Big offensive performances, wild comebacks and back-and-forth shootouts littered the Northeast Georgia area in Week 2 of the high school football season.
Here are five things we learned Friday night:
1. Jefferson "runs" wild
Some teams in Georgia have appeared to struggle to find their offensive footing in the early weeks of the 2020 season thanks in part to a COVID-19-shortened offseason and no preseason scrimmages to iron out the kinks. Jefferson had no struggles steamrolling through the Central Gwinnett defense in their season opener Friday night. The Dragons piled up nearly 400 yards of offense, all on the ground, by halftime as they hammered the Black Knights 61-7. All of this with Jefferson breaking in a new quarterback, moving athlete Malaki Starks to the position after the graduation of Colby Clark. While the Jefferson defense looked equally impressive, the offense's sheer explosiveness of their triple-option attack looks to once again have them as one of the top dogs in both the region and the state.
2. Haynes continues to deliver for White County
There are very few high school quarterbacks who guide a team out of a 13-point 4th quarter deficit on the road at Hart County. J. Ben Haynes of White County is one of those quarterbacks. Haynes threw a touchdown pass and then ran one in from 10 yards out with about a minute to play to life the Warriors to an improbable 50-47 win over the Bulldogs. The comeback could be written off as a miracle if Haynes had not done this before, but he has. Last year, he rallied the Warriors back from a 10-point 4th quarter hole at rival North Hall for what was a key non-region win. "Our quarterback is just one of those that you get once in your career and who just will not take no for an answer," head coach Tim Cokely said after the game. White County looks like the type of team that could be ready for a special season. There's no doubt after Friday night that they have a special quarterback to lead those efforts.
3. Stockton out-"Guns" Vandagriff
Gunner Stockton and Brock Vandagriff both showed why they're listed among the elite quarterbacks in America during the Rabun County-Prince Avenue Christian showdown Friday night, but it was Stockton who shined in the end. The South Carolina commit accounted for all five of the Wildcats' touchdowns, and every one of them was needed as the Georgia-bound Vandagriff engineered a 24-point comeback to tie the game late in the 4th quarter. Stockton's last touchdown, a 32-yard pass to Adriel Clark with just over two minutes to play, proved the be the winning blow as Vandagriff threw an interception on the following drive. Meetings between quarterbacks the caliber of Stockton and Vandagriff are rare and the performance verified what those in the North Georgia mountains already knew: Gunner Stockton can duel with any quarterback in the country.
4. Falcons, Tigers show mettle in Week 2 shootout
The Flowery Branch-Dawson County matchup Friday night featured two of Northeast Georgia's best programs staring down the barrel of an 0-2 start to the season. What ensued was a battle that showcased both teams' mental fortitude as both battled back from deficits multiple times during the game. Dawson County jumped out to an early 20-10 lead, but Flowery Branch bounced back for a 14-0 spurt to go up 24-20 at halftime. Dawson County did not fold, putting on a 14-0 run of their own in the first three minutes of the third quarter to take another double-digit lead. The Falcons had one more punch in them though as they rattled off 21 unanswered points to take a 45-34 lead. The Tigers were able to get one more touchdown and get the ball back, with the clock likely the only thing preventing the game from coming down the final play. While both teams are still looking to shore up their defensive units, both showed a toughness that will make them hard to count out in any contest moving forward.
5. Jackson Clouatre may be in for a special 2020
Habersham Central running back Jackson Clouatre had a great performance in the Raiders Week 1 win over Madison County with 175 yards and a touchdown. It turns out he was just getting warmed up. The senior ran for 305 yards and three scores as the Raiders won a high-scoring affair at Apalachee Friday night. He paced an offense that totaled more than 600 yards on the night and the effort was needed, as the Wildcats put up 35 points of their own. The running game appears to be the primary weapon for this year's Habersham Central team and Clouatre is clearly the cornerstone of the offense through the first two weeks. Now he and the rest of the Raiders can rest up before what is shaping up to be a massive mountain showdown against White County in two weeks. A well-rested Jackson Couatre is something no defense wants to see in the backfield.