Tuesday November 28th, 2023 6:25PM

Coaches Corner: The five week trek to the finish begins; coaches talk Week 8

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

Only five weeks remain in the regular season, and as those five weeks wind down, so do the chances of making the playoffs. 

The Road to Atlanta continues for Northeast Georgia teams this week with some interesting games on the slate. 

Last week, Rabun County made a huge statement Friday night knocking off defending Class 3A state champion Pierce County, 28-21, on the road in a battle of state title contenders. North Forsyth also made a statement in a 30-27 comeback win over No. 7 West Forsyth to keep their Region 6-7A title hopes alive. Jackson County found its offense in a 47-23 win over a hot Loganville team.

This week will be no different with several crucial games on the slate.

Friday Game Night checked in with the area’s coaches to find out how Week 2 played out, and what are the keys to getting a win this week. 

You can track these games on the FGN Twitter page @FridayGameNight  or the live scoreboard at www.accesswdun.com/fridaygamenight. Below are comments from the area’s coaches:

Banks County's Jay Reid on his team's off-week focus ... "Our off week couldn’t have come at a better time. We used the last week to go back and focus on fundamentals and drill some concepts that we needed to enhance. More than anything the week was good for us to heal up and refocus as we move into the second part of our season, region play."

On playing Union County ... "Our trip to Union County this week is a big matchup as when starting region play you always want to be playing your best ball. For our success this week we must be able to contain their Offense, which can move fast and be explosive.  Their QB does a good job of managing games and his ability to take off and have big runs is a big focus of ours, we have to be able to maintain coverage discipline and rush lanes so that he doesn’t have an opportunity to get loose.  On offense, we have to be able to control the clock and tempo of the game, which means establishing a run game early and throwing the ball with maximum efficiency. 

Chestatee's Shaun Conley on his team's Week 7 performance ... "We did have a rough half against North Oconee. We brought them in and made some corrections from the video and turned our focus to East Hall. The main thing we will have to fix this week is ourselves. We have to get back to what has been successful for us, playing with great energy and effort."

On playing East Hall ... "East Hall is a team meeting that can hurt you on big plays off their quarterback's mobility.  We will have to limit East’s ability to make those big plays. We must contain their QB, execute on offense and be willing to take what their defense gives us." 

Commerce's Mark Hollars on his team's improvement ... "We have been able to find our identity on offense and our defense continues to improve. We have had to make some adjustments within our offense to match our player's abilities. We started to show signs of improvement in the Elbert County game and have continued to get better each week. We have gotten more physical and explosive on offense. Our defense has continually improved throughout the season. We have shown the ability to bend but not break on that side of the football. The key now is to clean up the penalties. We have also improved each week in our kicking game."

On playing Towns County ... "Towns County has gotten off to a good start this season. They have an excellent running back and get him the ball in both the running game and passing game. They also have a very good receiver that gets the ball in the screen game. Our goal is to be playing our best football of the year this Friday night."

East Forsyth's Brian Allison on the keys against Druid Hills ... "They have some athletic players on both sides of the ball. We must execute on both sides of the ball and eliminate the mental mistake we have been making."

East Hall's Matt Turner on the keys against Chestatee ... "Chestatee is a very good team that plays fundamentally sound football. Coach [Shaun] Conley and his staff do a great job. We have to get their offense off the field and win 3rd downs to be successful. Offensively, we have to sustain drives and take advantage of opportunities to get points. Also, we have to win the turnover batter and play much better on special teams."

East Jackson's Cameron Pettus on his team's play last week ... "We saw what a number one team in 3A looks like, very talented, well-coached and disciplined. We did some very good things against them that we have not been able to do in the past. We moved the ball offensively with 3 chances for touchdowns. It was great to see where we have progressed and where we have to go."

On playing No. 7 Monroe Area ... "Monroe Area is another state-rated power with skill at quarterback and running back that can go, we will have to be great tacklers in space. Offensively, we must continue to do what we do but must come away with points when in the red zone.  As always we are looking forward to competing and we are continually getting better, that is all we ask as we continue to build up our program. Go Eagles!"

Flowery Branch's Ben Hall on the team's off-week focus ... "The bye week came at a good time. We were able to rest some of the older players and dedicate more time than usual to the younger ones.  Our players understand the importance of each game moving forward."

On playing North Oconee ... "North Oconee is very multiple on each side of the ball. They are talented and are very well-coached. We will need to play hard, protect the football, and be ready for in-game adjustments. This was an overtime game for us last season. This will be a hard-fought game between two teams that are very similar."

Jackson County's Rich McWhorter on his team's win over Loganville last week ... "We were proud of the way our team carried the positives from the Clarke Central game into the Loganville Game, and for the first time this year we felt all three phases did an outstanding job of putting us in a position to be successful. For the last two weeks, we have been unable to run the football and remain balanced on offense, so going into the week we had an emphasis on our offensive line that if we were going to come out on the winning end, it would be behind them. Their effort upfront led us to our highest offensive yardage output in three years (516 Total Yards), and allowed us to remain balanced all night. Our defense created two turnovers and really did a phenomenal job of running to the football and gang tackling all night. It was truly a team win, and in order for us to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves this year, we have to have the preparation and expectation to come ready to play a little better each week."

On playing Johnson ... "The first thing that jumps off the film is how there is a noticeable difference from last year to this year with just how their kids play, tackle, and get after it on both sides of the ball. You can tell Coach [William] Harrell and his staff have emphasized getting bigger and stronger in the weight room, as well as playing full speed each and every rep. Johnson will continue to get better, and the reps these players are currently getting will pay dividends moving forward. We expect a gritty, hard-nosed football team that is hungry on Friday and our players must meet that intensity for us to have an opportunity to win on Friday."

Jefferson's Gene Cathcart on his team's ability to battle through injuries and overall depth ... "Well, comfortable is a relative term. We would much rather be at full strength and have Malaki, Max, Spencer, Bowman and others back, but we practice in such a way that we get a lot of reps and over the last few years, we have had enough leads that we have gotten our backups game experience. Frankly, we have some very quality depth at some positions. The other thing that helps is our varsity coaching staff is also our JV coaching staff, so those guys have been coached the exact same way and prepared identically as our Friday night guys have been. Getting a player and leader back like Jordan Perry was a big lift, and the outstanding play of Sammy Brown was awesome. We would rather be at full strength, but overcoming injuries is part of the game. We're fortunate to have players to step up. You know, spokes change, but the wheel has to roll on."
On playing Cedar Shoals ... "Cedar is a very talented and extremely well-coached football team who has had two weeks to game plan for option offenses, so one key will be offensive execution as we know they will have a great plan. Defensively, containing their team speed is always an issue as they do a great job getting their playmakers in space. Lastly, if the weather makes the field conditions like predicted, ball security will be key, also we need to continue to play well in special teams. We were proud of the way our guys played Friday with only one penalty and that being on defense. It is crazy, but we’ve had six games -- four with three or fewer offensive flags, and two games with eight and 10, so it appears the 3.0 multiplier was being enforced a bit early." 

Johnson's William Harrell on the keys against Jackson County ... "Offensively, they do some of the same things that we do, but with more players, more experience, and better athleticism. It helps that we are familiar with their scheme. They are well-coached and organized; Rich has done a great job of building since he got there. Defensively, they fly around to the football and read their keys well. We must execute in our pass game with completions and keep them in front of us on defense to have a chance to compete."

Lumpkin County's Caleb Sorrells on his team's win over Gilmer last week ... "The biggest catalyst has been the play of our quarterback, Cooper Scott. We have really put the bulk of the offense on his shoulders the last 2 games and he has responded in a big way. His play has boosted everybody's confidence. And our O-Line really came through big last week versus Gilmer, paving the way for 296 yds on the ground. Defensively, we've played pretty well all year, so being able to add some offensive production has made the difference."  

On playing North Hall ... "They are exactly what you expect out of North Hall every year: they move really well across the board, they play very disciplined football, and they get better every week. They have very few weaknesses. It will be a great challenge for us, and we'll lean into that underdog role again this week. We are focused on getting better and learning to expect more from ourselves, individually and as a team."   

North Forsyth's Robert Craft on his team's upset win over No. 7 West Forsyth ... "I felt like all week our team believed they could win this game. I think that belief came from their preparation from the previous two weeks that included an open week. We really had two great weeks of practice. What I really liked was when we got down 14 points in the second quarter, our team never lost that belief. We were able to get right back in the game before halftime and the second half was a back and forth game and we were able to make some big plays in the 4th quarter."
On playing Forsyth Central ... "This is a big rivalry game for us against Forsyth Central. In the last three years, the last 3 games have been decided by a total of 6 points. So, in a game like this, I really believe you can throw records out. I know Central will be really well prepared, and they will play really hard. We are fortunate to be at home again, and we are excited for the opportunity."

North Hall's David Bishop on his team's continued improvement ... "One of the things we started doing this week is intensifying practice situations. One example is during full-contact team offense, the offensive line and backs must block til the whistle -- we have coaches watching the blocking and another on the whistle. It is very demanding. We also give out our awards for practice, not games. To us, it just translates over and you can see that on video."
On playing Lumpkin County ... "Lumpkin is improving and you can see it in their body language. They played us well last year at our place and know that we have to play with the same intensity as we did White County this past Friday to have success."

Rabun County Jaybo Shaw on his team's win over Class 3A No. 4 Pierce County ... "Our football team played our brand of football. We had tremendous leadership by our seniors throughout the long road trip and game. We handled our emotions very well and executed our game plan. We took care of the football and created explosive plays in all three phases of the game." 

On playing Class 6A Grovetown ... "Grovetown is a very fast, athletic, and well-coached football team. They have a UGA commit in their Secondary that has a tremendous knack for football. They are a 6A team with tremendous size on both lines of scrimmage. We have a lot of respect for their football program. We will have to create explosive plays in all three phases of the game, win the turnover margin, and once again, play our brand of football." 

Town's County's Jason Roquemore on his team's effort in the loss to Lincoln County last week ... "I was proud of our effort and how our young men competed. We just need to be more consistent in all three phases."

On playing Commerce ... "I think they are improving every week. Offensively, they do a great job of running the football. Defensively, they play hard and make you earn every inch. The Key for us this week has to start with us taking better care of the football. We can't turn the ball over and expect to win."

Union County's Michael Perry on his team's improvement ... "I'm proud of our guys and the work they put in to start off region play in the right direction. We just have to continue to push forward and execute in all phases of the game."

On playing Banks County ...  "As for Banks, we must be able to stop their running game when we are on defense, and offensively, we have to continue to put points on the board by ground and air."

West Hall's Krofton Montgomery on the team's Week 7 loss to North Hall ... "They are a complete team and we hurt ourselves with penalties and turnovers that you can’t do against a team of their caliber. We have had a lot of injuries and need to get as healthy as we can for these next five games."

On playing White County ... "White County has an explosive playmaker on offense No. 11 and No. 1 on the defensive side is a really good player as well. They have played a really tough non-region schedule and can put up points at any time. We have to get our offense in rhythm.  Penalties have put us behind the sticks for the last two weeks and we can’t do that and expect to be successful. Defensively, we got to tackle a lot better. The things we practice every day have to carry over."

White County's Tim Cokely on the keys against West Hall ... "We have to eliminate mistakes for us to play better this week against West Hall. They have a big size advantage and it is at their place, so it will not  be easy to get a win."

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