Local rivalries, eye-opening blowouts and nail-biting finishes made Week 3 of high school football arguably the best one yet in 2020.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Renard, Branch offense has poise to go with big numbers
Flowery Branch junior quarterback David Renard is running away with with the most improved honors among North Georgia football standouts. His numbers have been eye-popping, already throwing for more than 1,000 yards in just his first three games. Friday night, he showed that he has the moxie to deliver in the big moments for the Falcons as well. After arch-rival Gainesville (1-1) rallied to take a one-point lead with just over two minutes to play, Renard calmly led Flowery Branch (2-1) back down the field, culminating in a pass to senior tight end Sal Sengson, who proceeded to break free from a pair of would-be Red Elephant tacklers to score the game-winning touchdown with under a minute to play. With Sengson, Baxley O'Brien and Connor Larson continuing to provide Renard with reliable targets and Myles Ivey showing that the Falcons' backfield may some true depth behind star Jaizen Ellingham, the Flowery Branch offense is looking like one that could leave any defense scratching its head. They also showed Friday that they can deliver when it matters most.
2. Jefferson defense will take more than star power to crack
One week after Gunner Stockton and Rabun County outlasted Brock Vandagriff and Prince Avenue Christian in a classic quarterback duel, Jefferson came across the gorge to show that they have something just as good if not better than a nationally-ranked quarterback: an elite defense. The Dragons (2-0) beat Rabun County (2-1) 28-14, led by a defensive unit that held Stockton and the vaunted Wildcat offense to less than 250 total yards. As the defense did its work, Jefferson's own offensive weaponry took advantage, with quarterback Malaki Starks and running back Jordan Perry combining for nearly 250 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The Dragons will no doubt have more elite offenses to face this season (including the Flowery Branch unit mentioned above), but they showed Friday night that it will take a truly outstanding effort, even by the most talented personnel, to make them crack. If defense truly wins championships, then Jefferson is indeed looking like a strong state contender in Class 4A.
3. West Hall ends frustrations, looks ready for more
When West Hall head coach Krofton Montgomery said on the Hardy Chevrolet Scoreboard Show Friday night that the Spartans' 50-0 rout of rival Johnson was a long time coming, he wasn't exaggerating. The win was much-needed catharsis for the program, which had lost 12 straight games entering the night and was looking to avenge a heartbreaking loss to the Knights last year. Not only did West Hall (1-2) finally get a win under their belts, they looked dominant doing so, scoring seemingly at will while only allowing Johnson (0-2) to even cross midfield twice. The Region 7-3A playoff race still appears to be a wide-open affair and it may come down to which team can find some momentum come the start of region play in two weeks. If West Hall can pick up another win against Chestatee next week, the Spartans may become a problem for other would-be playoff contenders come October.
4. Despite opening loss, Buford is doing just fine
In case you were concerned that Buford's season-opening loss at North Cobb in Week 2 was an indicator that the Wolves were anything other than one of the top teams in Class 6A, they made sure to erase those concerns Friday night. Buford (1-1) pounded Carver of Atlanta 39-6 for their first win of 2020. The Wolves ground game looked more like the brutal force that led them to the 2019 Class 5A state title, with Gabe Ervin, Jr. and Victor Venn leading the way to more than 220 yards on the ground. The defense was impressive as well, returning a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter and not allowing a single Panthers offensive score. Carver's lone touchdown came on a 93-yard interception return with the game already decided. Head coach Bryant Appling will no doubt want to see more improvement from his team, and a rematch next week with a Clarke Central team that upended them a year ago will provide another chance for that. However, Buford showed against Carver that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
5. Towns County opens eyes with blowout of Lumpkin
Jason Roquemore's second season in Hiawassee is starting to look like something of a revival for the Towns County Indians. Friday night was not only the team's second win a row, marking their first winning streak since 2017, but it was perhaps their most eye-catching in a long time. Towns County blew out Lumpkin County 43-13 in a manner that was every bit as explosive as it was shocking. Towns took a quick 14-0 lead early in the first quarter and kept the foot on the gas, reaching a 37-0 lead by halftime. Quarterback Mason Thomas threw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns and the Indians' defense held Lumpkin to less than 170 total yards. It was the first win over a Georgia team higher than Class A since 2010 for Towns County, which is one of the smallest in the state of Georgia. Who knows what the rest of 2020 has in store, but fans in Towns County are having a lot of fun watching this Indians team so far.