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Saturday October 24th, 2020 10:46AM

ICYMI: Week 3 Previews: Jefferson-Rabun, Branch-GHS headline another big week of action

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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For the second consecutive week, most eyes in northeast Georgia will be looking to Tiger as Class 2A No. 1-ranked Rabun County once again plays host to a highly-ranked, star-studded team.

Last week it was Class A Private No. 3-ranked Prince Avenue and Georgia quarterback commit Brock Vandagriff. This time, the Wildcats entertain Class 4A No. 2 Jefferson and Power 5 prospect sensation Malaki Starks. It will be a test of styles as the Wildcats will throw it around all night with junior quarterback and South Carolina-commit Gunner Stockton. The Dragons last week ran for 576 yards on the ground and did not attempt a pass.

It figures to be a titanic showdown. However, Jefferson has won 17 straight in the series. The last Wildcats victory over Jefferson came in 1955. This could be the year, however, that streak comes to an end.

But that's not the only intriguing game on tap Friday night. Several programs will be looking to continue hot starts, while others will try to end long losing streaks.

Gainesville travels to Flowery Branch as the two Hall County powerhouses renew their annual battle. White County will try for its first 3-0 start since 2017 against Pickens. Dawson County, which lost in a shootout with Flowery Branch last week, is trying to avoid its first 0-3 start since 2014, and its worst start in the Sid Maxwell-era.

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. 18
(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
CARVER-ATLANTA at BUFORD
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- CARVER-ATLANTA (0-2, 0-0 Region 5-3A): Lost 27-26 to Class 6A Lovejoy last week
-- BUFORD (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Lost 28-14 to North Cobb last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks recommended, no temperature check. Concessions will be prepackaged
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... This is one of two rescheduled games for Buford. ... It was just the second season-opener the Wolves have dropped since 1999. Their last opening loss in that span was in 2016 to Class 7A Roswell. ... The Panthers, much like the Wolves, reside in a brutal region and are trying to avoid their second 0-3 start in three seasons. They will surely be awaited by a Buford squad that is ready to put last week’s disappointing showing behind. ... The Wolves offense was stymied by the Warriors as Gabe Ervin rushed for just 79 yards (they had less than 150 rush yards) and never found a rhythm at QB as they tried all three, who were just 13-of-22 passing for 131 yards. ... Carver is just 2-7 in its last 9 true road games since 2017. Buford is 20-3 at Tom Riden in that same span.


CHESTATEE at UNION COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: At the gate; 100 percent
-- WHERE: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville
-- CHESTATEE (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Lost 49-14 to Cherokee Bluff last week
-- UNION COUNTY (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Lost 32-14 to Commerce last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks recommended but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The War Eagles were stymied in their opener against what is developing into a stout Bears team. Charles, who averaged over 300 all-purpose yards a game in 2019, was held to under 200 total yards last week. ... The Panthers are 0-2 for the first time since 1997, a season they went 4-6. They have not opened a season 0-3 since 1995. ... The Union County offense, which has been as potent as any in the state the last few years, is struggling early with a plethora of changes, and an injury to workhorse RB Jonah Daniel early on. They are averaging just 17 ppg so far in 2020. They poured in 36.2 ppg in 2019 and 39.9 ppg in 2018. The last time they scored less than 34 points in back-to-back regular season games was 2015. ... Defense is still the key for Chestatee. They yielded 40 ppg in 2019 and was hoping for a massive improvement in that area in 2020 but the Bears beat them with balance. They may be able to have some success this week against a rebuilding Union offense.


COMMERCE at ATHENS ACADEMY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Slaughter Field, Watkinsville
-- COMMERCE (2-0. 0-0 Region 8-A Public): Ranked 7th in Class A Public; defeated Union County 32-14 last week
-- ATHENS ACADEMY (2-0. 0-0 Region 8-A Private): Ranked 2nd in Class A Private; off last week; defeated Trinity Christian 17-10 two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 14-13. The two teams have played every year since 1999. Athens Academy won 21-14 in 2019 and has won 3 of the last 4 in the series. ... The Tigers took down their second straight 8-2A program last week and reeled off three straight scores to grab the win after falling behind 14-11. They are 2-0 for the seventh consecutive season and are looking for their 4th 3-0 start in five seasons. ... The Spartans, as always, will offer a supreme challenge. They have won 15 consecutive regular-season home games going back a 42-30 loss to Commerce in 2016. Athens Academy is 25-2 at home overall in that span. ... The Spartans are led by WR/DB Deion Colzie, the No. 11 player in Georgia and No. 14 wide receiver nationally. ... The Tigers are 17-4 on the road in that span, with three losses coming in the playoffs on the other to the Spartans in 2015. ... Jr. RB Dreylan Martin pounded out over 200 yards last week for the Tigers.


EAST JACKSON at BANKS COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate
-- WHERE: Leopards Stadium, Homer
-- EAST JACKSON (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Season-opener
-- BANKS COUNTY (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Lost 35-6 to Franklin County last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks recommended but no temperature checks. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Series is tied 5-5. The Eagles won 38-0 in 2019 in Commerce. ... Banks County has won three straight in the series in Homer, including a 50-10 victory in 2018. ... The Eagles are an unknown already three weeks into the season. They had to cancel their opener two weeks ago against West Hall due to a COVID outbreak that week. Their last regular-season game was on Nov. 8, 2019. ... The Leopards have had a tough opening as their first two opponents are 4-0 combined so far. Defense has been the issue, despite 7 returning starters. They have allowed 33 ppg so far while the offense, which is retooling, has scored just 24 points. 


FRANKLIN COUNTY at EAST HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- FRANKLIN COUNTY (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Defeated Banks County 35-6 last week
-- EAST HALL (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Defeated West Hall 30-22 last week in its season opener
-- 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: Franklin County leads series 9-5. East Hall won the last meeting, 34-27, in 2015. The Vikings have won two straight in the series. This is just the third meeting since 1999. The last Lions win in the series came in 1999, 35-19 in Carnesville. ... These are two programs looking to rebuild their programs and both are off to solid starts in 2020. The Lions last winning season was in 2015. The two wins so far match last year’s entire win total. The 2-0 start is their first since 1990., though they did begin the 2010 season 2-0-1 after a tie to begin that campaign. They have not started a season 3-0 since 1983. ... The Vikings are looking for their first 2-0 start since 2011. The Vikings’ ‘Air Raid’ attack looked sharp as they piled up 445 yards of offense. Jr. QB Clete Cooper had 400 yards passing and 3 TDs. Macere Walker had 275 yards receiving and Mon Tabor added 85 yards receiving and 2 TDs to go with 45 yards rushing. ... The Lions have yielded just 9 points so far and averaged 34 ppg on offense. Defense is the key for East Hall and last week had to be encouraging. The 22 points allowed is the fewest in 29 games going back to a 42-14 win over Lumpkin County in 2017 and far below the 42.7 ppg they allowed in 2019.


GAINESVILLE at FLOWERY BRANCH
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: GAME IS SOLD OUT!
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- RADIO: FM 94.5 (Click to listen live)
-- GAINESVILLE (1-0, 0-0 Region 6-7A): Off last week; defeated Stockbridge 49-23 two weeks ago on the road
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Defeated Dawson County 45-42 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: Gainesville leads series 10-5. Flowery Branch won 35-21 in 2019 at home. The Falcons have won two straight but have never won three consecutive games in the series. ... The Falcons offense exploded last week and showed that it is capable of rallying from two scores down, which they did twice against the Tigers. They rattled off 21 unanswered points in the second half and then the defense held on. ... The late rally helped the Falcons avoid their first 0-2 start since 2013. ... However, the Falcons defense, which is inexperienced and in a major retooling mode, has allowed 40 ppg so far in the early going. ... The big takeaway for the Red Elephants in their opener was the special teams, which blocked three kicks, ran two of them back for TDs, and ignited their win over Stockbridge. The offense struggled early but So. RB Naim Cheeks ran for over 100 yards and the defense held Stockbridge to just 10 points in the second half.


HART COUNTY at NORTH HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: The Brickyard at Lynn Cottrell Stadium, Gainesville
-- HART COUNTY (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Lost 50-47 to White County last week
-- NORTH HALL (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 34-0 to Stephens 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: Hart County leads series 10-2, North Hall won the last meeting in 2018, 10-9, in the 1st round of the Class 3A playoffs. ... Two teams that are trying to find some answers. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 7 in Class 3A coming into the season but have yet to find a way to close out games. The Trojans are young and still looking to find suitable replacements for 20 starters from last year’s squad. ... North Hall’s typically-feared wing-T offense has managed just 7 total points on the season and were shutout for the first time since a 21-0 loss to GAC in 2018. Defensively, the Trojans are yielding just 27 ppg despite the offensive troubles but will face a daunting task against a Bulldogs team averaging 30 ppg. ... The 47 points by the Bulldogs are the most they’ve ever scored in a loss in program history. 


JEFFERSON at RABUN COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate
-- WHERE: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- RADIO: FM 102.9 (Click to listen live)
-- JEFFERSON (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 2 in Class 4A; defeated Class 6A Central Gwinnett 61-7 last week
-- RABUN COUNTY (2-0, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 1 in Class 2A; defeated Class A Private No. 3-ranked Prince Avenue 38-31 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required, temps will not be taken. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads the series 20-3. The Dragons won the last meeting, 19-7, in 2015 in Tiger. Jefferson has won 17 straight in the series. The last Rabun win was in 1955 in Jefferson, 13-7. ... The stats show it has been a lopsided series in its history. But this one figures to be one of the best matchups in the state in any classification the entire season. ... The Wildcats are led by Jr. QB and South Carolina-commit Gunner Stockton and a slew of talented WRs. The Dragons are led by Jr. RB/DB Malaki Starks. But they are loaded and deep at virtually every position. ... Rabun last week proved it can handle the big-time spotlight. The win over Prince Avenue came on national TV as the game was broadcast live on ESPN U. Stockton and the Wildcats were up for the challenge. They charged out to a 24-7 halftime lead and survived a furious Wolverines’ rally that tied the game at 31 late in the 4th quarter. But Stockton, who accounted for all 5 of the Wildcats' scores, connected with RMA-transfer Adriel Clark on a 32-yard TD pass with just over 2 minutes left for the game-winner. The defense then intercepted Prince QB Brock Vandagriff, a UGA-commit, to seal the game. ... Starks, meanwhile, rushed for 177 yards and 3 TDs, in the first half, last week, while the Dragons piled up a ridiculous 576 yards on the ground as they did not attempt a pass.


LUMPKIN COUNTY at TOWNS COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: $7 at the gate
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (0-1, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; lost 33-3 to Franklin County two weeks ago
-- TOWNS COUNTY (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-A Public): Defeated Bethlehem Christian Academy 28-14 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required, temps will not be taken. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: Lumpkin County leads series 5-2-1. Lumpkin County won the last meeting, 27-5, in 1997. ... This is a game that probably wouldn’t happen if not for the wild schedule changes due to COVID-19 concerns. It is the two teams’ first meeting in 23 seasons. ... Towns County snapped an 11-game losing streak going back to the start of the 2019 season. The 28 points scored are the most since posting a school-record 55 in a win over Hayesville (N.C.) to open the 2018 campaign. Towns County is looking for its first 2-game win streak since the close of the 2017 season. .. This is the first of three straight games for Lumpkin County against smaller classification opponents but building some confidence before heading into its Region 7-3A schedule will be key.


PICKENS at WHITE COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Online at school and the gate.
-- WHERE: Warriors Stadium, Cleveland
-- RADIO: WRWH 93.9 FM; www.wrwh.com
-- PICKENS (1-1, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 28-14 to Class 2A Chattooga
-- WHITE COUNTY (2-0, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Ranked No. 9 in Class 3A; defeated Class 3A No. 8 Hart County 50-47 last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are recommended, but no temperature checks. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: White County leads series 23-20-2. The Warriors won 27-20 in Cleveland in 2019 to snap a 4-game losing streak to the Dragons. ... The two programs met all but four times from 1968 to 2008. ... White County may be the most impressive offensive team  (and we thought they might be in preseason) in northeast Georgia in the early going. They are averaging 47 ppg behind Sr. QB J Ben Haynes (12-of-23, 170 yards, 2 TDs; 151 yards rushing, 4 TDs vs. the Bulldogs) and a plethora of dangerous receivers. They rallied from a 13-point 4th quarter deficit for their first road win over a ranked team in more than 60 years. ... The Dragons are yielding just 18 ppg, so the key matchup will be if they can slow down the powerful Warriors offense. They are averaging just 15.5 ppg on offense.


SOUTH FORSYTH at DAWSON COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: At the gate; 100 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
-- RADIO: www.northgeorgiasportslink.com
-- SOUTH FORSYTH (0-0, 0-0 Region 6-7A): Season-opener for the War Eagles
-- DAWSON COUNTY (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 45-42 to Class 4A No. 10 Flowery Branch last week
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: Masks are not required. Concessions will be available.
-- NOTABLE: South Forsyth leads series 1-0. This is the first meeting between the two programs since 1989, a 12-6 War Eagles’ win in Dawsonville. ... Dawson County is off to its first 0-2 start since 2014 when the Tigers went 0-5 to open the season. ... The current Tigers expectedly-potent offense finally broke loose last week. The problem is a rebuilding defense that's still struggling after giving up the most points in a two-game stretch (78, 39.0 ppg) in the Sid Maxwell-era. ... The War Eagles are traditionally a strong team to open a season, going 8-2 in their last 10 season-openers. They scored 25.3 ppg and gave up 25.8 ppg in 2019 with a first-round playoff appearance in Class 7A.


STEPHENS COUNTY at JACKSON COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Gofan app, 50 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Panthers Stadium, Jefferson
-- STEPHENS COUNTY (1-1, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Defeated North Hall 34-0 last week
-- JACKSON COUNTY (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Off last week; defeated West Hall 26-18 two weeks ago
-- COVID PROTOCOLS: No temperature check but masks are expected to be worn inside the stadium. Concessions will be prepackaged.
-- NOTABLE: Stephens County leads series 5-1. Jackson County won the last meeting, 26-23, in 2009 in Toccoa. ... The Panthers had to be encouraged after their opener. After a wild 5 minute stretch in the first half that saw them fall behind 18-7, they held the Spartans scoreless over the final 29 minutes, while forcing 5 turnovers and scoring the final 19 points. RB La'travious Ransom ran for 150 yards and a score behind a big offensive line. ... The Indians, meanwhile, snapped their 3rd-longest losing streak in program history (10) with last week’s win over the Trojans. It was their first shutout win since a 28-0 victory over Franklin County to open the 2017 campaign. ... The Panthers are looking for their first 2-0 start since 2017.


WEST HALL at JOHNSON 
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- TICKETS: Pre-sale only at each school; 40 percent capacity
-- WHERE: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood
-- RADIO: AM 550 (Click to listen live) 
-- WEST HALL (0-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 30-22 to East Hall last week
-- JOHNSON (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Off last week; lost 44-0 to Cherokee Bluff two weeks ago
-- 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: West Hall leads series 17-8-1. Johnson won 30-27 in 2019. ... The Knights win last year was one of the more thrilling in all the series getting a 38-yard field goal from Steven Flores as time expired. That snapped a 6-game win streak by the Spartans, the longest such streak by either program. ... But nearly two dozen other starters, and coach Stan Luttrell, are no longer at Johnson. They are young, the numbers are down, they have a new coach in William Harrell, and looked their age in their opener. They managed just 21 total yards of offense and gave up over 400 yards on defense. ... The Spartans have led in both of their first two games but 9 turnovers have stalled drives and killed scoring chances. The defense has played well enough to win forcing over a half-dozen turnovers, and garnered a pair of safeties, in the first two games.

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