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Friday September 18th, 2020 7:10PM

Football: Top games that are must-see in 2020

By Caleb Hutchins

Must-see doesn’t just apply to television or the movie theaters. If you are a high school football fan, there are more than enough upcoming games around the northeast Georgia area during the 2020 season to keep even the most ardent fans satisfied.

Buford, Gainesville, Jefferson, Flowery Branch, just to name a few, all have some crucial and potential season-defining contests on tap that could help shape the 2020 campaign.

Here is a list that we think could be some of the top games and most highly-anticipated showdowns throughout northeast Georgia. A few will even grab the attention of the entire state. 

Johnson at Cherokee Bluff (Week 1)
These two teams have traded blowouts over the past two seasons and both programs will have intrigue surrounding their upcoming seasons. The Knights contributed to Cherokee Bluff’s winless inaugural season in 2018 with a 34-13 win over the Bears at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium. Last year, however, Cherokee Bluff got revenge in a big way with a 37-7 romp of Johnson in Flowery Branch for the program’s first-ever win. Now, the Bears appear to have the pieces in place for a potential postseason run. Meanwhile, Johnson is looking for early success in the first season under new head coach William Harrell. While it may not be a rivalry yet, a tight ball game in Week 1 could inch it in that direction.
 
Flowery Branch at Dawson County (Week 2)
Flowery Branch and Dawson County have been among Northeast Georgia’s top programs over the past several seasons and for the first time ever, the two will meet on the gridiron this year. The Falcons travel to Dawsonville in Week 2 in a non-region matchup that will provide early looks at teams that look to be top contenders in their respective regions. Both teams will be returning nearly the entire offensive skill personnel from 2019, but both will also be replacing a plethora of defensive talent. Will that lead to a high-scoring affair, or will the two new-look defenses rise to the task? It should be a fun matchup to watch either way.
 
Rabun County vs. Prince Avenue Christian (Week 2)
Do you like high-level quarterback play? Rabun County and Prince Avenue Christian have the game for you. The Wildcats will host the Wolverines in Week 2 in a matchup of two of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Rabun County junior Gunner Stockton has been rated as the top quarterback in America for the 2022 class, while Prince Avenue Christian sports one of 2021’s top passers in Georgia-commit Brock Vandergriff. It’s not just about the signal callers though. The Wildcats and Wolverines have been two of the state’s top programs of late. Prince Avenue Christian has made a number of deep playoff runs in Class A-Private while Rabun County has made at least the state quarterfinals each of the last five seasons in Class 2A.
 
Gainesville at Flowery Branch (Week 3)
The renewal of the Flowery Branch-Gainesville rivalry will once again be an important look at two of the area’s top programs. While the matchup is now a non-region game, it will still be important for momentum for both teams, who are looking to make strides in new regions. Flowery Branch has won the last two matchups and is looking to win three straight against Gainesville for the first time ever. The Falcons are moving into the staunch region 8-4A, while the Red Elephants are making the move up to the state’s largest classification. This will be the biggest non-region matchup for both schools as they head towards their region slates.
 
Jefferson at Flowery Branch (Week 6)
When Jefferson and Flowery Branch met in 2017, it was one of the highest-billed games of the season and did not disappoint. There is history here, with Falcons head coach Ben Hall being a former coach of the Dragons from 2013 to 2016. The 2017 meeting saw Jefferson beat their former coach 35-29 in come-from-behind fashion for an early signature win under current head coach Gene Cathcart. Now the coaching history will be a backdrop to what will likely be the biggest matchup in all of Region 8-4A. It will be the region opener for both teams and the winner will have the early inside track to the region title.
 
White County at Dawson County (Week 6)
Region 7-3A is now anyone’s to win with the departure of four-time region champion Greater Atlanta Christian. Dawson County and region newcomer White County look to be two of the top teams to take the now-vacant crown and the two will meet to open region play in Dawsonville. Dawson County returns a potent offensive unit from last season, while White County will be able to put up points as well with senior quarterback J. Ben Haynes. The winner of this game will be the early favorite to win a region title, something the Warriors have not done in their history. The Tigers’ last and only region title came in 2015.
 
North Hall at White County (Week 7)
Few series in the area have been more hotly contested over the past decade than North Hall and White County. The Trojans dominated the rivalry in the 2000’s, but the Warriors have flipped that script, winning five of the last seven meetings dating back to 2013. The meeting now holds even more weight with the two sharing a region as White County has moved down to Region 7-3A. The Warriors came back from a double-digit deficit to upset North Hall at the Brickyard last year, so there will be plenty of motivation for the Trojans when they head to Cleveland. The last four meetings in the series have been decided by 10 points or fewer.
 
Gainesville vs. North Forsyth (Week 12)
Gainesville is joining the ranks of the state’s largest classification this year and Region 5-7A looks to be a dogfight. The Red Elephants will be the only non-Forsyth County school in the region, but they look to be one of the playoff contenders. If they can fight their way through the region, they may find themselves in a massive matchup to end the regular season. North Forsyth was the closest team in Forsyth County to the region title last year when they met Milton in the region title game, and the Raiders look to be one of the top teams in 5-7A this year. Gainesville and North Forsyth have met plenty of times over the years, but Gainesville has never beaten the Raiders. If they can end that streak, they may find themselves in a very good playoff position.
 
Buford vs. Dacula (Week 12)
There’s no rest for Buford. The Wolves will be rewarded for their 2019 Class 5A state championship by moving up to Class 6A and joining one of the classification’s top regions in Region 8-6A. Chief among their challengers will be four-time reigning region champion Dacula. The Falcons are a former long-time rival of Buford, but the series has gone dormant. The two haven’t met on the field since 1995. It will be the region finale and it may very well be the region title game by the time it arrives. Buford had won six straight region championships before a loss to Clarke Central last year ended that streak. They’ll look to get back to their region-winning ways this year.
 
Commerce vs. Lincoln County (Week 12)
1,145 wins. 50 region championships. 13 state championships. Those are the combined accolades of the Commerce and Lincoln County football programs. The two state powerhouses now share a region in 8-A Public and their matchup to end the season could decide the region title. Fans got a teaser for this one in last season’s playoffs. The Red Devils held off the Tigers 21-17 in Lincolnton in the second round of the Class A-Public bracket. This year’s matchup shifts to Commerce and the Tigers will want revenge, and possibly their 18th region championship. To do it, they’ll have to beat a Lincoln County team that once again looks to be one of the elites in the classification.

 

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