Friday February 3rd, 2023 1:15AM

Coaches Corner: Week 7 has coaches thinking about region battles

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

As the region schedules continue, some beginning this week, Northeast Georgia teams are starting to excel on the field. 

Last week, we saw North Hall put the hammer down on West Hall, Commerce break the two-game skid, Cherokee Bluff respond to first-half adversity against Gilmer to blow past the Bobcats, Dawson County rallying to beat White County, and Towns County knocking off Bethlehem Christian for the best start in a long time for the Indians.

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:

Cherokee Bluff's Tommy Jones on his team's win last week (5-0, 1-0 Region 7-3A, beat Gilmer, 40-6) ... "Really proud of our guys for continuing to stay the course last week.  We understood going in that was a big challenge. Gilmer is so well-coached and they do such a good job running their offense and controlling the clock. More than anything else, it was just about being able to clean up some mistakes we were making and execute better in all phases. Any time you are able to get a region win, it’s a big deal."

On playing West Hall ... "West Hall has a very well-coached and talented football team. They are big, athletic, and physical. We need to play with great effort, focus, speed, and energy. It is imperative that we block and tackle well." 

Commerce's Mark Hollars on snapping the losing skid (2-2, beat Mt. Paran Christian, 20-13) ... "We played good defense with a 'bend but don't break' mindset. We had a big goal-line stand in the second half that helped swing the game our way. We have improved a lot on offense. [We] Rushed for 310 yards, which is our best output this season. We showed some fight and determination."

On opening the Region 8-A Public slate against Greene County ... "Greene County is a much-improved team. They are playing with confidence and have some good athletes at skill positions. We need to limit big plays and continue to establish a physical running game. Cutting down on penalties and mistakes is our focus this week." 

East Forsyth's Brian Allison talks off Week 6 (1-4) ... "We had a good off week focusing on fundamentals."

On playing Mt. Pisgah ... "Mt Pisgah is a well-coached team. They have a tight end going to Vanderbilt and a quarterback that makes plays all over the field. We must execute on offense and not turn the ball over to them. Defensively, we must not give up the big play and contain the quarterback."

East Jackson's Cameron Pettus talks off Week 6 (2-3) ... "For the off week, we practiced on fundamentals and rested. It seems to have paid off, we test MPH every Monday with flying 10’s, and we posted some of our fastest times of the year. Looking forward to competing in this great region."

On opening the Region 8-3A schedule against Oconee County ... "Oconee is rock solid with fundamentals and great players -- very well-coached team and a great program. There is a reason why they have been so successful in the past and this team looks on point. We are going to have to do what we do better. We have to be who we are and play to the best of our abilities. Looking forward to the trip to Watkinsville Friday night!"

Gainesville's Heath Webb on his team's Week 6 performance (4-1, 1-0 Region 6-7A, beat Hillgrove, 20-7) ... "It was just a gritty performance at Hillgrove. We didn't play the cleanest game, but we fought hard against a team with great speed. We're starting to see our inexperienced defense grow up."

On playing region foe Lambert ... "This is Year 2 for the new Lambert coaching staff and you can see their improvement each week. They love the power run game behind a good offensive line, and their play-action game off of it is very good. They have one of the best wide receivers in the nation in Kojo Antwi, who is committed to Ohio State. We've got to contain him. They have a tough, physical defense. We've got to protect the ball and play great special teams."

Jackson County's Rich McWhorter talks about what he learned about his team in the Week 6 loss (2-2, 0-2 Region 8-5A, lost to Clarke Central, 34-30) ... "We were able to see our team's resiliency, and fight, really for the first time this season. We got down 20-3, and in years past, we would not have climbed out of that hole like we did versus Clarke Central. That is more of a testament to our senior leadership, and maturity on our team than anything else. We were proud of our team's effort to battle back, but our players also know it is still a loss, and there are no moral victories on Fridays. To win games and accomplish our goals each week we know we cannot afford slow starts and must play inspired from the start." 

On playing Loganville ... "Loganville is a physical, well-coached football team. They play hard, and will not beat themselves with self-inflicted mistakes. They have a terrific running game, good skill players, and are just now hitting their stride, after starting 2-0 in our region. In order for us to have success, we have to eliminate their ability to make big plays, while also playing sound football in all three phases."

Jefferson's Gene Cathcart on playing through adversity on Friday (5-0, 1-0 Region 8-4A, beat Flowery Branch, 27-7) ... "We felt a great deal better after watching film and felt a whole lot less felonious. Flowery Branch is a very good and extremely well-coached football team. We know that week in and week out, in this region, we will get everyone's best shot, and they certainly played with great effort. We were not as sharp as we would have liked, and some of the credit for that goes to Ben's [Hall] team, and some to maybe some other place. But, regardless, we were able to play excellent defense, move the ball effectively, and did what we needed to do to come out on top in a very tough region opener."

On playing East Hall ... "We know that they have been very explosive on offense and have a very talented quarterback [Clete Cooper] as well as a new coaching staff. They have been in some pre-region shoot-outs, scoring 21, 21, 49 and 27, but ran into a fresh Cedar Shoals team last week playing their third game of the year. When you face a team that is under a new staff, that team is very hungry for a signature win. Knowing that, plus playing in our first away region game, we expect East Hall's very best effort and atmosphere this Friday. Lastly, we must clean up several facets of our play, most notably penalties."

Lakeview's Lee Shaw talks off week 6 (1-3) ... We worked on blocking and tackling and the fundamentals of the game." 

On opening Region 6-A Private play against Fellowship Christian ... [They are] Probably the best team we will have faced so far. They are extremely well-coached, play hard, and are very athletic. We need to battle for 48 min and respond to adversity. Our focus is to be fundamentally better than the last game played."

Lanier Christian Academy's Bruce Miller on his team's win in Week 6 (4-1, beat Praise Academy, 65-6) ... "Our defense is playing great. Last week, we scored on the opening kick-off, then we stripped the ball on the following kickoff and took it in for the score. We were up 14-0 before we ran a play. Our defense, again, played super, giving us the ball in great field position most of the night. Our offense final got untracked after playing poorly the week before. Zeke Clanton had another super night of rushing for us. It was a good team victory."

On playing Victory Baptist ... "Victory is a very good team. Their record is 4-1. They are explosive on offense and play hard-nosed defense. We will have to bring our A-game on Friday, or it might be another rough night for us."

Lumpkin County's Caleb Sorrells talks off Week 6 (1-3) ... "Our off week coincided with our week-long fall break, so it was great to see almost all our guys showing up and excited to get better. Our focus continues to be expecting more out of each of ourselves individually - in terms of focus, effort and execution. That individual expectation has translated well to better individual performances on the field, which naturally leads to better team performances."  

On opening Region 7-3A play against Gilmer ... "This week, Gilmer presents a unique challenge because of their option offense. We talk a lot about discipline and aggression, and we will need plenty of both to slow them down. I've been really impressed with how quickly they have gotten better and grasped their new offense, although I'm not surprised. Coach [Paul] Standard has been doing this a long time, and he knows exactly how to get the needed discipline and aggression out of his players, so we will have to match that. They are pretty multiple on D, so they force you to have different answers on offense. It's a fun challenge and one we are looking forward to."  

North Hall's David Bishop on what he continues to learn about his team (3-2, 1-0 Region 7-3A, beat West Hall, 38-14) ... "That regardless of the adversity, this team comes to play each week. We have lost several starters for the season, have had injury setbacks and young players have been coming in and getting better at each opportunity. There is little that keeps our kids from practicing hard and playing hard."
On playing arch-rival White County ... "What we know about White is they have several players that can take it to the house regardless of where you are on the field.  The keys to the win are to limit those players, keep the ball and control the clock and tempo."

Riverside's Nick Garrett talks keys to getting a win over Union County (1-3, lost to Toombs County, 62-0) ... "Union is a solid program and getting better each week. The keys to winning is to score 28 or more and do not allow big plays on defense or special teams."

Towns County's Jason Roquemore on his team's success (4-1, beat Bethlehem Christian, 14-11) ... "I think the biggest thing has been our execution. We have gotten better within the details of our schemes."

On travel to Lincoln County to open Region 8-A play ... "Every road trip is a long road trip for us. If it ain't two hours, then we ain't traveling. It's a great opportunity to play against a legendary opponent. They are typical Lincoln County. They are coached extremely well and play hard. We will need to be great in all three phases and continue to play to our standard in order to have a chance to win."

West Hall's Krofton Montgomery talks about the team's focus (2-2, 0-1 Region 7-3A, lost to North Hall, 38-14) ... The focus of the team is to continue to improve on a daily basis and play with an effort that is consistent. Execution has been inconsistent and is resulting in big plays against us and not sustaining drives."

On playing defending region champion Cherokee Bluff ... "Cherokee Bluff is a really big challenge, and they are playing at an elite level right now. They have a multitude of weapons across the board offensively and have done a great job of spreading it around with a balanced attack. Defensively, they are flying to the football as a unit and playing as well as I’ve seen on film this year.  Keys to us getting a win are execution and matching the physicality of teams we face. We know we need to play a mistake-free game to compete with Bluff."

White County's Tim Cokely talks keys to getting a win over North Hall (1-4, 0-1 Region 7-3A, lost to Dawson County, 31-28) ... "North Hall is a really good team without any weaknesses. They have a Division 1 player and several others of high caliber. For us to win, we will have to win the turnover battle and be excellent in the kicking game." 

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