A thriller in Dawsonville highlighted a weekend with heavy playoff implications for Northeast Georgia teams.
Here are five things we learned in Week 10:
1. Cherokee Bluff has big-game poise, now within reach of region crown
Cherokee Bluff's 7-0 start to the season was impressive. What they did Friday night in Dawsonville, however, likely opened more eyes than any of their other performances to date. The Bears edged out Dawson County 28-27 in what was, to date, the biggest game in the history of the program, and one that now puts them one win away from their first region championship. The Tigers were the best opponent Cherokee Bluff (8-0, 4-0) had played yet and they delivered plenty of challenges, taking the early lead on a pick-six in the opening quarter and leading at both halftime and the end of the third quarter. Then, the Bears responded with a fourth quarter for the books, taking the lead on a 79-yard burst by junior Jayquan Smith, holding the lead with a blocked field goal by Eric Gohman and then stringing together a drive that burned off the remaining six minutes and change left on the clock. If there were any questions about Cherokee Bluff's ability to perform in late-game situations against quality opponents, those should be quieted now.
2. Towns County defense has them a game away from history
Jason Roquemore's second season in Hiawassee has had its ups and downs. However, he and the Indians enter Week 11 with a chance to make program history. Towns County (3-4, 1-2) is now just one win away from what would be just the program's second ever state playoff appearance and first since 2017. They are in this position thanks, in large part, to their defense, which is allowing just 20 points per game this season and was lights out in a 20-0 road win at Region 8-A Public foe Greene County Friday night. It was the Indians' first region win yet this year and now sets up a battle with Social Circle for what will likely be the fourth seed in the region. Being in the control of their own playoff destiny is not something football fans in Hiawassee are used to, but if they can beat the Redskins Friday, this year's senior class will have two playoff appearances to their name. Hopefully another shutout is not required to get it done, but this defense appears to be up to the task.
3. Jackson County in a 5-lane pileup in 8-5A playoff race
Jackson County suffered its second straight loss Thursday on the road at Eastside, but the playoff picture did not become any clearer after Week 10. What we learned was that while Clarke Central has now clinched the region championship in 8-5A for the second year in a row, trying to predict who will get the last two playoff seeds would be like trying to predict the presidential election winner twenty minutes after the polls close. The Panthers (3-5, 2-3) will be part of a five-team game of musical chairs and their last two games, on the road at Greenbrier this week and then at home against Apalachee, will both be paramount if they hope to make their first postseason appearance under second-year head coach Rich McWhorter and first since 2017. Winning their last two games would almost assure them a playoff spot, but the Greenbrier matchup will likely be the most important, as Jackson County has already lost the tiebreaker with Loganville.
4. Rabun County's offense is red hot, even by their lofty standards
Everyone in Georgia knew Rabun County could put up points. The numbers they're putting up over the past five weeks however are bordering on absurd. Since a 28-14 loss to Jefferson back on September 18, the Wildcats (8-1, 2-0) are on a six-game winning streak and are scoring a mind-boggling 59.5 points per game in that stretch. They've scored at least 63 points in four of their last five games, topping the 70-point mark twice. There's no sign of slowing down. The most recent burst came Friday night at Elbert County, where Gunner Stockton and company scored 63 points in the Granite Bowl, the most ever allowed in a game by the Blue Devils and the largest margin of defeat the program had ever suffered. This offensive firepower is impressive even by Rabun County's standards, which are quite high. The Wildcats have scored at least 44 points per game every year since 2016, but they're currently on pace for the program's highest-scoring season ever. The question is, will those numbers come with their first-ever state championship in December?
5. Despite loss, Gainesville defense ready for region title push
Gainesville suffered their first setback in Region 6-7A play Friday at the hands of West Forsyth. Despite that, they still have everything on the table entering the last two weeks of the regular season. The Red Elephants (5-3, 3-1) know they'll be in the postseason for the 21st consecutive season, but they could finish anywhere from region champs to the fourth seed and anywhere in between. This week's battle with Denmark will be the biggest game in the region yet, with the winner being in prime position to capture a region title, something the Danes have never done in their short, three-year history and something Gainesville hasn't done since 2013. The return of Denmark quarterback Aaron McLaughlin has changed the landscape of 6-7A dramatically, but Gainesville's defense appears to a unit capable of slowing him down, as they've allowed just 14 points in each of their last two games. If they can avoid the turnovers and missed opportunities that doomed them against West Forsyth, they could well walk out of Alpharetta as the leaders in the region clubhouse.