pace with North Hall and Dawson County, both of whom are also unbeaten in the region. The Bears get those two teams in back-to-back weeks beginning next week so they could set themselves up for a region title run, but they can’t afford to slip up against an Indians team that played perhaps their most competitive game of the season last week. ... Lumpkin is looking to snap a 12-game losing streak overall and a 12-game losing streak in Region 7-3A going back to the 2017 season. ... This also, on paper, looks like a mismatch. The Bears are 2nd in scoring in 3A (243, 40.5 ppg) and leads 3A in scoring defense (27, 4.5 ppg) while Lumpkin is 44th out 47 3A teams that have played 5 or more games in scoring (41, 6.8 ppg). The Indians are 46th in defense allowing 40.5 ppg. ... Bluff is plus-8 in turnover ratio.


DAWSON COUNTY at WEST HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Spartan Stadium, Oakwood
-- RADIO: www.northgeorgiasportslink.com
-- DAWSON COUNTY (3-3, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Gilmer 35-0 last week
-- WEST HALL (2-5, 0-3 Region 7-3A): Lost 35-0 to White County last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Mask/face coverings and temperature will be required to get into the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: West Hall leads series 6-5. Dawson County won 34-0 in 2019 in Oakwood. ... This will be the 9th consecutive season the two teams have played and since the series resumed in 2012, the road team is 6-2. ... Two teams headed in the opposite directions. The Tigers have won three straight while the Spartans have dropped three straight. ... The Spartans need a win to stay in the playoff race while a loss for the Tigers would drop them to third in a tight battle at the top of the region. ... While Dawson sits 6th in 3A in scoring (216, 36.0 ppg) behind the classification’s leading passer in Zach Holtzclaw (1,617 yards, 19 TD) and a trio of WRs, led by Jaden Gibson (484 yards, 6 TDs), that have over 384 yards and average over 15 yards/catch on the season, it has been the defensive turnaround that may be the key. The Tigers allowed 131 points (43.6 ppg) in their first three games, all losses, but have yielded just 55 points (18.3 ppg) during their current 3-game win streak. ... The problem for West Hall has been the 2nd half, where they have been worn down in their last two games. The Spartans were tied with Cherokee Bluff in the 3rd quarter before falling 35-7. Against White County it was a 14-0 game in the 3rd quarter as well. ... The West Hall senior duo of QB Clayton Jenkins and WR Rodrigo is potent. Jenkins (1,043 yards, 6 TD) is having his best season while Lopez (39 rec., 578 yards, 3 TD) leads Class 3A in receiving.


EAST HALL at NORTH OCONEE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Titan Stadium, Watkinsville
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM WDUN
-- EAST HALL (4-3, 1-2 Region 8-4A): Defeated Chestatee 55-50 last week
-- NORTH OCONEE (2-5, 2-1 Region 8-4A): Lost 42-35 in 2 OT to Flowery Branch last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Both teams were involved with shootouts last week and expect another this week. ... A huge game for both teams but East Hall could climb into third place in the standings despite forfeiting two region games. The Titans, meanwhile, could remain in a tie for 2nd place with a win but could drop to as far as 5th place with a loss. ... Unofficially, the Vikings are the highest-scoring team in Class 4A. They are averaging 39.2 ppg in the five games they have actually played on the field. Benedictine, the No. 1 scoring team in 4A for teams with 6 or more games played, is averaging 36.8 ppg. ... Jr. QB Clete Cooper (1,528 yards, 10 TD, 4 INT) leads Class 4A and is 10th in the state in passing. He has a trio of receivers in 4A leader Macere Walker (29 rec., 598 yards), Mon Tabor (28 rec., 455 yards), and Matthew Lott (27 rec., 234 yards) that have been tough for defenses to stop.  ... The East Hall defense was roughed up by Chestatee last week but had been making strides allowing just 22.5 ppg in their previous four games. The Vikings allowed 42.7ppg in 2019. ... The Titans are 7th in 4A in scoring behind Clemson QB-commit Bubba Chandler. But they are also giving up 30.7 ppg on defense.


ELBERT COUNTY at UNION COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: At the gate; 100 percent
-- WHERE: Blairsville
-- ELBERT COUNTY (1-4, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Off last week; lost 27-20 to Lincoln County two weeks ago
-- UNION COUNTY (3-2, 1-0 Region 8-2A): Defeated Banks County 19-7 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Union County leads series 2-0. The Panthers won 35-14 in 2019 in Blairsville. Both games have come since 2018. ... The Blue Devils are off to their worst start since 2007 under new coach Shannon Jarvis, who built Mill Creek into a state power. The Panthers, who came into the season in rebuild mode have won three straight and are finding some key pieces. ... Union’s Jr. QB Logan Helcher is improving each week and Sr. RB Jonah Daniel, who has missed most of the season because of injuries, returned last week. The pair connected on a 24-yard TD pass on 4th down to seal the win. ... Defensively is where the Panthers have been outstanding all season. They have allowed just 19.2 ppg and held Commerce to its 2nd-lowest output and held Fannin County, No. 2 in 2A in scoring average, to its lowest output of the season (20). Elbert has scored the fewest points in the region (76, 15.2 ppg) and the 7th-fewest in Class 2A. ... Union has scored just 120 points (24.0 ppg) far below the 38.0 ppg it averaged the past three seasons. But Elbert is giving up 30.8 ppg on defense.


FLOWERY BRANCH at CEDAR SHOALS
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Waters-Wilkins Stadium, Athens
-- RADIO: WDUN AM 550
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (4-2, 1-1 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 6 in Class 4A; defeated North Oconee 42-35 in 2 OT last week
-- CEDAR SHOALS (2-4, 2-1 Region 8-4A): Lost 49-0 to Jefferson last week
-- NOTABLE: Flowery Branch leads series 8-0. The Falcons won the last meeting in 2017, 35-21, in Athens. ... Not only have the Falcons dominated this series but only one game has been decided by 10 points or less. ... The winner of this one will find themselves in 2nd place in the standings with the loser dropping as far as 5th depending on other region outcomes. ... The Falcons have been up-and-down on defense (184, 30.6 ppg) allowing 35 or more four times. However, the Jaguars have really struggled on offense scoring just 29 points in 5 games played (5.8 ppg) which is 37th out of 40 4A teams that have played 5 or more games. ... The Falcons, meanwhile, are 8th in scoring (188, 31.6 ppg) led by Jr. QB David Renard, who is back in the top 10 in the state and again leads 4A in passing (1,607 yards, 10 TD). Sr. RB Jaizen Ellingham returned from injury in grand style last week rushing for 222 yards and 4 TDs.


GAINESVILLE at SOUTH FORSYTH
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Gofan app; 60 percent capacity
-- WHERE: War Eagle Stadium, Cumming
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- GAINESVILLE (4-2, 2-0 Region 6-7A): Defeated Lambert 52-14 last week
-- SOUTH FORSYTH (4-1, 1-1 Region 6-7A): Lost 41-34 in OT to West Forsyth last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Series is tied 2-2. This is the first meeting between the two programs since 2001, a 28-7 South Forsyth win in Cumming. ... The season for the Red Elephants may really start this week. They begin a 4-game season-ending gauntlett against the four teams projected to be playoff contenders. ... Gainesville can climb into a tie atop the region with Denmark, which is off this week, with a win. A loss, however, would drop the Red Elephants into a three-way tie for second and the tiebreaker loss to the War Eagles. ... South was off to its best start since 2015 before last week’s heartbreaker. The War Eagles, a playoff preseason favorite, could find themselves in trouble with another loss to open region play and still having to face Denmark and North Forsyth the next two weeks ... Expect points to be scored early and often in this one. Statistically, the War Eagles have the highest-scoring offense in Class 7A (232, 46.4 ppg) behind Jr. QB Kyle Durham, who has 1,289 yards passing with 16 TDs and just 2 INTs on the season. He has three WRs with over 350 yards, led by Mitch Thompson with 619 yards and 8 TDs. They have four receivers averaging over 21 yards/catch on the season. ...  The Red Elephants can counter with an offense that is 7th in 7A (209, 34.8 ppg) behind a balanced attack. QB Gionni Williams and RB Naim Cheeks (who is expected back after missing last week) lead a powerful ground game and the passing game has improved. ... It may come down to whichever defense can make a stop. GHS is yielding 23.8 ppg while the War Eagles have given up 27.6 ppg. ... South is working on a 4-game home winning streak. The Red Elephants are 3-1 in their last four regular season road games going back to 2019.


LANIER at HABERSHAM CENTRAL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Raider Stadium, Mt. Airy
-- RADIO: 99.3 FM WCON
-- LANIER (4-1, 1-1 Region 8-6A): defeated Central Gwinnett 37-7 last week
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (3-4, 1-2 Region 8-6A): Lost 50-13 to No. 8 Dacula last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Lanier leads series 4-0. The Longhorns won 42-22 in Mt. Airy in 2019. ... Lanier is 2-0 at Raider Stadium and has won 7 straight regular season road games going back to the start of the 2019 season. ... The Raiders run into their third straight top 10 defense as the Longhorns have yielded just 82 points (16.4 ppg). The Raiders’ rushing attack is averaging over 250 yards/game with Joshua Pickett, who is now 14th overall in the state, nearing the 1,000-yard mark with 965 yards and 11 TD. Jackson Clouatre has 769 yards and 4 TD. ... But Lanier, which lost a heartbreaking 28-27 to Dacula three weeks ago  is stout. They have 51 TFL and 19 sacks and have forced 8 turnovers on the season. Sr. DL Kyle King has 14 TFL and Sr. LB Rylan Serna has 64 total tackles and 11 TFL for the Longhorns. Keeping them out of the backfield will be a key for the Raiders. ... Hab Central has allowed 211 points (30.1 ppg) but 94 have come in the last two weeks vs. Buford and Dacula. They have surrendered just 23.4 ppg vs. everyone else. ...The Raiders are tied for 5th in the region with Winder-Barrow but hold the tiebreaker edge over the Bulldogs. They finish the season vs. Central Gwinnett and Shiloh, who are a combined 3-10 on the season so they are very much alive for a playoff spot.


LOGANVILLE at JACKSON COUNTY (moved from Oct. 16)
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Gofan app; 50 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Panther Stadium, Jefferson
-- LOGANVILLE (2-4, 1-2 Region 8-5A): 
-- JACKSON COUNTY (3-3, 2-1 Region 8-5A): Defeated Johnson 43-0 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: No temperature check but masks are expected to be worn inside the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Loganville leads series 16-6. The two programs have not played since 2007, a 23-7 Loganville win in Jefferson. The Red Devils have won nine straight in the series. The last Panthers win came in 1996, 21-3. ... A big game for the Panthers to begin a huge 3-week run. They sit tied in third with Greenbrier with games to follow against Eastside, which is in second, and Greenbrier. ... A win would give them no worse than a tie for third and maybe even sole possession of second place in the region. A loss, however, could drop them as far down as 6th. ... Jackson County may have to rely once again on its defense. Statistically the Panthers are 12th in defense in Class 5A (94, 15.6 ppg). Only seven teams in 5A, who have played 6 or more games, have given up fewer points than Jackson County. But when the Panthers, who are averaging 20.3 ppg, score 20 or more they are 3-0 on the season. ... Loganville has scored just 110 points (18.3 ppg) which is in the bottom quarter in Class 5A. The Red Devils have been tough on defense, however, giving up just 111 points (18.5 ppg) with 42 coming from Class 7A 7th-ranked Parkview. ... Loganville is accustomed to playing close games with 4 of their 6 contests being decided by 8 points or less. However, they are just 1-3 in those games.


MADISON COUNTY at CHESTATEE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: War Eagle Stadium, Gainesville
-- MADISON COUNTY (1-5, 0-2 Region 8-4A): Off last week; lost 23-7 to Cedar Shoals two weeks ago
-- CHESTATEE (0-6, 0-2 Region 8-4A): Lost 55-50 to East Hall last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Mask/face coverings and temperature will be required to get into the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Series is tied 2-2. Madison County won the last meeting in 2015, 59-29, in Gainesville. The two teams have split a pair of home and away games in the series. ... Both teams’ postseason hopes hinge on this one. The winner will stay alive for a playoff spot while the loser will stay in last place and would have to win out and get help. ... Madison still must play the top three offensive teams in the region in No. 6 Branch, No. 2 Jefferson, and East Hall. ... The War Eagles still have games left with Jefferson and the Falcons. ...  The War Eagles had been struggling on offense with the season-ending injury of QB and Tennessee-commit Christian Charles scoring just 69 points (12.8 ppg) in their first 5 games. But new QB Luke Bornhorst had his breakout game last week. The  Jr. was 24-of-45 passing for 405 yards and 3 TDs as they scored 43 second-half points. ... The Red Raiders, a playoff quarterfinalist last year, is rebuilding. They have managed just 80 points (13.3 ppg) on offense while giving up 159 points (26.5 ppg) on defense.


MT. PISGAH at LAKEVIEW ACADEMY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Students and parents only, partial capacity
-- WHERE: Lions Stadium, Gainesville
-- MT. PISGAH (3-3, 0-0 Region 6-A Private): Defeated Class 5A Chamblee 35-14 last week
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (3-3, 1-1 Region 6-A Private): Lakeview defeated King’s Ridge 14-6 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are required, but  no temperature checks. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Since beginning region play in 2014, this is the first time the Lions have been 3-3 this late in a season. ... It is the region opener for the Patriots and a huge game for both teams. The winner will be in second place in the region, and for the Lions, it would almost assure them of their first-ever playoff spot with struggling St. Francis (1-5) in two weeks to close out the region. The Patriots travel to No. 4 Fellowship Christian next week and could face an 0-2 start to the region. ... Defense has carried the Lions (14.6 ppg) like last week when they sealed their first region win with a strip-sack on the final possession of the game. ... Mt. Pisgah is averaging 27.6 ppg but is 0-3 when scoring 24 or less. The Patriots are 3-0 when scoring more than 24 so whichever unit wins that battle may well decide this one. ... Lakeview is averaging just 20.2 ppg while Mt. Pisgah is yielding 24.3 ppg.


NORTH HALL at GILMER
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Huff-Mosley Stadium, Ellijah
-- NORTH HALL (4-3,3-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Lumpkin County 33-10 last week
-- GILMER (3-3, 1-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 35-0 to Dawson County last week
-- NOTABLE: North Hall leads series 9-5. It is the first meeting between the two programs since 2009. The Trojans have won 8 straight in the series going back to 2002. The last Bobcats win was in 1977, 22-0 in Ellijay. ... You better come early because both teams run the wing-T and it may be over in an hour. ... But seriously, after a 3-game losing streak to open the season, the Trojans have won 4 straight behind a resurgent offense and an improving young defense. They have averaged 39.2 ppg during the win streak after scoring just 29 total points (9.6 ppg) in their first three games. On defense, they have given up just 82 points (20.5 ppg) in their last 4 games after surrendering 113 points (37.6 ppg) in their first three. ... North Hall’s duo of Clark Howell and Kevin Rochester may be the best 1-2 punch in Class 3A at the moment. They have combined for 1,619 yards and 21 TDs (Howell, 1,027, 13 TD; Rochester, 592 8 TD). ... Howell has bulled his way up the leader chart to now lead Class 3A in rushing, good for 10th overall in the state. He is averaging 146 yards/game with 6 100-yard games. ... Gilmer's wing-T offense was ground to a halt last week amassing just 65 total yards and only 28 in the second half. The key number for the Bobcats may be 28. When they score 28 or more, they are 3-0. When scoring less than that, 0-3. ... The Gilmer defense had allowed just 88 total points (17.6 ppg) in their first 5 games until being torched by the Tigers last week for double that.


HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE FOR Oct. 31
(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
BANKS COUNTY at RABUN COUNTY (moved from Friday Oct. 30 due to power outage)
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- BANKS COUNTY (1-6, 0-1 Region 8-2A): Lost 19-7 to Union County last week
-- RABUN COUNTY (6-1, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 3 in Class 2A; defeated Columbia Academy (TN) 42-6 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Rabun County leads series 20-10. The Wildcats won 52-9 in 2019 in Tiger. Rabun has won four straight in the series. Banks County won five straight before that. The last Leopards victory was in 2011, 40-28, in Homer. ... It has been a streaky series in general and lopsided since it resumed in 2016. Rabun County has outscored Banks County 211-26 during its current win streak. And current numbers are on the side of the Wildcats. ... Rabun County leads Class 2A in scoring (310, 44.2 ppg) behind Jr. QB and South Carolina-commit Gunner Stockton, who leads 2A in passing with 1,650 yards to go with 25 TDs and just 1 INT on the season. So. RB Lang Windham has gotten better as the season has gone on and now has 702 yards with 4 TDs and 4 100-yard games to complement Stockton, who has 629 yards on the ground. Sr. WR Adriel Clark still leads 2A in receiving with 755 yards and has hauled in 14 TD catches. ... Banks County has given up the 5th-most points in 2A (211, 35.1 ppg) on defense. The Leopards are averaging just 14.7 ppg on offense but have faced one of the toughest schedules in the area. This will be their third games vs. a top-10 team and their now-eight opponents have a 32-16 combined record (.667).

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