Sunday December 10th, 2023 5:52PM

Coaches Corner: With four weeks left; area coaches talk Week 9 games

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

Northeast Georgia teams begin the four-week sprint to the finish on Friday.

Last week, however, Region 8-4A played out interesting with Flowery Branch falling to North Oconee, Chestatee holding on against East Hall, and Jefferson knocking off Cedar Shoals. The results left the Falcons 0-2 and in fifth place, while Chestatee holds on to the fourth spot.

White County rolled into Spartan Field and walked out big-time winners with a 42-0 win over West Hall in Region 7-3A, while Dawson County and North Hall both won.

And in Region 8-A, Commerce kept its region title hopes alive with a win over Towns County. 

This week, the Road to Atlanta 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 8 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 Below are comments from the area’s coaches:

Banks County's Jay Reid on the keys to a win against No. 1 Rabun County (1-5, 0-1 Region 8-2A, lost to Union County, 36-14) ... "Rabun has a talented team and is very explosive. We have played really good ball at times and must put together a full 48 minutes." 

Buford's Bryant Appling on his team's off Week 8 (5-1, 2-0 Region 8-6A) ... "The off week came at a really good time for us, we needed some time off for some guys to heal up and get better at fundamentals. Our focus was to fix the mistakes that we keep making In all phases and Sure up some depth for the rest of the season."

On playing Shiloh ... "Shiloh is a really good team that is full of athletes that play VERY hard each play. They have had some early-season tests with their schedule and that has helped them improve every week. Our keys for this game are to stop them on early down in distances when we are on defense and stay on schedule when we are on offense. We also are putting a premium on winning the special teams battle this week."

Cherokee Bluff's Tommy Jones on his team's Week 8 off week (6-0, 2-0 Region 7-3A) ... "The open week came at a good time for us. It gave us a chance to get a little healthier and to focus on fundamentals before this tough, last stretch of the season. Really proud of the way that our guys came to work every day with a great desire to improve." 
On playing Lumpkin County ... "Lumpkin County is clearly the most improved team in the region. Coach [Caleb] Sorrells and his staff are doing an exceptional job up there. They are playing with a high level of confidence right now and executing well in all phases. And schematically, they have stretched our preparation in some ways we haven’t seen this year. We need to play with great effort, speed, physicality and discipline on Friday night to be successful." 

Chestatee's Shaun Conley on his team's wild Week 8 win (3-3, 1-1 Region 8-4A, beat East Hall, 62-50) ... "Last week's game was a crazy one, to say the least. East went on a long drive right before the half, and we’re able to punch it in. The [Clete] Cooper kid made a couple of plays and they scored. Then we bobbled an onside kick, and they scored again -- it was a 21-point swing in about a 3-minute span. But our kids responded and were able to get it back together. They were able to bring it within 2 scores, but we did what we had to win the game."  

On playing Madison County ... "This week, stopping Madison County on offense will be key because they like to control the ball and play keep away. We will have to play great assignment football and make plays when they present themselves."

East Forsyth's Brian Allison on his team's Week 8 win (2-5, beat Druid Hills, 49-0) ... "Yes, it was very exciting. We are getting better every day. It has been and continues to be a slow process." 

On playing Chamblee ... "Chamblee is one of the best teams we have played this season. We are working to improve every week and that is the goal this week."

Flowery Branch's Ben Hall on his team's Week 8 loss (3-3, 0-2 Region 8-4A, lost to North Oconee, 14-7) ... "North Oconee is a very good team. Their defense outplayed our offense.  They did a great job of forcing our wide receivers to have to separate, and we didn't. We had to play behind the chains way too much."

On playing Cedar Shoals ... "Cedar Shoals is a very talented, well-coached, and hard playing team. We will need to continue to keep the ball in front of us and limit their first downs while on defense. Their defense is very fast. Our offense must eliminate the pre-snap penalties to have a chance."

Gainesville's Heath Webb on his team's off Week 8 (4-2, 1-1 Region 6-7A) ... "Our plan was to get back to the basics of blocking and tackling, but Mother Nature decided rain all week would be the plan, so we focused on the mental side of things -- cleaning up our assignments, learning some new schemes and understanding our plan moving forward."

On playing South Forsyth ... "South Forsyth has a very good team, coming off a great overtime win over West Forsyth. They're tough and physical and have very good team speed. They have good balance on offense, and they fly around on defense. We've got to win the turnover battle and prevent the big play."

Habersham Central's Benji Harrison on his team's Week 8 performance (2-5, 0-3 Region 8-6A, lost to Dacula, 35-17) ... "I thought we showed when we play up to our capabilities, we are a pretty good football team." 

On playing Lanier ... "We have to play 4 quarters. They are an athletic team, and we have to match that by being physical on every snap. We have to play very solid on both line of scrimmages."

Johnson's William Harrell on the keys to a Week 9 win (0-6, 0-4 Region 8-5A, lost to Jackson County, 63-0) ... "[Apalachee] They run a sound wing-T offense; they have some explosive backs, and the offensive line does a great job of giving these enough of a crease to make big plays. Defensively, they like to confuse you with their alignments and use their Defensive Line to tie up blockers, which allow their Linebackers to make tackles. Offensively, we have to cut down on loose ballhandling/turnovers, penalties, dropped passes and busted blocking assignments. Defensively, we must reduce missed tackles, busted coverage, misalignments and penalties."

Lanier Christian's Bruce Miller on his team's Week 8 loss (5-2, 1-1 GAPPS Region 2A, lost to Horizon Christian, 15-14) ... "One thing we need to do is take opportunities to score. We had chances to score, and we did not. We dropped a lot of passes that would have been a huge difference in the game.  Zeke Clanton had another good night for us rushing for over 100 yards. We played well enough to win we just did not. I have to do a better job of coaching and put our players in position to win."

On playing New Creation Christian ... "New Creation is a very good team. Their quarterback really makes a lot of plays with his arms and legs. We will have to really bring our best game to beat them. We have to go on the road, and that is always a factor. We are looking forward to the challenge."

Lumpkin County's Caleb Sorrells on his team's improvement in Week 8 (2-4, 1-1 Region 7-3A, lost to North Hall, 37-7) ... "We showed flashes of who we can be, but paid the price for some big mistakes in all three phases of the game. We played really well at times and really poorly at others."

On playing Cherokee Bluff ... "With Bluff, the challenge is very similar to last week. It will be about leaning into the physicality that they will play with and trying to match that while staying fundamentally sound. They are very diverse with their formations on offense, but it all comes back to the run game. [Jayquan] Smith is obviously a phenomenal ball carrier, but he is surrounded by some pretty dang good talent. Defensively, they play with great discipline and aggression. We will have to execute and can't miss chances to move the chains because of fundamental mistakes."

North Hall's David Bishop on his team's Week 8 win (5-2, 3-0 Region 7-3A, beat Lumpkin County, 37-7) ... "While we did have some explosive plays, we did not execute our fundamentals on offense well, so that will be our focus." 

On playing Gilmer ... "Gilmer is getting better each week, they can move the ball and control the clock if we don’t get them off schedule.  Our defense has been playing the run well, we need to do that again to win."

Union County's Michael Perry talks Week 8 win (2-4, 2-0 Region 8-2A, beat Banks County, 36-14) ... "Our offensive line keeps improving, and that's really the key factor for why our offense has come along here recently. Defensively, David Heredia, Wilson Walker, Eli Peugh have all really stepped up on that side of the ball. Trace Wright played big for us as well on both sides of the ball at wideout and safety."

On playing Elbert County ... "Elbert is a very physical and athletic team. We must get our run game going and be patient with what they give us. We have to get turnovers on defense."

West Hall's Krofton Montgomery on his team's Week 8 loss (2-4, 0-3 Region 7-3A, lost to White County, 42-0) ... "We got to have everyone doing their 1/11 on every play. When we make a mistake, it’s been at the point of attack and has really hurt our offense getting in any rhythm and getting going. We had five total starters out last week, offensively, and we need players to step up in their spots and get it done. It’s a learning process for some and for others, we simply need to play better. It all starts with us being able to establish the running game, and we haven’t been able to get it going consistently. Defensively, we had three key players out, and it’s hurting us with rotations, depth, and experience on the field. We have some of these players back, which is a good thing for this week, but we got to play better in every facet to compete and put ourselves in opportunities to be successful."

On playing Dawson County ... "Dawson County plays hard is well-coached and has a QB that understands the whole offense and can make all the throws. They run a lot of misdirection off motion and wrap ISO Wham plays out of the gun that is very hard to stop over and over without great effort. Dawson plays hard and always has, so you got to have a relentless effort at all times. We need a momentum-shifting play to get us going as a team, and we need our seniors to play up to their ability to play 48 minutes with Dawson."    


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