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Monday September 21st, 2020 4:59AM

ICYMI: Rabun-Prince Avenue headline big night around the area

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

There's no escaping the elephant in northeast Georgia this week.

Rabun County ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, entertains Class A Private No. 3 Prince Avenue Christian in Tiger on Friday night in a battle between two teams considered state title contenders in 2020. But the rankings aren't the big draw. It will also be a battle between Class of 2021 top-rated quarterback prospect in the Wolverines' Brock Vandagriff (Georgia-commit) and Class of 2022 top-rated quarterback prospect in the Wildcats' Gunner Stockton (South Carolina-commit).

The scheduled showdown attracted enough offseason attention that it also will be the nationally-featured game on ESPN U as well (kickoff is slated for 8 p.m.).

But that isn't the only compelling matchup of the night in northeast Georgia. A pair of perennial playoff teams in Flowery Branch and Dawson County will meet for the first time ever in Dawsonville while Buford travels to Acworth to take on Class 7A North Cobb in a matchup between programs for the first time since 1959. Jefferson takes on Class 6A Central Gwinnett in their first meeting since 1975.

White County and Habersham Central look to move to 2-0 for the first time in several years while Cherokee Bluff is looking for its first 2-0 start in just its third year as a program. North Hall, meanwhile, will try to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2017 in a battle against a Stephens County team that is in its biggest downward trend since the late 1960s.

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 Sept. 11
(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
BANKS COUNTY at FRANKLIN COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate, allowing 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Ed Bryant Stadium, Carnesville
-- BANKS COUNTY (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Lost 41-18 to Commerce last week
-- FRANKLIN COUNTY (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Defeated Lumpkin County 33-3 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required but recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Franklin County leads series 3-1. Banks County won 15-7 in 2019 in Homer. ... The Lions won their season opener for the first time since 2016 and now look for their first 2-0 start since 1990. Their best start since that time was a 1-0-1 start to the 2010 campaign. ... Banks is trying to avoid its fourth 0-2 start in five seasons. ... The Leopards got a solid game from QB Bowen Roberts, who had a 39-yard TD pass and a rushing TD in the first half. ... Banks was within striking distance (trailed 20-12) until late in the first half when Commerce roughed up the defense until late in the game with 21 unanswered points.


BETHLEHEM CHRISTIAN at TOWNS COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate, allowing 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee
-- BETHLEHEM CHRISTIAN (0-1, non-region schedule): The Knights lost 49-0 Strong Rock Christian last week
-- TOWNS COUNTY (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-A Public): Lost 10-7 to Armuchee last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Indians could not hold an early lead last week as they tried to end what is now an 11-game win streak. ... This week they get a Knights program, normally a GISA association program, that is playing a limited, non-region schedule overall. They are just 1-18 in their 19 games going back to September 2018. ... This is the second of four straight home games to open the season for Towns County. The Indians are still looking for that breakout offensive game despite some new key pieces. They have scored over 16 points just once in their last 11 contests. But with a game under their belts and an opponent that has allowed 48 or more points 5 times over its last 7 games going back to last season, look for this to be the week they get things rolling.


BUFORD at NORTH COBB
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: GoFan app, 450 tickets available for visiting fans; 30 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Emory Sewell Stadium, Acworth
-- BUFORD (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Ranked No. 3 Class 6A; season-opener, 14-1, Class 5A state champ in 2019
-- NORTH COBB (1-0, 0-0 Region 3-7A): Defeated Sprayberry 48-30 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are required. Temperature checks at the gate. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: North Cobb leads series 2-0. First meeting between the two programs since 1959. ... North Cobb may have one of the toughest draws in the state with three 2019 state champs on the schedule. They also take on Marietta (Class 7A) and Harrison (Class 6A). ... The Warriors’ 48 points was the most in a game in nearly two seasons. The Wolves defense, which allowed just 12.8 ppg last year, returns the bulk of that unit, which already is being touted as potentially one of the best defenses in program history. Seven returning starters tallied 323 tackles (28 TFL, 8 sacks) in 2019. ... The Buford offense, led by RBs Gabe Ervin and Victor Vinn, should have some opportunities against a Warriors defense that has allowed more than 23 ppg over its last 12 games. ... However, North Cobb is looking for its fifth-straight 2-0 start while Buford is 20-1 (2016, Roswell, 24-7) in season-openers going back to the 1999 season. So. QB Malachi Singleton will be a handful for the Wolves. Singleton totaled 5 TDs and combined 252 total yards vs. Sprayberry.


CHEROKEE BLUFF at CHESTATEE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 35 percent capacity
-- WHERE: War Eagles Stadium, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (1-0, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Johnson 44-0 last week
-- CHESTATEE (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Season opener; 2-8 in 2019
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Mask/face coverings and temperature will be required to get into the stadium. Masks should be worn at all times. Concessions are available.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Bears looked impressive in their opener last week. They piled up over 500 yards of offense, most coming in the first half, and got contributions across the board. New QB Sebastian Irons had 3 TD passes. RB Jayquan Smith nearly had 100 yards in roughly a half’s work, and newcomer Shad Dabney had a TD receiving and rushing. The defense pitched its first shutout in program history and held the Knights to just 21 total yards. ... But the Bears will face a much different animal in the War Eagles offense, which features one of the state’s best dual-threat QBs in Christian Charles. The Sr. combined for over 3,000 all-purpose yards in 2019 and looks ready to build on that with a reworked receiving corp and So. RB Elijah Pruitt, who could be poised as one of the area’s breakout players in 2020 ... The key will be if the Chestatee defense, which was improved in 2019 but still allowed 40 ppg, can slow down a Bears offense that looks in midseason form already.


CENTRAL GWINNETT at JEFFERSON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: GoFan app, 300 tickets available for visiting fans; 50 percent
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
-- CENTRAL GWINNETT (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Defeated Discovery 21-0 last week
-- JEFFERSON (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 2 in Class 4A; season-opener; 10-2, quarterfinals in Class 3A in 2019
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks recommended, required for students, no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 2-0-1. The two teams tied 7-7 in 1975 in their last meeting when both teams were part of Region 8-A. ... Jefferson is 16-3 at home under Gene Cathcart since 2017. Central Gwinnett, meanwhile, has dropped its last 7 road games going back to the 2018 season. ... But the Black Knights looked impressive in their opener with a new coach (Jason Thompson). The defense held the Titans to just 195 yards of offense and was stout in the red zone as Discovery was 0-for-5 for the game in scoring position. So. QB Justin Johnson tossed a pair of TD passes and ran for another. His favorite target was Mehki Mews, who had 8 grabs for 103 yards. ... Mews and Jefferson Jr. DB Malaki Starks may be the best 1-on-1 matchup to watch in the game. ... The Dragons defense figures to be dominant. They do return 7 on offense but finding a suitable replacement at QB and finding the right combinations in the backfield may be the focus as they begin one of their toughest non-region schedules in program history. Three of their next four opponents are all ranked in the top 10 in the respective classifications, including Class 2A No. 1 Rabun County next week.


EAST HALL at WEST HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 35 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Spartans Stadium, Oakwood
-- RADIO: WDUN 102.9 FM
-- EAST HALL (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Season-opener; 2-8 in 2019
-- WEST HALL (0-1, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 26-18 to Jackson County last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Mask/face coverings and temperature will be required to get into the stadium. Masks should be worn at all times. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: East Hall leads series 11-10. The Vikings won 24-7 in 2015. After East Hall won four straight from 2003-06, the Spartans have won 5 of the last 9 meetings. ... The Spartans had an up-and-down opener against the Panthers last week. They struggled most of the game on offense but used a 5-minute, 18-point barrage, sparked by a pair of defensive safeties, to grab the lead. But they were shut out the rest of the way as the Jackson County offense wore down the defense in the 2nd half. ... The Vikings defense was one of the most porous in the area in 2019 (42.7 ppg) and made some slight changes in the offseason. Expect the Spartans to be able to find some success after adjustments from their opener. ... But the key to this one will be if the Spartans defense can stop a bigger, more experienced Clete Cooper and an explosive East Hall offense. The now-Jr. QB threw for nearly 2,500 yards (tops in Class 3A) and will have returning WR/RBs in Mon Taber and Macere Walker.


FLOWERY BRANCH at DAWSON COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: At the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
-- RADIO: WDUN AM 550
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Lost 38-28 to St. Pius last week
-- DAWSON COUNTY (0-1, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 23-7 to Cass last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Both teams are coming off disappointing openers. The Tigers were playing without several key players due to COVID while the Falcons nearly rallied from a 16-point deficit against a stout Golden Lions team, which scored in the final seconds to seal the win after Branch had cut it to 31-28 in the 4th quarter. ... The obvious matchup coming into the season appeared to be an explosive Tigers offense behind QB Zach Holtzclaw against one of the state’s best defensive units in 2019. But both were exposed in their openers. ... However, that could still be the key as the Falcons are rebuilding their secondary and if the Tigers get everyone back this week they have a potent passing attack that should be able to take advantage. ... But Branch also has a more experienced offensive group as QB David Renard looked much-improved last week (16-of-29, 271 yards, 2 TDs passing) while WRs Connor Larson and Baxley O’Brien combined for 11 catches and over 200 yards. They should be able to move the ball against a Tigers defense that is replacing 9 starters. ... It could be one of the night’s best offensive shootouts.


HABERSHAM CENTRAL at APALACHEE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: GoFan app, 35 percent
-- WHERE: R. Harold Harrison Stadium, Bethlehem
-- RADIO: WCON 99.3 FM
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Defeated Madison County 27-6 last week
-- APALACHEE (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Lost 34-27 to Winder-Barrow last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks required. No temparature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: The series is tied 4-4. Apalachee won a wild 56-49 affair in the 2019 season finale. That snapped a 3-game win streak for the Raiders in the series. ... A pair of former region foes as the Wildcats have moved down a classification beginning this season. Typically the series has produced close games as 6 of the 8 matchups have been decided by 9 points or less, 3 by 7 points or less. ... Habersham looked sharp in its opener and is looking for its first 2-0 start since 2016 and just the second such start in the past 30 seasons. The defense held Madison County to just 150 total yards of offense and the 6 points allowed was the fewest by a Habersham defense since a 21-6 win over Johns Creek in 2015. Meanwhile, new QB Joshua Pickett and RB Jackson Cloatre led a 288-yard ground attack. ... The Wildcats led early against their arch-rivals but could not complete a second half comeback as they dropped their 8th straight season opener. They rushed for 390 yards behind Jr. RB Colby Sikes but three huge turnovers turned the tide in the second half. ... The Raiders offense vs. the Apalachee defense will be the key as the Wildcats have allowed 44.0 ppg over their last five contests going back to last season.


LAKEVIEW ACADEMY at DARLINGTON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 50 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Chris Hunter Stadium, Rome
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (0-0, 0-0 Region 6-A Private): Season-opener; 2- in 2019
-- DARLINGTON (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-A Private): Ranked No. 10 in Class A Private; season-opener; 9-2, Region 6-A champs in 2019
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Lee Shaw-era will finally get under way after the Lions were forced to cancel last week’s opener due to the coronavirus. ... It will not be an easy one as they take on a Tigers program that has averaged 8.8 wins a season since 2013 with three quarterfinals appearances in one of the toughest classifications in the state. ... Darlington has won six straight season openers and four straight season home openers going back to the 2011 season. Lakeview is 3-8 all-time in season openers. The Lions last win to open a season came in 2017 (42-13 over East Jackson). ... The numbers are up for the Lions program but they return just 5 starters from last year. Look for them to lean on returning RB Bodie Blackwell as they break in several new offensive pieces, including four along the line. ... Lakeview also will be switching to a 3-3 stack defense, which could take some time to acclimate to as they try to find the right combinations.


NORTH HALL at STEPHENS COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: The Reservation, Toccoa
-- NORTH HALL (0-1, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 24-7 to Paulding County last week
-- STEPHENS COUNTY (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Lost 44-6 to White County last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended not required, temps will not be taken. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Stephens County leads series 20-1. The Indians won the last meeting, 14-13 in 2015 at The Brickyard. North Hall’s only win in the series came in 2004 in a 2nd round playoff win at home. ... It has not been a kind series to the Trojans and this matchup is probably considered a toss-up. Both teams are in rebuilding mode and coming off lopsided losses in their openers. ... The Indians managed just 150 yards against a solid White County defense and offered little resistance to the Warriors’ balanced up-tempo offense. ... North Hall’s wing-T offers everyone a challenge in normal years but the Tojans are still trying to find the pieces with a group that replaced 20 starters. RB Clark Howell (121 yards, including a 68-yd TD run) had a big game for North Hall last week but they could muster little else against Paulding. ... The Stephens County defense gave more than 500 yards of offense and over 200 yards on the ground to White County. ... North Hall is trying to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2017.


PRINCE AVENUE CHRISTIAN at RABUN COUNTY
-- WHEN: 8 p.m.
-- TV: ESPN U
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate; 50 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- PRINCE AVENUE CHRISTIAN (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-A Private): Ranked No. 3 in Class a Private; defeated Calvary Day 42-7 last week
-- RABUN COUNTY (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 1 in Class 2A; defeated Class 4A Ridgeland 35-0 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required, temps will not be taken. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... Well before the season was set to begin this one had been penciled in on many calendars as one of the season’s premier matchups in the state. It features Prince Avenue Sr. QB and Georgia-commit Brock Vandagriff (the No. 1 Sr. dual-threat QB in the nation) vs. Rabun County Jr. QB and South Carolina-commit Gunner Stockton (the No. 1 Jr. dual-threat QB in the nation) and just to give it even more clout it will be the featured ESPN matchup nationwide Friday night. Vandagriff threw for 2,471 yards and 31 TDs (3 INTs) while Stockton led Class 2A with 3,473 yards and 43 TDs (6 INTs) in 2019. ... And while those two gunslingers will garner the bulk of the attention, the two teams are loaded and balanced across the board. The Wildcats defense may have been the biggest story in last week’s opener holding a bigger Ridgeland team to just 89 yards rushing and just 191 total yards. ... Rabun County So. RB Lang Windham had a breakout game with 148 yards rushing with a TD. He also caught 3 passes for 39 yards. ... Something will have to give here, and big. The Wildcats have been nearly unbeatable at home. They have won 24 straight regular season games at home going back to a loss to Jefferson to open the 2015 season. They are a whopping 28-3 at home, including playoffs, since that Jefferson loss, the other two coming in the playoffs. ... The Wolverines, however, have been one of the more impressive road teams in the area since 2015. They are 23-5 on the road in that span with all five losses coming to either Athens Academy (3) or ELCA (2) and four of those in the playoffs. They are 23-0 on the road against everyone else since 2015.


UNION COUNTY at COMMERCE
-- WHEN: 8 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: GoFan app, presale at school and at the gate; 100 percent
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Commerce
-- UNION COUNTY (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Lost 24-20 to Fannin County last week
-- COMMERCE (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-A Public): Defeated Banks County 41-18 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 13-0. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since 1999. Commerce last won 48-14 in Commerce. ... The Tigers are looking for their sixth straight 2-0 start to a season. ... It is the second straight week the Tigers have taken on a Region 8-2A foe. They are 22-11 against 8-2A teams going back to the 1984 season. ... Union County had its 16-year streak of winning season openers snapped last week. The Panthers last season-opening loss was in 2003 against Jefferson. ... The Panthers are breaking in a new quarterback and lost workhorse RB Jonah Daniel midway through last week’s game to injury. They led early but could not hold off a Fannin County offense that is expected to be much improved. ... Tigers’ Fr. Sammy Brown had a breakout game on both sides rushing for 116 yards and 2 TDs, also caught a TD pass, and made six tackles on defense. ... As is almost always the case when Commerce is involved, stopping their vaunted triple-option, which is also breaking in a new QB, is the key. If the Tigers are able to control the ball, they can also keep a usually potent Panthers offense off the field. ... The status of Daniel could also be a key for Union County’s ability to move the ball.


WHITE COUNTY at HART COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $8 at the gate; 100 percent capacity.
-- WHERE: Hartwell
-- RADIO: WRWH 93.9 FM; www.wrwh.com
-- WHITE COUNTY (1-0, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Stephens County 44-6 last week
-- HART COUNTY (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Lost to Wayne County 29-13 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but not required, temps checked at the gate. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Warriors looked in midseason form in dismantling Stephens County last week. They piled up over 500 yards of offense behind a career night from Sr. QB J. Ben Haynes (327 yards passing, 3 TDs) while the defense yielded just under 150 yards to the Indians. ... The Bulldogs offense, however, is led by RB Malachi Thomas, who was one of the top rushers in Class 3A in 2019. But Thomas was held to just 46 yards on 13 carries last week. ... Hart County is trying to avoid its fourth 0-2 start since 2016. White County is looking for its first 2-0 start since 2017. ... The Warriors were a pretty good road team in 2019 going 2-3 while Hart County was 5-1 at home in 2019, its only loss coming to Jefferson (28-23) in a game they led in the fourth quarter.

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