Saturday July 20th, 2024 5:04AM

ICYMIT: Week 5 previews -- Region play opens for 6-7A and 8-5A

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

The real road to the playoffs will begin for several Northeast Georgia area teams this week as region play has finally arrived.

Region 8-5A with Jackson County and Johnson and Region 6-7A with Gainesville and North Forsyth will get things started with some huge games on tap.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Northeast Georgia area will try to use their final week of non-region play to fine-tune things before getting their playoffs quests under way next week.

In Region 8-5A, Jackson County travels to Walnut Grove, a team they beat last season, while Johnson travels to Eastside in Covington. The Panthers are looking for their second consecutive win while the Knights looked much-improved last week in a loss to East Hall but is still trying to snap a now 14-game losing streak.

In Region 6-7A, Gainesville will play host to Forsyth Central at City Park Stadium. Last year’s affair was a wild finish where the Red Elephants scored five points in the final 10 seconds to pull out a win. You can listen to that game on 94.5 FM The Lake.

North Forsyth and one of the stingiest defenses in Class 7A heads to Denmark in a rare Thursday kickoff in a crucial battle to get things started.

But the marquee game of the night most likely will be at Tom Riden Stadium where Class 6A No. 1 Buford will entertain Chaminade-Madonna (Fla.) in a showdown of highly-ranked teams. Both teams possess nearly a dozen Division I prospects in what is sure to be a dogfight down to the final play. You can listen to that game on WDUN AM 550.

And the Battle of Highway 60 could be a rare toss-up as Chestatee heads to The Brickyard in their annual showdown. The Trojans own the series (17-2) but the War Eagles are flying high on the heels of two straight wins while North Hall has dropped its last two games. That game can be heard on 102.9 FM WDUN.

East Forsyth and Riverside Military Academy also will have a rare Thursday kickoff at Maginnis Field in a non-region battle.

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: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford 
-- CHAMINADE-MADONNA (FLA.) (2-1): Ranked 9th in Florida, all classifications; defeated Columbus (Fla.) 33-17 last week
-- BUFORD (3-0): Ranked No. 1 in Class 6A; defeated Myers Park (N.C.) 44-17 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Wolves continue to test themselves with their third game against a highly-ranked team, and the second from a different state as well. ... Buford has been at its best vs. the top teams. The Wolves have won 13 straight games vs. ranked teams, regardless of classification or state. Their last loss to a ranked team was against Archer in September 2018. ...  The Lions have won the Florida Class 3A state title 3 of the last 4 seasons. ... The Lions come in balanced, averaging 216 yards/game rushing and 180 yards/game passing. So. RB Davion Gause is already attracting attention with 409 yards, 5 TDs, and 3 100-yard games so far. Jr. Duane Thomas is a threat everywhere with 190 yards rushing, 271 yards receiving, and 52 return yards. ... The Wolves OL will be tested by a Lions front-7 that has produced 16 sacks in three games. 

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: 
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (3-0, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; defeated East Forsyth 59-0 two weeks ago
-- LAKESIDE-ATLANTA (1-3, non-region Region 4-6A): Lost 52-21 to Discovery last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Bears still have the highest-scoring offense in the state averaging 55.3 ppg. Trinity Christian (Class A Private) has scored the most points (224 in 4 games, 54.8 ppg) and Chamblee (Class 5A) has the 2nd-most points (213 in 4 games, 52.7 ppg). ... This looks like another favorable matchup for the Bluff offense. Sr. RB Jayquan Smith has continued where he left off last season. He has 267 yards and 5 TDs in limited action as he has not played much in the 2nd half in any of their first 3 games. The Vikings defense has given up 111 points (37.0 ppg) during their 3-game losing streak. ... Lakeside is averaging just 12.2 ppg on the season while the Bears are yielding just 9.3 ppg on defense.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM WDUN
-- CHESTATEE (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Defeated West Hall 42-7 last week
-- NORTH HALL (1-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Off last week; lost 48-37 to Hart County two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: North Hall leads series 17-2. The Trojans won 48-28 in 2020 on the road. Chestatee’s last win in the series came in 2017, 42-12, at Chestatee. The War Eagles’ only win at The Brickyard came in 2005, 17-10. ... The War Eagles are now 2-1 for the first time since 2013 and are on a winning streak for the first time since 2017. ... The Chestatee offense has found itself during a two-game win streak. The War Eagles’ have averaged 41.5 ppg during that stretch behind Sr. QB Luke Bornhorst, who last week was 18-of-28 passing for 344 yards and 5 TDs, which all came in the first half, two longer than 50 yards. ... The Trojans have had two weeks to try and regroup a defensive unit that was ravaged for 90 points in losses to Stephens County and Hart County. Their wing-T offense has been unstoppable at times but also struggled mightily for six quarters scoring just 7 points. Sr. RB Kevin Rochester has rushed for 372 yards and 4 TDs with 1 100-yard game. But nearly 250 came in the opening game. Sr. QB Bradford Puryear has 209 yards and 2 TDs. ... Since giving up 60 points in a loss to Cherokee Bluff, the War Eagles defense has allowed just 35 points. ... This is the second time Chestatee and North Hall have played when Chestatee had a winning record and North Hall had a losing record. In 2011, Chestatee entered at 3-1, North Hall entered at 1-3. North Hall won 48-7 in The Brickyard. ... Chestatee is looking for its first 3-1 start since 2013.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- EAST JACKSON (1-3, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Lost 41-34 to Gilmer last week
-- EAST HALL (1-2, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Defeated Johnson 49-35 last week
-- NOTABLE: East Hall leads series 3-0. The Vikings won 49-34 in2020 in Commerce. ... East Hall got its first win for new coach Matt Turner last week but it was an unexpected shootout with the Knights. QB Clete Cooper had another big offensive day but the defense struggled once again. The Vikings have given up 121 points so far (40.3 ppg) which is the 8th-most in Class 4A. ... The Eagles are allowing just 20.2 ppg with more than half of that coming in last week’s loss. ... Expect a shootout in this one because no fewer than 70 points combined have been scored in any of the three previous meetings. ... Both teams definitely will be looking for positive momentum with both beginning difficult regions schedules next week.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Leopards Stadium, Homer
-- FANNIN COUNTY (3-1, 0-0 Region 7-2A): Defeated Southeast Whitfield 35-6 last week
-- BANKS COUNTY (1-2, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Defeated Lumpkin County 26-16 last week
-- NOTABLE: Fannin County leads series 7-4. The Rebels won 49-13 in 2020 in Blue Ridge. The teams have split six meetings since 2011. ... The Leopards snapped a 9-game losing streak last week. It was the first time in 9 games going back to last season they had scored over 13 points. Defensively the Leopards are only yielding just 18 ppg but will be put to the test against the Rebels. ... Jr. QB David Mashburn has been the catalyst of a balanced Fannin attack that is averaging 172 yards passing and 145 yards rushing. Mashburn is 40-of-62 for 435 yards with 4 TDs and 3 INTs passing. He has a lot of potential weapons connecting with 16 different receivers so far and Sr. RB Seth Reece has 172 yards, 1 TD, and 1 100-yard game rushing so far. However, they are only averaging 23 ppg as turnovers have been an issue at times.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: City Park Stadium, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- FORSYTH CENTRAL (1-2, 0-0 Region 6-7A): Lost 35-0 to Cambridge last week
-- GAINESVILLE (2-1, 0-0 Region 6-7A): Defeated Flowery Branch 42-35 last week
-- NOTABLE: Gainesville leads series 7-2. The Red Elephants won 33-28 in 2020 in Cumming. ... The teams are similar in production with GHS averaging 32 ppg and giving up 20.3 ppg while the Bulldogs are scoring 28.6 ppg and allowing 21 ppg. But they are going in opposite directions. ... Gainesville has increased its offense from just 10 points in its opener to averaging 43 ppg over the last two games. The Bulldogs have gone from scoring 62 in their opener to being shut out last week and pitching a shutout in their opener to giving up 63 points (31.5 ppg) in their last two games, both losses. ... GHS So. QB Baxter Wright had his breakout game last week (21-of-23, 289 yards, 1 TD passing; 77 yards rushing, 1 TD). Naim Cheeks led GHS with 8 catches for 88 yards and rushed for 61 yards. ... Bulldogs' Sr. RB Malachi McElroy has been a load with over 400 yards, 2 TDs, and a pair of 100-yard games already this season.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- HIRAM (0-4, 0-0 Region 7-5A): Lost 31-28 to East Paulding last week
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-4A): Ranked No. 7 in Class 4A; lost 42-35 last week to Gainesville
-- NOTABLE: Flowery Branch leads series 1-0. The Falcons won 34-7 in 2020 in Hiram. ... The Falcons defense, which had come into the Gainesville game having allowed just 21 points, was roughed up last week. The Hornets, however, are averaging just 19 ppg and turnovers have been a problem with 5 INT and three fumbles so far. ... The Falcons offense continues to get better with its best output of the season last week. They will need to continue that with their region opener against No. 1 Jefferson looming next week. ... Sr. QB David Renard was 17-of-24 for 234 yards and a TD last week. RB Myles Ivey had 88 yards and 1 TD rushing while Jaheim Hayes had 9 catches for 117 yards. ... Since advancing to the 2nd round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2019, Hiram has lost 14 of its last 15 games overall. But 6 of those losses were by 4 points or less, three by just 1 point. ... The Hornets have struggled on defense allowing the 5th-most in Class 5A (137, 34.2 ppg).

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Walnut Grove
-- JACKSON COUNTY (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Defeated Franklin County 20-19 last week
-- WALNUT GROVE (1-2, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Defeated Social Circle 13-6 last week
-- NOTABLE: Jackson County leads series 2-1. The Panthers won 20-0 in 2020 in Jefferson. Walnut Grove’s only win came in 2011, 37-0. ... Jackson County will be without head coach Rich McWhorter, who was ejected from last week’s game and will have to sit out a game. ... The Warriors last week snapped a 6-game losing streak but offense has been the main issue during that stretch. The 13 points was the most scored over their last seven games and they have averaged just 6.1 ppg over their last seven games and been shut out twice. They are averaging just 187 yards/game on offense in 2021. ... Meanwhile, the Panthers are 10th in defense in Class 5A (48 points, 16.0 ppg). They have recorded 15 TFL, including 6 sacks, to go with 5 INT by five different players. ... On offense, Jackson County is using a big offensive line to pound out 226 yards/game, led by Sr. RB Trey Ransom, who is among the area's top rushers with 395 yards on 60 carries and has 3 100-yard games with 2 TD. ... Until last week, the Warriors had been giving up 28.6 ppg over their last 6 games.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Sharp Stadium, Covington
-- JOHNSON (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Lost 49-35 to East Hall last week
-- EASTSIDE (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-5A): Defeated Alcovy 30-21 last week
-- NOTABLE: Eastside leads series 3-0. The Eagles won 47-7 in 2020 in Oakwood. ... The Knights may be showing signs of turning things around as they try to snap a 14-game losing streak going back to 2019. The 35 points was the most since scoring 56 in a win over Cross Keys in 2019. They had averaged just 5.6 ppg in their previous 13 games. ... The Johnson defense, which has yielded 46.3 ppg during its losing streak, will have its hands full with Eagles Sr. RB Dallas Johnson (71 car., 506 yards, 6 TD, 2 100-yard games) who is among the state leaders in rushing. He had 255 yards last week, which was the 2nd time in three games he has eclipsed the 200-yard barrier this season. ... The Knights, who did not play a region schedule from 2012-2015, have dropped nine straight region openers going back to a 34-18 win over West Hall in 2007 when both were in Region 7-3A.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee
-- LAKEVIEW ACADEMY (1-2, 0-0 Region 6-A Private): Defeated Walker 31-20 last week
-- TOWNS COUNTY (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-A Public): Defeated Baconton Charter 48-20 last week
-- NOTABLE: Lakeview Academy leads series 9-5. The Lions won 31-12 in 2020 in Gainesville. This is the longest-standing rival for Lakeview, who's played the Indians more than any other team. They have played every season since Lakeview opened the program in 2007. ... This is the home-opener for the Indians after three straight road games to open the season. They are looking for their first 3-1 start since 2008. ... Lakeview, which is breaking in nearly 20 new starters this season, finally got its offense untracked last week. They had scored just 16 points in their opening two losses. ... Lions’ WR Sam Perrott continued his strong play with 5 catches for 174 yards and a TD last week ... The key matchup will be the Lions defense, which has allowed 108 points (36 ppg) the 2nd-most statistically in Class A Private, vs. the Towns offense, which has averaged 30.3 ppg behind Kyle Oakes. The Sr. RB rushed for 247 yards and 5 TDs last week and is among the state leaders in rushing with just under 500 yards on the season. ... Towns County is yielding just 19 ppg on the season. 

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Gainesville Middle School, Gainesville
-- JOHNSON FERRY CHRISTIAN (2-0, 0-0 GAPPS 1-2A): Defeated Hearts Academy 66-0 last week
-- LANIER CHRISTIAN (3-0, 0-0 GAPPS 1-2A): Defeated Holy Spirit Prep 78-0 last week
-- NOTABLE: Something will have to give in this one. The Lightning have outscored their three opponents 174-0 while the Saints have outscored their two opponents 124-6 so far. ... Despite a spread formation, LCA is punishing teams on the ground. The Lightning are averaging 288 yards/game, with most of that damage coming in big first halves. ... Fr. RB Zeke Clanton has 362 yards, So. QB Walker Anderson has 217 yards, and Jr. Carter Raulerson has 141 yards so far. ... But the defense has been even more impressive. The Lightning have forced 11 fumbles to go with 5 INTS. They have generated 30 TFL and 12 sacks.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Saluda, SC
-- RABUN COUNTY (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Ranked No. 2 in Class 2A; defeated Murphy (N.C.) 59-14 last week
-- SALUDA (SC) (3-0): Ranked No. 3 in Class 2A in South Carolina; defeated Midland Valley 52-19 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two programs. ... The Wildcats continue to try and push themselves with another highly-ranked team in a game put together earlier this week due to their off-week. The Tigers will be the third top 5 team in four games, with another ranked team, Pierce County, two weeks down the road. ... The Rabun offense has been explosive in the last two games scoring 106 points behind Sr. QB and Georgia-commit Gunner Stockton (38-of-64, 873 yards, 11 TD, 1 INT; 34-303 rushing, 3 TD) and a slew of weapons, including RB Lang Windham (25-184, 3 TD, 1 100-yard game), Jr. WR Jaden Gibson (14 rec., 459 yards, 4 TD), and Sr. WR Ethan Clarke (8 rec., 178 yards, 2 TD). Stockton has connected with 6 different receivers for TD passes. ... The Tigers, the 2019 Class 2A state champions, are in a powerhouse region in South Carolina that has the Nos. 1 and 3 ranked teams (MaxPreps) in Class 2A. Much like the Wildcats, they are an offensive juggernaut averaging 49 ppg, which is 2nd in Class 2A in South Carolina, and allowing just 15 ppg on defense.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega
-- ST. FRANCIS (0-3, 0-0 Region 6-A Private): Off last week; lost 35-14 to Darlington two weeks ago
-- LUMPKIN COUNTY (0-3, 0-0 Region 7-3A): Lost 26-16 to Banks County last week
-- NOTABLE: St. Francis leads series 1-0. The Knights won 35-7 in 2020 in Alpharetta. ... The Indians program-worst losing streak, now at 19 straight, continued last week but they showed signs of being ready to perhaps break out. The 16 points was the most scored in 13 games, going back to notching 31 in a loss to East Hall in 2019. ... St. Francis is allowing 27.3 ppg on defense and the Knights are just 1-8 in non-region play the past two seasons. But the one win was last year over the Indians. ... Region 7-3A has really struggled in non-region play. As a group they are just 10-17 overall in non-region action with Cherokee Bluff (3-0) the only team so far to be unblemished.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Raider Stadium, Mt. Airy
-- RADIO: 99.3 FM WCON 
-- STEPHENS COUNTY (4-0, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Defeated Madison County 19-14 last week
-- HABERSHAM CENTRAL (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Defeated White County 21-12 last week
-- NOTABLE: Stephens County leads series 31-12-1. The Indians won 27-12 in 2020 in Toccoa. Habersham Central won the last meeting in Mt. Airy in 2019, 27-21. ... Stephens County has owned the series winning 17 of the last 20 going back to 1991. The Indians are 14-6-1 all-time at Raider Stadium. ... Stephens County has been one of the more impressive teams in Northeast Georgia in the early going knocking Class 5A Jackson County as well as a pair of Region 7-3A teams from last season. The Indians are 4th in Class 3A in scoring (124 points, 31 ppg) and 2nd in 3A in scoring defense (46, 11.5 ppg) among teams that have played four games and 5th among teams that have played three games or more. ... Jr. RB Tyson Everette is averaging 102 yards/game with 2 100-yard games for Stephens. ... The Raiders showed their resiliency last week getting just one offensive touchdown but getting touchdowns from the special teams and the defense to hold off the Warriors. The Raiders are 12th in Class 6A in defense (47 points, 15.6 ppg) but have yielded just 19 points (9.5 ppg) in their last two games. ... DE Jonathan Adams was a force  with 10 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and a forced and recovered fumble. ... A rebuilding Raiders offense is averaging 24 ppg behind RB Simarcus Burney (49 car., 251 yards, 2 TD) and QB Carson Parker (23-53 238 yards passing; 29 car., 215 yards, 3 TD rushing). Fr. Zeke Whittington has 14 rec., for 138 yards and 3 TD so far.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Dragon Stadium, Jasper
-- UNION COUNTY (0-2, 0-0 Region 8-2A): Off last week; lost 41-28 to Chestatee two weeks ago
-- PICKENS (2-1, 0-0 Region 7-4A): Defeated Coosa 34-10 last week
-- NOTABLE: Union County leads series 6-5. The Panthers won 28-14 in 2020 in Blairsville. This is just the 2nd meeting since 1991 between the two teams. ... The Panthers are still looking for their first win for new coach Michael Perry. It is their third straight road game to open the season. ... The offense has been both a bright spot and a trouble spot in the early going. They are averaging nearly 300 yards/game with Sr. QB Logan Helcher (32-of-55, 458 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT) is showing signs he is getting comfortable with the offense. Jr. WR Griff Young (4 rec., 150 yards, 2 TD) and Sr. WR Keyton Chitwood (8 rec., 105 yards, 2 TD) have been his favorite targets. But turnovers have been an issue with 4 fumbles and 1 big pick-6 vs. Chestatee as they were driving for a potential tying score in the waning seconds. ... The Dragons are in the top 10 in defense (38 points, 12.6 ppg) in Class 4A among teams that have played 3 or more games. ... Pickens WR Devin Hand (11 rec., 208 yards, 3 TD) has been the main offensive weapon for Pickens in the early going.

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