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Saturday October 23rd, 2021 8:55AM

Week 4 notebook: Streaks, struggles, and just downright being defensive

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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Last week, two big streaks ended for area programs. Several more could be broken tonight while others could continue. 

With wins, last Friday, both Chestatee and East Jackson broke long losing streaks. The War Eagles’ win over Union County snapped an 11-game skid while the Eagles’ win over Banks County ended a 10-game slide for them.

One of two teams this week will break another long losing streak when Banks County plays host to Lumpkin County. The Leopards have dropped eight straight while the Indians have lost 18 straight. The Indians' last win came against Gilmer on Sept. 13, 2019, 29-21 at home.

Johnson will see if it can snap its 13-game losing streak against East Hall. The Knight's last win came against Walnut Grove, 24-22, on Sept. 11, 2019.

Flowery Branch and coach Ben Hall both have been tough nuts to crack for Hall County teams, including Gainesville. So, when the Falcons visit City Park to take on Gainesville tonight, either two interesting streaks will continue or be snapped, there is no in-between. 

The Falcons have won 16 straight games against Hall County opponents, including Gainesville. Their last loss to a team in Hall County was in the season-opener of 2016 at home against North Hall (21-20).

In fact, Hall is on a personal 21-game winning streak against Hall County opponents. He has not lost to a Hall County opponent since September of 2013 when he was the head coach at Jefferson, a home loss to North Hall (41-34).

Jefferson is working on a pretty good streak as well. The Dragons have won 19 straight regular-season games going back to a 21-20 loss to Oconee County to open the 2019 season. That’s the longest current regular-season streak among Northeast Georgia teams.

TRADITIONAL POWERS STRUGGLING: For years Northeast Georgia-area teams like Commerce, Elbert County, Union County, Dawson County have been consistent winners with multiple playoff appearances. But the 2021 campaign has been a rough beginning for each one.

As a collective group, they are just 1-8 so far in the early part of the season. 

Commerce and Elbert County play each other at The Granite Bowl and something will have to give in this one. Elbert is trying to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2012 while the Tigers have not started a season 1-2 since 2011.

The Tigers' usually devastating triple-option has been grounded so far averaging just 168 yards a game and scored just 18 total points (9.0 ppg), far below the 460 points (35.3 ppg) in 2020, which was their fourth-best offensive season in program history.

Dawson County and senior QB Zach Holtzclaw led Class 3A in passing in 2020. But breaking in a totally brand new receiving corps has proven challenging in 2021. Holtzclaw has connected on 52% of his passes for just 1 TD and 4 INTs so far for 533 yards. He has yet to have a 200-yard game. The running game is averaging just 89 yards/game.

Union County is 0-2 for a second straight season, this time under new coach Michael Perry. The Panthers are off this week but after giving up just 24 ppg in 2020, they’ve allowed 37.5 ppg so far.

But, there’s still time for all of these teams to turn it around by the time region play begins.

RETURN OF THE RB? So far the biggest stat guys in our area have been running backs, which we knew coming into the season was a position that was primed for some big performances.

The ground-and-pound philosophy has returned. Senior Kevin Rochester of North Hall (57 car., 372 yards, 4 TD) leads the area in rushing with senior Silas Mulligan of White County (367 yards) right behind. Sophomore Sammy Brown of Jefferson (17 car., 308 yards, 4 TD) has also broken the 300-yard barrier in three games.

Senior Kyle Oakes of Towns County (240 yards, 3 TDs, 1 100-yard game) and Habersham Central senior Simarcus Burney (35 car., 200 yards, 1 100-yard game) have also begun to heat up in just two games apiece. Sophomore Jason Granados of Chestatee (34 car., 186 yards, 3 TD) had a breakout game last week, and West Hall’s Tilil Blackwell (32 car., 180 yards, 4 TD) is also showing signs of heating up.

The running game is always crucial and we should expect to see things continue to trend back toward more ball control.

MAN, ARE YOU BEING DEFENSIVE! Several area teams already are flexing their defensive muscles in the opening weeks.

North Forsyth has been known for its offense in most seasons. But the Raiders are showing they can stop people in 2021. They are eighth in Class 7A in defense in scoring average (36 points, 12.0 ppg). In fact, since the beginning of 2020, they have allowed just 16 ppg over their last 13 games, which puts them in the top 10 in Class 7A over that span..

Jackson County (29 points, 14.5 ppg) is sixth in Class 5A, and going back to last season the Panthers have given up just 46 points (15.3 pp) over their last three games.

In Class 4A, Jefferson is fifth yielding just 9.0 ppg while Branch is eighth giving up just 10.5 ppg so far.

In Class 3A, among teams that have played three games, Cherokee Bluff is fourth allowing just 28 points (9.3 ppg) while East Jackson is sixth yielding just 40 points (13.3 ppg) so far.

Lanier Christian, in a high-scoring GAPPS 8- league, man has yet to give up a point in two games.

ODDS-AND-ENDS: Riverside Military Academy takes on Georgia Military tonight in a series that goes back more than 100 years. RMA is 11-1-1 all-time at home vs. GMC going back to the two programs’ first-ever meeting in 1911. The only GMC win in Gainesville came in 1999. ... The usually potent Commerce triple-option has struggled out of the gate scoring just 18 points so far, which is the lowest two-game stretch for them since scoring just 17 points in back-to-back losses to Jefferson and Athens Academy in 2015. ... Region 7-3A has struggled in the early going. The region as a whole is 8-13 in non-region play. Cherokee Bluff and West Hall are 5-0 combined leaving the rest of the region at just 3-13 so far. ... Region 8-3A has been the beast of the state so far. The region, which includes East Jackson, has five unbeaten teams and is 15-2 in non-region play, the best of any region in any classification in the state. Every team has at least one win. ... Cherokee Bluff leads Class 3A in scoring (176 points, 58.6 ppg) and has scored 57 or more in all three games. ... Lanier Christian is averaging 48 ppg but that is only good for 4th-best in a GAPPS 8-man league that is explosive on offense in general. ... Rabun County travels to Murphy (NC) in a cross-border showdown. Expect an offensive shootout. The Bulldogs have averaged 36 ppg over their past 40 games while Rabun County has averaged 44.2 ppg in their past 42 games. ... Both Chestatee and West Hall are trying to continue strong starts that they have not enjoyed in quite a while. The Spartans are looking for their first 3-0 start since 2014 while the War Eagles have not started a season 2-1 since 2013.

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