While there were plenty of blowouts in Northeast Georgia Friday night, there were also several upsets and games that turned region playoff races on their heads.
Here are five things we learned from Week 7:
1. Chaos reigns in 6-7A and 8-5A
Going into the weekend, things generally made sense in regions 6-7A and 8-5A. Friday night threw a number of monkey wreches into the equation. 6-7A now appears to truly be anyone's to win. A number of early upsets have left Denmark at the top of the heap as they're off to a 2-0 start in region play, but nobody appears to be safe in this group. Defeding region champion and preseason favorite West Forsyth went down in their first region contest to rival North Forsyth on a late field goal in Coal Mountain 30-27 and Gainesville, who was off to an outstanding 4-1 start, went down to a Lambert team that is now 5-1 after finishing last in the region in 2020. Meanwhile, in 8-5A, while defending champion Clarke Central is back on top of the standings with a 3-0 region start, the rest of the pack is a jumbled mess. Loganville, Greenbrier and Walnut Grove all stand at 2-1 and right behind them are Jackson County, Apalachee and Eastside all at 1-2. That makes six teams within just one game of each other battling for the three available playoff spots behind the leader. There have been some upsets here as well with previously winless Apalachee knocking off Eastside two weeks ago and Jackson County getting off a two-game slide with a 47-23 win over previous region leader Loganville Friday night. Get ready for some wild finishes.
2. Rabun County is ready to tangle with South Georgia powerhouses
Rabun County's 28-21 win on the road at Class 3A number-four ranked Pierce County Friday night may have looked like a big win in a huge matchup to most of the state. To those who have been following this program for the last decade, however, it may be the most important result of the regular season. The Wildcats (5-1) have had their season ended by big, physical South Georgia powerhouses just like Pierce County several times, including postseason losses to Fitzgerald, Thomasville and Jefferson County. Friday night's win showed that this year's top-ranked Rabun County team has the physicality, experience and poise to win these battles should they arise this postseason. While Georgia-commit quarterback Gunner Stockton did his part with over 250 yards passing and three touchdowns, it was the defense that keyed the victory, holding a powerful Bears' rushing attack to just 263 total yards. It was the kind of performance that could bring Rabun County its first state championship in program history if it can be replicated at the right time in November and December.
3. Lumpkin County has joined the playoff race
The most entertaining playoff races are the ones that feature uninvited guests. That's what we now have in Region 7-3A. Lumpkin County, who has only made the playoffs once since 2004 and not since 2014, put their stake in the race Friday night with a 32-30 upset of Gilmer in Dahlonega. While Cherokee Bluff and North Hall continue to look like the teams to beat, the other two spots may be up for grabs, and the Indians (2-3, 1-0) are now in position to reach their hand into the pot. It's a sudden turn of events for a program that was on a 19-game losing streak just a few weeks ago before a non-region win over St. Francis. Now they're on a winning streak for the first time since 2016, thanks in large part to an offense that finally came alive, putting up over 370 total yards, with more than 280 of those being credited to quarterback Cooper Scott who ran for two scores. Lumpkin County is now tied with rival Dawson County for the third spot in the region and they'll get cracks at the Tigers, as well as region winless West Hall and White County late in the season. Hope is a powerful thing, and the Indians now have in Caleb Sorrells' third season in Dahlonega.
4. North Hall's wing-t is more than just "three yards and a cloud of dust"
When talking about North Hall's signature wing-t offense, there are a number of stereotypes that often come up. Namely that it's an offense that wants to grind teams out, take time off the clock and control the ball. While the Trojans have certainly done plenty of that over the years, including this season, Friday night was a reminder that there is plenty of big-play potential in this team. After battling to take a 23-20 lead on White County in the third quarter, North Hall started to explode in front of their home crowd at the Brickyard to cruise to a 51-20 win. Fullback Kevin Rochester ripped off touchdown runs of 72 yards and 57 yards in the second half. Add in a pair of long touchdowns on a kickoff return and an interception return, both coming from Jeremiah Telander, and you have a Trojans (4-2, 2-0 7-3A) team that seems capable of scoring from anywhere on the field and in any phase of the game. White County's (1-5, 0-2) spread attack hit its fair share of big plays as well with a 62-yard touchdown pass from Tripp Nix to Darius Cannon and a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by Cannon in the first half, but it was not enough.
5. Commerce has found their offense at just the right time
Commerce saw some offensive struggles in the first half of this season. It would be hard to blame them, not only breaking in a new head coach in Mark Hollars, but also having to replace their top offensive weapon from 2020 in running back Sammy Brown. The Tigers averaged just 13 points per game through the first four games of the year. Friday night, while opening Region 8-A Public play, they finally got the engine humming. Commerce put up 35 points in a rout of Greene County that got them back to a winning record and, more importantly, made them 1-0 in region play. Much of the damage was done by freshman running back Jaiden Daniels, who ran for 309 yards and three touchdowns while also intercepting a pass on defense. Daniels could be the spark the Commerce triple-option attack was waiting for this year and it will be needed with big battles with Washington-Wilkes and Lincoln County looming on the schedule. For now, though, the Tigers are 1-0 in region play for the ninth year in a row and are getting ready for a trip to Hiawassee to take on a Towns County team that features its own star running back in Kyle Oakes.