Tuesday October 4th, 2022 10:13PM

ICYMI: Week 8 previews -- Playoff contenders, pretenders could be discovered this week

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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Once again, another huge night could be in store as crucial region contests dominate the schedule on Friday night around the Northeast Georgia area.

All but one of 15 games around the area involve region play, with Class 2A No. 1 Rabun County playing host to Class 6A Grovetown in a non-region game. The change in plans for the Wildcats came on Tuesday after Riverside Military Academy was forced to forfeit due to COVID issues.

And just about every one of the 15 games will be crucial for playoff positioning, or just staying in playoff contention.

The most intriguing game on the schedule may be in Bogart, where eighth-ranked Flowery Branch will try to stay alive in its bid for a top-two finish in Region 8-4A against a surging North Oconee team. The Falcons have had two weeks to put a disappointing loss to No. 1 Jefferson behind them, but the Titans have won two straight and are undefeated in region play. Tiebreakers could matter, and the winner will have the inside track to a top-two spot at the end of the season.

Also in Region 8-4A, Chestatee entertains East Hall as both teams try to get back in the playoff race with a win after rough losses last week.

Three more huge games in Region 7-3A could either help solidify positions or be a near knockout blow for a pair of teams. A pair of region unbeatens meet in Dahlonega as North Hall takes on a surprise Lumpkin County squad that has won two straight for the first time in five years. One team will leave with a claim to the top of the region. And Dawson County travels to Gilmer looking to build off its thrilling win two weeks ago and deal the Bobcats a serious blow in their playoff quest.

Meanwhile, in Oakwood, two winless teams in region play -- West Hall and White County -- will square off at The Hot Gates with the loser almost certainly out of any playoff contention. Games with utter desperation almost always make for exciting action. You can hear that game on 102.9 FM WDUN.

North Forsyth will try to avoid the letdown in Region 6-7A play this week against struggling Forsyth Central after taking down No. 7 West Forsyth on a last-second field goal.

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, game stories and video highlights. You can also check for scores and highlights on our Twitter feed: @FridayGameNight

(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville
-- BANKS COUNTY (1-4, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Off last week; lost 56-0 to Haralson County two weeks ago
-- UNION COUNTY (1-4, 1-0Region 8-2A): Defeated Riverside Military 48-14 last week
-- NOTABLE: Union County leads series 24-18. The Panthers won 19-7 in 2020 in Homer. ... The two teams met every year from 1984 to 2011 and resumed the series in 2016. Union County has won all 5 meetings since then. ... This is the region opener for Banks County. The Leopards are trying to snap a pair of streaks this week. They have lost 8 straight region games and 6 straight road games. ... It has been feast or famine for the Banks County offense. The Leopards scored 26 points in their only win over Lumpkin County last month but have scored just 13 total points (3.25 ppg) with 3 shutouts in their four losses. Going back to last season, they have scored 13 or fewer points in 10 of their last 11 games and been shut out five times. ... Union County, however, is tied for 5th-worst in points allowed (37.6 ppg) in Class 2A in 2021. ... The Panthers offense is starting to come around under new coach Michael Perry. They scored just 42 total points in their first three games (14.0 ppg) but have averaged 36.0 ppg over their last two. ... A win for the Panthers would almost assure them of a fourth straight playoff appearance by holding the head-to-head tiebreakers. Banks still has No. 1 Rabun County left and RMA had to forfeit their game this week with the Wildcats because of COVID issues. ... Panthers QB Logan Helcher had a huge game last week passing for 234 yards and 3 TDs and rushing for 117 yards and 4 TDs.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE:  Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee
-- COMMERCE (3-2, 1-0 Region 8-A Public): Defeated Greene County 35-7 last week
-- TOWNS COUNTY (4-2, 0-1 Region 8-A Public): Lost 43-12 to Lincoln County last week
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 25-0. The Tigers won 55-7 in 2020 in Commerce. ... This is the 8th straight season the two teams have played, the longest continuous stretch in the series. Only twice have the Indians lost by 14 or less in the series, in 1984 and 1992. ... The Indians are showing they can compete already having more wins since 2017 (5). Last week’s game was much closer than the final as Towns County trailed just 23-12 and was driving to cut into the lead before turnovers and an explosive Red Devils offense blew it open in the fourth quarter. ... Towns Sr. RB Kyle Oakes still leads Class A Public in rushing with 994 yards and 14 TDs on the season and is 6th overall in Georgia. WR Collin Crowder is 19th in receiving with 519 yards. ... The Tigers have started to get their triple-option rolling, piling up more than 300 yards rushing for the first time last week. RB Jaiden Daniels had a breakout game last week rushing for 245 yards and 3 scores. ... It’s the Tigers’ first 2-game win streak for new coach Mark Hollars. ... The Indians’ defense has been tough allowing just 21 ppg so far. The Tigers, despite last week, are averaging just 17.4 ppg, which puts them on pace for their lowest per-game output since averaging just 17.0 ppg in 2001.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Raider Stadium, Mt. Airy
-- RADIO: 99.3 FM WCON
-- DACULA (3-3, 2-0 Region 8-6A): Defeated Winder-Barrow 40-15 last week
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (2-4, 0-2 Region 8-6A): Lost 58-0 to No. 1 Buford last week
-- NOTABLE: Dacula leads series 7-2. The Falcons won 50-13 in 2020 in Dacula. The Falcons have won 5 straight since the two joined the same region in 2016. The last Raiders win in the series came in 2007, 42-7, in Dacula. ... A young Habersham team is struggling with a 3-game losing streak and during that span, they have scored fewer points and given up more points in each successive game. ... The Raiders have been outscored during their 5-game losing streak to Dacula 184-49 and been held to 7 points or less 3 times. ... Habersham is in the bottom 10 in Class 6A allowing 30.8 ppg (185 points) so far. ... Despite the recent struggles, Habersham is still very much alive for a playoff spot. A loss would put the Raiders at the bottom of the standings but they close out the region schedule against the other bottom teams, who are just 3-12 on the season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Huff-Mosley Stadium, Ellijay
-- DAWSON COUNTY (2-3, 1-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; defeated White County 31-28 two weeks ago
-- GILMER (2-3, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 32-30 to Lumpkin County last week
-- NOTABLE: Gilmer leads series 7-2. Dawson County won 35-0 in 2020 in Dawsonville. The Tigers have won the last two meetings. The last Bobcats win came in 2014, 23-0 in Dawsonville. ... A key region game for both teams. The Bobcats cannot afford another loss if they want to stay in the playoff race. The Tigers need a win to keep pace with North Hall and Cherokee Bluff atop the standings. ... The Bobcats are in the bottom 10 in Class 3A in defense (162 points, 32.4 ppg) and have been outscored 72-36 in region play so far. ... A rebuilding Tigers offense is starting to find its footing. After scoring just 43 points in their first three games, all losses, they have averaged 41.5 ppg during their 2-game win streak. Tigers' WR Bailey Dameron is 11th in the state in receiving with 606 yards. ... The Dawson County defense also has made progress giving up just 17.5 ppg during the win streak compared to 33.3 ppg in its first three games.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Broncos Stadium, Gainesville
-- DRUID HILLS (0-7, non-region): Lost 53-21 to Northview last week
-- EAST FORSYTH (1-5, non-region): Lost 40-14 to Mount Pisgah last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Broncos continue to show improvement in their first season. This week they get a Red Devils team that has dropped 9 straight games and 16 of their last 17 with their only victory in that span by forfeit. ... Druid Hills, which has played just 6 games on the field, has allowed the most points in Class 4A, and the most on average in the state, by a wide margin (352, 58.6. ppg). ... The Broncos offense, after scoring just 7 points in their first 4 games, has averaged 20.5 ppg over their last two games. ... After being shut out in their first two games, the Red Devils have averaged 16.5 ppg over the last 4 games. East Forsyth is yielding 35.1 ppg on defense.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Lynn Cottrell Complex, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- EAST HALL (1-5, 0-2 Region 8-4A): Lost 63-0 to No. 1 Jefferson last week
-- CHESTATEE (2-3, 0-1 Region 8-4A): Lost 48-20 to North Oconee last week
-- NOTABLE: East Hall leads series 5-4. The Vikings won 55-50 in 2020 in Rabbittown. ... East Hall has won 3 of the last 4 meetings and is 3-1 all-time at Lynn Cottrell Complex. ... Take the over in this one. The two teams have averaged 89.5 points combined over the last 4 games, usually due to struggling defenses. Expect the same in this one. ... East Hall has allowed the 2nd-most points in Class 4A (282, 47.0 ppg) while the War Eagles have given up 166 points (33.2 ppg) on the season. ... The difference may be in a Chestatee offense that has been more consistent scoring 20 or more in all 5 games (145, 29.0 ppg). Sr. QB Luke Bornhorst is 32nd in the state with 1,187 yards. ... The Vikings are averaging just 20 ppg behind Sr. QB Clete Cooper, (1,035 yrads, 5 TD, 2 INT) and have scored just 8 points in their two region games thus far. ... The War Eagles have dropped 7 straight region games.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Monroe
-- EAST JACKSON (2-4, 0-1 Region 8-3A): Lost 35-7 to No. 1 Oconee County last week
-- MONROE AREA (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-3A): Ranked No. 7 in Class 3A; defeated Stephens County 34-24 last week
-- NOTABLE: Monroe Area leads series 5-0. The Purple Hurricanes won 42-13 in 2020 in Commerce. All five meetings have been since 2016. ... The Eagles played the No. 1 team tough last week and the Purple Hurricanes will be the 2nd straight top 10 team in the region the Eagles have faced. ... It is also the fourth consecutive road game for East Jackson, which is 1-3 on the road so far in 2021. ... The Eagles also are trying to snap a 23-game losing streak in 8-3A. Their last region win came against Hart County to close out the 2016 season. ... It will be a tough task for the East Jackson offense. Eagles QB Tyler Crow is 24th in the state in rushing with 797 yards.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Titans Stadium, Bogart
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (3-2, 0-1 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 8 in Class 4A; off last week; lost 27-7 to No. 1 Jefferson two weeks ago
-- NORTH OCONEE (3-3, 2-0 Region 8-4A): Defeated Chestatee 48-20 last week
-- NOTABLE: Flowery Branch leads series 1-0. The Falcons won 42-35 in overtime in 2020 in Flowery Branch. ... A huge game for 8-4A. A win for either could help solidify claims to a top-two spot in the region. ... A win for the Titans would stake an early claim. They would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Falcons and give them 2 losses at the same time. A Falcons win gives them the head-to-head with North Oconee still to play No. 1 Jefferson in its season-finale. ... For all their recent success, the Titans have struggled against the top teams. They have lost 17 straight to ranked teams, including the Falcons last year, going back to a win over Cairo in the 2nd round of the 2014 playoffs. However, the Titans’ senior class is 15-3 at home since 2018. ... The Falcons are just 1-2 on the road in 2021 but are 1-1 vs. ranked teams in 2021 (beat St. Pius, lost to Jefferson). ... For the Falcons, 24 is the key number. When they have surrendered less than 24 points, they are 10-0 since the start of the 2020 season. They are just 2-5 when allowing more than 24 in that span. ... The Titans have averaged 29 ppg since the start of the 2020 season but are 1-6 when scoring less than 29 in that same span. ... Titans’ So. QB Max Wilson was beyond efficient last week going 18-of-18 passing for 217 yards and four touchdowns.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Raider Valley, Coal Mountain
-- FORSYTH CENTRAL (1-4, 0-2 Region 6-7A): Lost 31-6 to Denmark last week
-- NORTH FORSYTH (4-2, 1-1 Region 6-7A): Defeated West Forsyth 30-27 last week
-- NOTABLE: North Forsyth leads series 11-8. The Raiders won 28-27 in 2020 on the road. North Forsyth has won 5 of the last 7 going back to 2012 but the teams have split the last four meetings. ... This has proven to be a close series of late. The last two meetings have been decided by one point each and the last three meetings by just 6 total points. ... The Bulldogs have struggled on the road. They are 0-2 this season and just 1-6 in their last 7 road games going back to 2019. The Raiders, meanwhile,  are 4-0 at home this season. ... The Raiders defense will be the key unit. They are 9th in Class 7A allowing just 83 points (13.8 ppg) on the season. The Bulldogs are in the bottom 10 in Class 7A averaging just 19.8 ppg. ... The Raiders need a win to keep pace with back-to-back road games looming. They are 0-2 on the road in 2021.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- GROVETOWN (1-4, 0-1 Region 3-6A): Lost 42-20 to Evans last week
-- RABUN COUNTY (5-1, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 1 in Class 2A; defeated defending Class 3A state champion Pierce County 28-21 on the road last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... This is a game that was put together on Tuesday of this week after Riverside Military was forced to cancel its game with Rabun due to COVID issues. Grovetown had a natural week off and had seen its season-opening game canceled due to COVID. ... Rabun made a statement last week that it is the front-runner in Class 2A after knocking off the Bears in their first home loss since 2019. ... The offense is garnering most of the attention leading Class 2A in points (280, 46.6 ppg) behind the classification’s passing leader and No. 2 overall in Georgia Gunner Stockton (1,879  yards, 25 TD) and the state's leading receiver in Jaden Gibson (829 yards, 7 TD). But the defense has given up just 15.3 ppg against some high-powered offenses like Jefferson and Pierce last week. ... The Warriors play in a region that has struggled so far in 2021 (9-21 collectively) with only Evans sporting a winning record overall. Defensively they are allowing 30 ppg and have scored just 87 points (17.4 ppg). 

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood
-- JACKSON COUNTY (3-3, 1-2 Region 8-5A): Defeated Loganville 47-23 last week
-- JOHNSON (0-5, 0-3 Region 8-5A): Lost 38-0 to Walnut Grove last week
-- NOTABLE: Johnson leads series 5-4. Jackson County won 43-0 in 2020 in Jefferson. The Panthers have won four straight in the series going back to 1997. The last Knights win was in 1996, 34-18, in Jefferson. ... Jackson County is just two plays from being undefeated in region play with both of their losses by just 6 points. ... The Jackson County offense is also starting to find a groove. The 47 scored last week was the Panthers' most points in a game since scoring 55 vs. East Jackson in 2018. They have scored 77 points in their last two games (38.5 ppg) after scoring just 72 (18.0 ppg) in their first four games. ... Statistically, the Johnson defense has given up the most points in Class 5A (251, 50.0 ppg). After averaging 21 ppg in their first two games of the season, the Knights have been shut out in three consecutive games. ... Johnson also is in the midst of a 17-game losing streak.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Waters-Wilkins Stadium, Athens
-- JEFFERSON (6-0, 2-0 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 1 in Class 4A; defeated East Hall 63-0 last week
-- CEDAR SHOALS (2-2, 2-0 Region 8-4A): Defeated Madison County 27-20 last week
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 1-0. The Dragons won 49-0 in 2020 in Jefferson. ... This begins a crucial 3-game stretch for the Jaguars against the Dragons, Flowery Branch, and then North Oconee in successive weeks. They went 0-3 in that same stretch in 2020. ... The winner will have the early upper hand atop the region standings. Cedar Shoals already has matched its entire win total from 2020. ... The key will be if the Jaguars can slow down a Jefferson ground attack that is No. 1 in Class 4A and the state averaging just over 325 yards/game. Sammy Brown took over at QB last week with several injuries and rushed for 162 yards and 3 TDs. ... The Dragons also are 2nd in 4A in defensive scoring allowing just 8.0 ppg. ... Cedar is yielding 22.7 ppg and is averaging 26.5 ppg on offense. ... Jefferson’s senior class is 17-1 in its last 18 region games going back to 2018. The Jaguars have won 3 straight region games but are just 6-5 at home since 2019.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Alpharetta
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (1-4, 0-1 Region 6-A Private): Lost 45-0 to No. 6 Fellowship Christian last week
-- KING’S RIDGE CHRISTIAN (2-3, 0-0 Region 6-A Private): Lost 21-14 to Mt. Paran last week
-- NOTABLE: King’s Ridge leads series 2-1. Lakeview won 14-6 in 2020 in Gainesville. ... A young Lions team was shut out last week for the first time under Lee Shaw. After averaging 24.1 ppg in 2020, they have scored the 4th-fewest points (64, 12.8 ppg) in a tough Class A Private in 2021. ... Lakeview is also in the bottom 5 in the classification in defense giving up 38.2 ppg. And, the Tigers already have surpassed their entire 2020 total in points scored (114) averaging 24.0 ppg (120 points) so far on offense. ... But all the Lions need to do is win one of their final three region games to make the playoffs for a second straight season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega
-- NORTH HALL (4-2, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated White County 51-20 last week
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (2-3, 1-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated Gilmer 32-30 last week
-- NOTABLE: North Hall leads series 22-7. The Trojans won 33-10 in 2020 at The Brickyard. North Hall has won six straight and 13 of the last 14 meetings going back to 1983. The Indians' only win in that span came in 2010. ... The Trojans have dominated the series and have won 7 straight at The Burial Grounds. The last Lumpkin win over North Hall in Dahlonega was in 1976. The Trojans are 10-3 all-time in Dahlonega. ... The Indians have caught fire. They are on their first 2-game win streak since 2016 after snapping a 19-game losing streak three weeks ago. ... But the Trojans also have gotten hot winning three straight. The North Hall wing-T is back on solid ground as the Trojans now lead Class 3A in rushing at 317 yards/game. Sr. RB Kevin Rochester (966 yards, 12 TD) who is 8th overall in the state and 2nd in Class 3A behind Hart County's J.L. Lackey (1,049 yards). Rochester had his third 250-plus yard game last week with 286 yards and 3 TDs. ... The Indians defense has shown marked improvement giving up 28.8 ppg after allowing 45 ppg in 2020. ... After scoring just 64 points in their previous 7 games going back to 2020 (9.1 ppg) the Indians have scored 66 points 33.0 ppg) in their last two games. ... Lumpkin County is looking for its first 2-0 start to region play since 2014 when the Indians beat East Hall and Franklin County as part of a 3-0 start that season. ... The Trojans are looking for their 2nd straight 3-0 start to region play. The last time they did that was in 2012 and 2013.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Spartans Stadium, Oakwood
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM WDUN; 93.9 FM WRWH
-- WHITE COUNTY (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 51-20 to North Hall last week
-- WEST HALL (2-3, 0-2 Region 7-3A): Lost 37-7 to Cherokee Bluff last week
-- NOTABLE: White County leads series 14-9. The Warriors won 35-0 in 2020 in Cleveland. White County also has won 4 straight and 12 of the last 13 in the series going back to 2006. The only West Hall win in that span was in 2016 in Oakwood. ... Expect anything and everything in this one. The loser of this one may be out of any playoff contention and both teams came into the season with high expectations in the region. ... The two defenses have struggled and have given up the most points in 7-3A play so far. The Warriors have yielded 82 points (42.0 ppg) and the Spartans 75 points (37.5 ppg) in their first two region games. West Hall has given up 117 points (39.0 ppg) during its 3-game losing streak. White County has allowed 103 points (34.3 ppg) during its 3-game losing streak. ... The Warriors have the slight edge offensively averaging nearly 300 yards/game and have WR Darius Cannon, who is 23rd in the state in receiving (34 rec., 508 yards, 5 TD) and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. However, 9 turnovers and untimely penalties have kept them to just 113 points (18.8 ppg) on the season, far below the 39.7 ppg average from last season. ... West Hall is averaging less than 240 yards/game but Sr. QB Nick Sturm has thrown for 456 yards and rushed for another 102 yards with 7 total TDs. Noah Legault (12 rec., 138 yards, 1 TD) and Andrew Malin (10 rec., 148 yards 2 TD) have accounted for 22 of Sturm’s 38 completions on the season.

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