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Thursday December 3rd, 2020 6:09AM

ICYMI: Week 12 previews: Region titles, playoff spots on the line in regular season finales

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

For several teams, the final week of the regular season will be for fine-tuning or completing what has surely been the most stressful football season in history, regardless of playoff runs.

For others, the added stress of “win now or go home” is upon them as a big weekend around the northeast Georgia area is on tap.

There may be no game bigger this week in the state than when Buford plays host to Dacula in a battle of top 6 teams for the Region 8-6A title. The Wolves and Falcons are renewing a once-revered rivalry after 25 years of stagnation due to Dacula’s rise up the classification ladder. Now Buford has made that same rise and it could be one for the ages at Tom Riden Stadium.

In another traditional rivalry that is about to heated once again, Commerce plays host to Lincoln County for the Region 8-A Public title. The Tigers can win the title outright with a win but a loss to the Red Devils could send it to a tiebreaker. Both teams come in hot so this one also could be an instant classic.

Then there are teams like Gainesville, Habersham Central (which plays on Saturday), Jackson County, East Hall, and Towns County all are playing for their playoff lives.

It should be one of the best weekends of the season. So yet again, expect a wild weekend as teams pull out all the stops to stay alive and go title hunting.

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 Nov. 20
(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
APALACHEE at JACKSON COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Panthers Stadium, Jefferson
-- APALACHEE (2-7, 2-4 Region 8-5A): Lost 43-15 to Loganville last week
-- JACKSON COUNTY (3-6, 2-4 Region 8-5A): Lost 26-12 to Greenbrier last week
-- NOTABLE: Apalachee leads series 4-0. The Wildcats won 21-14 in 2019. ... The stakes are high. The loser is out. The winner would be locked in a tie for fourth with tiebreakers then deciding the final spot. ... Jackson County has found the going tough over the last month. After averaging 20.3 ppg on offense and yielding just 15.6 ppg on defense over the first six games, the Panthers have scored just 19 points (6.3 ppg) and allowed 100 points (33.3 ppg) during their current 3-game losing streak. ... Apalachee is averaging 26.5 ppg over the last four games (2-2) and had its 2-game win streak snapped last week. The Wildcats are looking for their first playoff appearance since 2009. ... RB Tre Ransom rushed for 203 yards last week But turnovers may decide this one. The Wildcats are averaging 1.3 turnovers/game while turnovers also have plagued the Panthers during the season.


BANKS COUNTY at ELBERT COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Granite Bowl, Elberton
-- BANKS COUNTY (1-8, 0-2 Region 8-2A): Off last week; lost 34-7 to George Walton Academy two weeks ago
-- ELBERT COUNTY (2-5, 1-1 Region 8-5A): Off last week; lost 63-7 to No. 3 Rabun County two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Elbert County leads series 3-1. The Blue Devils won 48-13 in 2019. The Leopards’ only win in the series came in 2016, 43-29, in Elberton. ... There is no pressure of making the playoffs as there are only four teams in 8-2A. Rabun County has clinched the region title but a Banks win would throw the Leopards, Elbert, and Union into a tie for second and into the tiebreakers. ... Banks County has allowed the 4th-most points (316, 35.1 ppg) but Elbert is allowing 32.4 ppg. Neither team is an offensive powerhouse. The Blue Devils are averaging just 13.8 ppg while Banks County is averaging 12.2 ppg.


CEDAR SHOALS at CHESTATEE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: War Eagle Stadium, Gainesville
-- CEDAR SHOALS (1-6, 1-3 Region 8-4A): Off last week; lost 31-7 to North Oconee two weeks ago
-- CHESTATEE (0-9, 0-5 Region 8-4A): Lost 61-20 to Flowery Branch last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The War Eagles have been eliminated while the Jaguars still have a shot at the playoffs with a win and losses by East Hall and Madison County this week. ... Defense is still the issue for the War Eagles, who have given up 421 points (46.7 ppg) the most in Class 4A in 2020. The Jaguars, however, have the 2nd-worst offense in 4A scoring just 57 total points (8.1 ppg). ... A Cedar Shoals loss would give the Jaguars their fewest wins since 2015 (2-8). Chestatee is trying to avoid its first winless season since 2015.


DACULA at BUFORD
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- RADIO: WDUM AM 550 
-- DACULA (6-2, 5-0 Region 8-6A): Ranked No. 6 in Class 6A; defeated Central Gwinnett 20-16 last week
-- BUFORD (7-1, 5-0 Region 8-6A): Ranked No. 2 in Class 4A; defeated Winder-Barrow 45-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Buford leads the series 24-8. An old-time rivalry that most of the state has been waiting to see rekindled. The two teams met every year from 1964 to 1995 mainly as part of the old Region 8-A but as Dacula rose up the classifications the rivalry was put on hold. Buford won the last meeting in 1995, 26-0, in Buford in the only meeting until this one where both teams were ranked. The Falcons won 28-14 in 1994 in Dacula. ... This is a battle for the region title with the loser taking the No. 2 seed. It should be a great matchup on both sides no matter who has the ball. ... Both teams are in the top 4 in 6A in scoring average (Buford is 1st, 40.5 ppg; Dacula is 4th, 35.8). The slight edge may go to the Buford defense, which is 2nd in 6A allowing just 7.2 ppg while the Falcons have allowed 18.7 ppg. ... However, the Falcons are more balanced on offense averaging nearly 200 yards/game rushing and passing. ... But last week the Wolves broke out their passing attack behind So. QB Dylan Wittke, who was 8-of-10 for 173 yards and 3 TDs vs. the Bulldoggs. ... Last week the Falcons showed the ability to rally trailing the Black Knights 16-7 lead early in the 4th quarter. Percy Williams, sparked them with an 80-yard KO return for a TD and Kyle Efford, who rushed for 224 yards, scored on a 5-yard run for the game-winner with just under 8 minutes left.


DAWSON COUNTY at NORTH HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM WDUN; www.northgeorgiasportslink.com
-- DAWSON COUNTY (5-4, 4-1 Region 7-3A): Defeated Lumpkin County 63-3 last week
-- NORTH HALL (5-4, 4-1 Region 7-3A): Lost 41-24 to No. 9 Cherokee Bluff last week
-- NOTABLE: Series is tied 3-3. North Hall won 40-37 in 2019 at The Brickyard. ... This is the 5th straight year the two teams have met after playing just twice in their history. Dawson County is 3-1 since the series resumed in 2016. ... The last two contests have been classics, each decided by 7 points or less and each coming down to the final minute. Expect another one as once again a No. 2 seed and a home playoff game is at stake. ... It will be a contrast in styles as the Trojans are averaging nearly 300 yards/game on the ground in their wing-T behind Sr. RB Clark Howell, who is in the top five in the state in rushing with over 1,300 yards and has scored 19 TDs. The Tigers offer a spread attack behind Jr. QB Zach Holtzclaw, who leads Class 3A with 2,176 yards passing and 24 TDs. The Tigers are 2nd in 3A in scoring (346, 38.4 ppg) ... Both defenses also have given up points. North Hall is allowing 27.5 ppg while the Tigers have surrendered 26.5 ppg on the season.


EAST JACKSON at STEPHENS COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Reservation, Toccoa
-- EAST JACKSON (1-7, 0-4 Region 8-3A): Lost 49-9 to Hart County last week
-- STEPHENS COUNTY (4-3, 0-2 Region 8-3A): Off last three weeks
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. The Eagles have lost seven straight since a season-opening win. ... The Indians have been hit hard by COVID and had to forfeit their last two games against Oconee County and Hart County. They have not played a game since Oct. 23, a 29-28 loss to Franklin County.


JEFFERSON at MADISON COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Red Raider Stadium, Danielsville
-- JEFFERSON (7-0, 3-0 Region 8-4A): Off last week after North oconee had to forfeit; ranked No. 2 in Class 4A; defeated Chestatee 67-12 two weeks ago
-- MADISON COUNTY (3-6, 2-3 Region 8-4A): Defeated East Hall 38-6 last week
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 11-5. The Dragons won the last meeting in 2017, 49-0, in Jefferson. The Dragons have won two straight but this is just the third meeting since 2001 and just the fifth since 1983. ... Jefferson already has wrapped up the region title so the temptation to rest key starters may be there. But the Red Raiders are still very much alive for a playoff spot. ... Madison County can clinch a spot with a win but would face elimination with a loss and the outcomes of East Hall and Cedar Shoals. ... It will not be easy for the Red Raiders. The Dragons lead 4A in scoring average (44.8 ppg) behind a punishing ground game led by Malaki Starks and Kolton Jones.  The Red Raiders are in the bottom third of 4A allowing 26.1 ppg. ... Jefferson is 5th in defense (67, 9.5 ppg) while Madison County is averaging just 19.5 ppg on offense.


LINCOLN COUNTY at COMMERCE
-- WHEN: 8 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Ray Lamb Stadium, Commerce
-- LINCOLN COUNTY (5-3, 2-1 Region 8-A Public): Defeated Greene County 48-19 last week
-- COMMERCE (8-1, 4-0 Region 8-A Public): Ranked No. 4 in Class A Public; defeated No. 8 Washington-Wilkes 28-17 last week
-- NOTABLE: Lincoln County leads series 14-4. The Red Devils won 21-17 in 2019 in the 2nd round of the Class A Public playoffs. ... While the Red Devils have dominated the series, the two teams have only met twice since 2009 and 13 of the meetings came in an 11-period span from 1998 to 2009. ... The Tigers hold the region title in their hands. A win and they claim the 8-A title. A loss and it would give the top three teams one loss each. They have not won a region title since 2003. The Red Devils have not won a region title since 2013. ... Commerce is 6th in scoring in A Public (342, 39.00 ppg) behind QB Trey Huff and Fr. Sammy Brown, who are driving their triple-option, which is averaging roughly 300 yards/game. The Lincoln defense is giving up just 19.0 ppg (152 points) on the season. ... The Tigers demonstrated last week they can stage the comeback rallying for 14 points in the 4th quarter while holding Washington-Wilkes scoreless in the 2nd half.


NORTH FORSYTH at GAINESVILLE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: City Park Stadium, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- NORTH FORSYTH (6-3, 2-3 Region 6-7A): Lost 52-7 to South Forsyth last week
-- GAINESVILLE (5-4, 3-2 Region 6-7A): Lost 24-21 to Denmark last week
-- NOTABLE: North Forsyth leads series 6-0. The Raiders won 21-7 in 2019 in Coal Mountain. They won 24-21 in Gainesville in 2018. ... This was a game some thought before the season began would decide the region title. Now, both teams need a win to stay alive in the playoff race. GHS can still finish 2nd, however, with a win and a West Forsyth loss to Denmark. But a loss and a South Forsyth win and it will go to a tiebreaker for the last two spots. ... Virtually every game for the Red Elephants has come down to the final possession. They have dropped two straight and their 4 losses were decided by just 18 points. ... The loss last week by the Raiders was their worst since a 55-7 loss to North Gwinnett in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. ... The key matchup will be the Red Elephants offense vs. the North Forsyth defense. GHS is 12th in offense in Class 7A (265, 29.4 ppg) while the Raiders had given up just 104 points (13.0 ppg) on defense until last week. 


PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN at LAKEVIEW ACADEMY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Lion Stadium, Gainesville
-- PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN (0-9, 0-4 Region 5-A Private): Lost 48-21 to Hebron Christian last week
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (4-4, 2-2 Region 6-A Private): Defeated St. Francis 59-27 last week
-- NOTABLE: Lakeview Academy leads series 4-0. The Lions won the last meeting 35-14 in 2017. ... Lakeview has already clinched a playoff spot and can use this game to fine-tune for its first-ever playoff appearance. It’s also a big game for the program. A win for Lakeview would give the Lions their first winning season since 2012 but their first-ever while playing a region schedule. ... This should be a favorable matchup for the Lakeview offense, which is averaging 25.0 ppg (175 points). Providence Christian has given up the most points in Class Private (430, 47.7 ppg).


TOWNS COUNTY at WASHINGTON-WILKES
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tiger Field, Washington
-- TOWNS COUNTY (3-6, 1-3 Region 8-A Public): Lost 34-27 to Social Circle last week
-- WASHINGTON-WILKES (7-1, 3-1 Region 8-A Public): Ranked No. 9 in Class A Public; lost 28-17 to No. 4 Commerce last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Indians playoff hopes took a big blow last week but they can still get in with a win and a loss by Social Circle to Greene County. ... Towns County has been close to perhaps its best season ever. Three of their five losses on the field were by just 10 total points. ... The Indians will have to play their best game of the season against a Tigers team that led Commerce until the fourth quarter. The Tigers are 10th in A Public is scoring (257, 36.5 ppg) while the improved Indians have allowed just 24.2 ppg (194 points) which is less than half of the 53.7 ppg they gave up in 2019.


WEST HALL at LUMPKIN COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega
-- WEST HALL (3-6, 1-4 Region 7-3A): Off last week; defeated Gilmer 35-7 two weeks ago
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (0-9, 0-5 Region 7-3A): Lost 63-3 to Dawson County last week
-- NOTABLE: West Hall leads series 10-5. The Spartans won the last meeting in 2015, 14-7, in Dahlonega. West Hall has won 4 straight in the series. The last Lumpkin County win came in 2011, 31-21 in Oakwood. ...
Both teams have been eliminated from the  playoffs though the Spartans have played much better than their record indicates. They have had the lead or were tied in the second half in half of their losses. ... A win would give West Hall its most wins in a season since going 5-6 in 2017. ... The Indians are trying to avoid making history. Last week’s loss was their 15th straight and tied their longest losing streak in program history (Oct. 1991 to Sept. 1993). They also are trying to avoid their first winless season since 2006. ... The Spartans feature one of the best QB-WR duos in Class 3A. Sr. QB Clayton Jenkins (1,507 yards) has been in the top 30 in the state most of the season while Sr. WR Rodrigo Lopez leads Class 3A in receiving with 777 yards. ... Lumpkin County has allowed the 2nd-most points in Class 3A (398, 44.2 ppg).


WHITE COUNTY at CHEROKEE BLUFF
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Bears Stadium, Flowery Branch
-- RADIO: 93.9 FM WRWH; www.wrwh.com
-- WHITE COUNTY (5-4, 4-1 Region 7-3A): Off last after Gilmer had to forfeit
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (5-4, 4-1 Region 7-3A): Rank No. 9 in Class 3A; defeated North Hall 41-24 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Both teams already have clinched playoff berths, with the Bears clinching the 7-3A title last week and the Warriors locked in as the No. 4 seed. ... But the Warriors were a preseason pick to win the region and without an injury to Sr. QB J. Ben Haynes this may well have been the region title game. ... White County by percentage points (314, 39.25 ppg) is the highest scoring team in Class 3A behind Haynes (and that’s with him missing nearly two full games). The Warriors are averaging 42.0 ppg since his return and no defense has held them under 28 points all season. ... The Bears (353, 39.22 ppg) are 2nd in scoring average behind a balanced attack led by surging QB Sebastian Irons, who  was 10-of-15 passing for 212 yards and 2 TDs last week, and Sr. RB Jayquan Smith, who has come on strong over the 2nd half of the season (849 yards, 11 TDs, 3 100-yd games). WR Shad Dabney had his biggest game of the season with 6 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown last week. They have been held under 28 points (Gilmer) just once ... But the key matchup will be the Warriors offense against the Bears defense, which is 4th in 3A allowing just 9.3 ppg (84 points). White County has allowed 169 points (21.1 ppg) on the season.


HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE FOR Nov. 21
(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
HABERSHAM CENTRAL at SHILOH
-- WHEN: 2 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Shiloh Community Stadium, Lithonia
-- RADIO: 99.3 FM WCON
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (5-4, 3-2 Region 8-6A): Defeated Central Gwinnett 62-14 on Tuesday
-- SHILOH (3-6, 2-3 Region 8-6A): Defeated Lanier 20-17 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... This game has huge playoff implications, but it also can be very simple. A Raiders win and they’re the No. 3 seed. A Shiloh win and a Winder-Barrow win over Lanier and it goes to a 3-way tie for the final two spots. A Shiloh win and a Lanier win gives the Generals the No. 3 seed and Habersham will be the 4th seed. ... On paper this looks like a good matchup for the Raiders. The Generals have allowed the 10th-most points in 6A (268, 29.7 ppg) while the Raiders are 11th in 6A in offense (261, 29.0 ppg) behind a punishing ground game led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Joshua Pickett (1,349 yards, 17 TD) and Jackson Clouatre (1,001 yards, 8 TD). ... But it may be the Habersham defense that is driving its 2-game win streak. They have allowed just 14.5 ppg and forced 10 turnovers, including 9 INTs, in that span. The Shiloh offense has scored just 151 points (16.7 ppg) and is barely averaging 200 yards/game.

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