Week 4 of the high school football season saw a huge showdown in Mt. Airy, a number of impressive blowout wins and more lessons learned about football teams in Northeast Georgia.
Here are five things we learned:
1. White County defense can rise to the occasion
White County has been one of the stories of the 2020 season in Northeast Georgia and many of the headlines have belonged to J. Ben Haynes, Silas Mulligan and the Warriors offense. The talk has been well-deserved as the unit has churned out 41 points per game on their way to a 4-0 start to the season. On Friday night though, in a key rivalry matchup with Habersham Central, it was the defense that found the game in their hands in the final minutes and they delivered. After giving up 21 points through the opening minute of the third quarter, the defense stood tall, keeping the Raiders scoreless through the rest of the game including a goal-to-go stand at the end of the third quarter and two key stops in the 4th to preserve a 28-21 White County win. That defense will be needed for the Warriors next game, as they travel to face a high-flying Dawson County passing attack after an off week.
2. Lee Shaw's imprint already being made at Lakeview
Lee Shaw built powerhouses at Flowery Branch and Rabun County, so when he was announced as the new head coach at Lakeview Academy, most in the area thought it would be a matter of when and not if the Lions would begin to see success. They had their first taste of success Friday night as Lakeview blew out Walker 34-0 in their first game in their newly built stadium. The win and the fashion in which it was achieved was a proof-of-concept that Shaw's newest program is on the rise and could be a playoff threat in the new Region 6-A Private. The Lions have never made the playoffs in their 14-year history as a program. While more progress will need to be made to reach that goal, Lakeview certainly looks like a team on the rise and if they can continue their momentum against Towns County this week, they will have a healthy amount of confidence under them as well.
3. Rabun County shows moxie, survives early road punch
While Lee Shaw's Lakeview team was picking up a big win, his son Jaybo's Rabun County squad was finding themselves in a road battle at Bremen Friday night. The Wildcats were coming off their first regular season loss since 2018 last week against Jefferson and facing a top-10 ranked Blue Devils team that delivered them some early haymakers. Bremen jumped out to an early 13-0 lead and scored 27 points in the 1st quarter. For most teams coming off a loss, such an early onslaught on the road would have resulted in another defeat. Rabun County showed the poise that one would expect from the third-ranked team in the state, however, and bounced back for a 48-34 win. South Carolina-commit Gunner Stockton led the way with 7 total touchdowns (4 rushing, 3 passing) and the defense allowed just eight more points after the first quarter explosion. The Wildcats escaped the trap and, more importantly, showed that they can take a punch physically and mentally and hit back hard.
4. Buford is beginning to roll
The Buford Wolves are doing exactly what second-year head coach Bryant Appling has wanted to see them do: get better week by week. Their third game looked like a very different team than the one that lost the opener at North Cobb, as they blew past Clarke Central 47-0. While the fact that the Gladiators had beaten Buford for the region championship last year certainly provided some extra motivation, the improvement of the Wolves offense has been steady. Victor Venn and Gabe Ervin, Jr. paced a rushing attack that piled up more than 290 yards and the Buford defense made sure the Clarke Central offense never had a chance to fight back, holding the Gladiators to just 117 total yards en route to the shutout. Buford will now get a week off before they begin region play. With a tough Region 8-6A slate lining up in front of them, Buford is starting to look like a team capable of running that gauntlet.
5. Dawson County defense steps up, Tigers set for huge region showdown
Dawson County's defense has struggled early this year, as the Tigers started 0-3 on the heels of a pair of shootout losses to Flowery Branch and South Forsyth. While the Tigers offense continued to put up big point totals Friday night at Northview, it was the defense that stepped up to lead them to their first win of 2020. After allowing an average of 43 points through their first three games, the unit allowed just 20 against the Titans, allowing their high-powered friends from the other side of the ball to turn the game into a comfortable victory. Now that defense will have an off week to prepare for their most important test of the season so far as they get set to host unbeaten White County in the Region 7-3A opener in two weeks. The Warriors are averaging more than 40 points per game, meaning Dawson County will likely need everything they have offensively and defensively. It should be a fun showdown to watch.