Week 8 may not bring massive showdowns across the area, but it does feature some key region games.
Last week's results shuffled the standings a bit and even made a mess out of a few.
After falling to Denmark in Week 5, North Forsyth's upset win over West Forsyth, 30-27, and Gainesville's loss to Lambert made Region 6-7A wide open once again. Denmark and South Forsyth remain at the top, but North Forsyth there are a lot of games remaining over the next five weeks.
Over in Region 8-4A, Jefferson has set sail for the region title, but Cedar Shoals could have a say so as they play host to the No. 1 Dragons. It's not likely the Jaguars get past the fury of the Dragons. Flowery Branch and North Oconee in Bogart, however, is a more equal battle, and the winner has a better path to a state playoff game. After the loss to North Oconee last week, Chestatee still has an eye on a playoff berth. They should keep 20-20 vision after rolling over East Hall this week.
Over in Region 7-3A, Dawson County travels to Gilmer, while West Hall welcomes White County to the Hot Gates, and North Hall takes the scenic drive up Hwy. 60 to the Gold City and the original Lynn Cottrell Stadium at Lumpkin County.
Region 8-2A had a small change to the slate this week as Riverside Military caught the COVID-19 contact-trace bug and was forced to forfeit to No. 1 Rabun County. The Wildcats picked up a non-region game with Class 6A's Grovetown in its place. The change has put massive meaning on the Banks County-Union County game in Blairsville. Whoever wins it will have a solid shot at a home playoff game.
And in Region 8-A, Towns County will try to earn its first-ever win over Commerce in beautiful Hiawassee.
Now to the moment you've all been waiting for ... my spot-on prognostications of what I perceive as the biggest Games2Watch this week.
FORSYTH CENTRAL AT NORTH FORSYTH
As is the case in any cross-county game, it's a rivalry. The mothership of North Forsyth, Forsyth Central, travels over to Raider Valley. It's a short trip, so no long-trip hangover will be in play. What will be in play, is a North Forsyth team that kicked its way to an upset win over No. 7 West Forsyth last week, the Raiders' second straight win over the Wolverines, and a stadium full of momentum. Now, that could play into the Bulldogs' favor, who beat the Raiders, 28-27 last season at home. Why? The big-win letdown. Will the Raiders let it happen two years in a row, or will they be lasered focused and handle business as they should? I think they will.
The Raiders aren't averaging a whole lot of points but have been efficient and stellar on defense, giving up just under 14 points per game. Drew Aucoin has been key in the Raiders' 4-2 record with both his arm and legs, passing for 704 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for another 300 and seven scores. Also in the mix is Patrick Corrigan, who has scored six times and rushed for 374 yards. Both were huge in the Raiders' win last week.
But you can't forget that this game has been decided by a total of six points in the last three meetings. Forsyth Central will be ready and bring their heavy-run offense, led by Malachi McElroy, into the Raider Valley hungry for a win. But can the Bulldog defense hang on -- giving up 26 points per game? I don't think so. Raiders win.
FLOWERY BRANCH AT NORTH OCONEE
The way Region 8-4A looks, this game will be for a home playoff game just as it was in 2020. The Falcons are coming off a bye week and a 27-7 loss to No. 1 Jefferson in Week 6, but they have nothing to hang their heads about in that contest. They went toe-to-toe with Class 4A's top-ranked team. They'll be ready when it's time to kickoff in Bogart.
North Oconee came out of the gates like a thoroughbred at Church Hill Downs last week against Chestatee, speeding to a 41-7 lead before halftime.
If the Falcons are going to have success, they'll need to slow Carson Rollins as he was perfect against the War Eagles, going 10-of-10 passing for 166 yards and two touchdowns (didn't play the second half). They'll also have to key on a pretty good rushing attack with Dominic Elder, who rushed for 132 yards -- 124 in the first half -- and two scores.
The Titans will have much of the same problems on defense, having to stop Branch's David Renard from stretching the field with his arm and Myles Ivey and Malik Dryden out of the backfield.
On paper, Branch has the upper hand, giving up just 18 points per game compared to North Oconee's 24. Offensively, it's about the same. This one was a touchdown win for the Falcons at home in overtime last year. Will the Titans avenge that loss? I'll tell you on Friday Game Night Pick Em Show.
WHITE COUNTY AT WEST HALL
So these two find themselves in a desperate position. Both of them need a region win, and the loser, well, a ticket most likely will be required to get into the playoffs this year. Both West Hall and White County are tied for sixth in the region standings, and both are 0-2. Add a third loss, and the playoffs will be a mirage in the desert.
The Warriors have dominated this one, winning the last 12 of 13, including three straight wins -- 35-0 in 2020. But White County has struggled to find the endzone. The Warriors average 346 yards per game but only average 18 ppg. The defense also hasn't been great, giving up 32.2 ppg.
As for Spartans, their stats look almost identical to White County -- 239 yards per game, 18 ppg on offense, and 29 ppg on defense.
This one will come down to quarterback and line of scrimmage play. If White County's Tripp Nix hits downfield to Darius Cannon (34-508 5 TDs) and Bryson Chronic (16-206 TD), it'll open the run game for Silas Mulligan (149-624 4TDs) to roll. The Spartans will have to find some offense early to combat the Warriors' dynamic players. They can do it, but Nick Sturm, Tilil Blackwell, behind solid line play, will have to be productive. I could see a shootout, but then again, I could see a 10-7 game. I'll pick it on our FGN Pick Em Show on Friday.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Dawson County at Gilmer -- Dawson County should win its second straight Region 7-3A contest in Ellijay on Friday. If they do, they'll be on track to compete for the region title.
Commerce at Towns County -- Towns County is looking for its first-ever win over Commerce. It's in Hiawassee, which helps a whole lot. Kyle Oakes will be the target. If he gets loose, the Indians will be celebrating.
Jefferson at Cedar Shoals -- Cedar Shoals will give the top-ranked Dragons their best shot in Watkinsville on Friday, but it won't be enough.