With only four weeks remaining in the 2021 campaign, several teams continue to jockey for better region positions across Northeast Georgia.
Last week, Commerce kept its region title hopes alive with a 28-20 win over Towns County. Dawson County and North Hall remained on the path to battle for a region title with big wins. North Forsyth's quest for a Region 6-7A home game is still intact, and Chestatee and Jackson County are still in play for a playoff berth.
This week, it gets even crazier with several key matchups around the area. Below are what I think are Games2Watch.
CHESTATEE (3-3, 1-1 Region 8-4A) AT MADISON COUNTY (3-3, 0-2 Region 8-4A)
This one will be a clash of styles, for sure, with Chestatee's high-flying offense, and Madison County's ground and pound rushing attack.
The War Eagles are coming off a blowout turned shootout battle against East Hall. More than 1,000 total yards and 112 points were put up in this Region 8-4A game -- one the War Eagles led at one point, 42-7. The Vikings scored 21 points in a three-minute span to rally back, but Chestatee got a massive late touchdown from Adriel Vargas, who finished with 159 yards rushing, to push the game out of reach with two minutes to go.
The War Eagles can score. They can rack up yardage (463.2 yards per game) through the air and on the ground behind quarterback Luke Bornhorst and running backs Vargas and Granados. It's the defense, as of late, that has been slacking, allowing 48 points to North Oconee and 50 points to East Hall. It'll be interesting to see if Madison County, which is a run-first team, will try to stretch the field with its almost non-existent passing game on Friday. The Red Raiders average 243 rushing yards per game and have only passed over 50 yards once this season in a 19-14 loss to Stephens County (51 yards).
And to make things even more interesting ... a playoff spot is on the line in Danielsville. While it's true the War Eagles are sitting in a good spot at 1-1, there's no guarantee they'll make the playoffs, and if they lose this game to Madison County, they'll have to pull an upset over either No. 1 Jefferson or Flowery Branch. I will have to say, I think the War Eagles have more than enough firepower to win this game, but can the defense stand up and make the key stops?
SOUTH FORSYTH (5-1, 2-0 Region 6-7A) AT GAINESVILLE (4-2, 1-1 Region 6-7A)
If there's a region still too hard to predict, it's Region 6-7A. Right now, Denmark and South Forsyth are undefeated atop the standings, followed by one-loss teams North Forsyth and Gainesville. Gainesville, however, still has Denmark, South Forsyth, West Forsyth and North Forsyth left to play. So, basically, Gainesville, like last year, controls its own destiny.
However, the road isn't easy, facing a well-balanced South Forsyth at City Park this week. The War Eagles are averaging almost 35 points per game and giving up just under 23 points on defense. They're lead by a solid rotation of running backs and a quarterback that hasn't thrown an interception this season. They like the run it as much as they like the throw, so the balanced attack will force the Red Elephants to play fundamental sound. If not, the War Eagles could have a pretty good night at City Park.
Gainesville beat the War Eagles at their place last year, 28-14. The Red Elephants would love nothing better than to make it two-in-a-row against South. But it's going to take a better performance than two weeks ago in a 37-28 loss to Lambert. The Red Elephants only rushed for 11 yards but rallied back from a 24-7 deficit to make it a one-score game late. Lambert, however, busted off a big touchdown run to seal it.
After taking Week 8 off, the Red Elephants are fresh and have the ability to score points, averaging just under 30 points and have the third-best defensive average in the region at 18.7 points per game given up. But it'll take more than a solid defense to beat South Forsyth. Quarterback Baxter Wright will have to be on target and the Naim Cheeks will need to get those feet churning for a successful night. I think they can beat the War Eagles, but mistakes early could doom the Red Elephants.
CEDAR SHOALS (2-3, 2-1 Region 8-4A) AT FLOWERY BRANCH (3-3, 0-2 Region 8-4A)
Flowery Branch's Week 8 loss to North Oconee essentially eliminated them from a home playoff game. It currently has the 0-2 Falcons in fifth in Region 8-4A, with games against Cedar Shoals, Chestatee, Madison County and East Hall remaining. I feel as if the Falcons are in a must-win situation this week. Cedar Shoals sits in the No. 3 spot in region play. They have one loss and if the Falcons fall to the Jaguars this week, a playoff berth could be in grave danger.
The Jaguars only put up 139 total yards of offense in a 34-9 loss to No. 1 Jefferson in Week 8. They'll have to do more than that to beat the Falcons this week. Flowery Branch, on the other hand, will need to find its offense. They've scored a combined 14 points over the last two weeks, but against the top-two teams in the region -- Jefferson and North Oconee.
The Falcons have the weapons with quarterback David Renard and a solid rushing attack from Myles Ivey. The biggest question remains, though, can they find the endzone. I think they will but I also think Cedar Shoals will give the Falcons their best shot. This one could come down to the end.
OTHERS TO WATCH
WEST HALL AT DAWSON COUNTY -- The Tigers are starting to click on both sides of the ball. The Spartans, not so much. Of course, West Hall has been dealing with a boat-load of injuries to some front-line guys. They get some of those players back this week, but will it be enough against the hot Tigers?
UNION COUNTY AT ELBERT COUNTY -- The Panthers have found a groove on offense the last couple of weeks and should continue that this week against Elbert County. If the Panthers win this one, they'll be hosting a home playoff game in November.