Friday December 8th, 2023 5:22PM

2nd round previews: Six NEGa area teams look to keep advancing in playoffs

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Just six Northeast Georgia-area teams remain in the 2022 playoffs and all six face tough second round matchups on Friday night.

Buford, Gainesville, North Forsyth, Union County, and Rabun County all will try to advance in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) playoffs while Lanier Christian is looking for a berth in the GAPPS 11-man championship game this week.

Buford takes on Walton, a semifinalist in 2021, in Class 7A at Tom Riden Stadium. The Wolves are looking for their 24th straight trip to the quarterfinals. 

The Red Elephants will play host to South Paulding at City Park in Class 6A. Gainesville won its first playoff game since 2015 last week and will go for its first quarterfinals since 2014. Also in Class 6A, North Forsyth faces a supremely difficult task in traveling to No. 1-ranked Hughes, the 6A state runner-up in 2021, in Fairburn.

Union County heads to South Atlanta in the Class 2A playoffs. The Panthers won just their second-ever playoff game last week but their first-ever playoff win came against the Hornets in 2019.

Rabun County will be at Frank Snyder Stadium once again and will take on Social Circle, who is into the second round for just the second time in its history.

And Lanier Christian heads to Cherokee Christian in the GAPPS 11-man with a spot in next week’s GAPPS championship game on the line.

For a look at all of the week's contests involving area teams, simply scroll down. And be sure to check back with AccessWDUN's Friday Game Night throughout the night on Friday for score updates, game stories, and video highlights. You can also check for scores and highlights on our Twitter feed: @FridayGameNight

(Games listed by classification, highest to lowest, in alphabetical order of visiting team)

Records: Raiders (9-2, No. 2 seed Region 5-7A); Wolves (11-0, No. 1 seed Region 8-7A)
Last week: Walton beat South Forsyth, 35-21; Buford beat Peachtree Ridge, 63-6.
Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford 
Radio: WDUN AM 550
Time: 8 p.m.
The Statisticals: First-ever meeting between the two programs. Last week’s win ran the Wolves’ streak of first round playoff wins to 24 straight across seven different classifications going back to 1997. They also have won 23 straight 2nd round games. Justice Haynes topped the 1,500-yard mark last week. Walton is into the 2nd round for a 6th straight season. The Raiders were a 7A semifinalist in 2021 and went 3-1 on the road last season in the playoffs and are 5-0 on the road in 2022. The two teams have a pair of common opponents. The Raiders’ two losses were to Mill Creek and North Cobb while Buford beat both teams during the regular season. The Wolves offense has climbed up to 3rd in 7A averaging 41.1 ppg. Walton is 15th in defense giving up 19.4 ppg. However, the Raiders have yielded just 48 points over their last 5 games (9.7 ppg).
What to watch for: The Buford defense vs. the Raiders offense. The Wolves are tops in 7A in defense allowing just 9.1 ppg. Walton is 4th in scoring (38.4 ppg) behind QB Jeremy Hecklinski, who is 2nd in 7A in passing with 2,987 yards and 2nd in TD passes with 32. He has thrown 7 INTs. Walton has scored 34 or more in 10 of its 11 games this season.


Records: Raiders (8-3, No. 2 seed Region 8-6A); Panthers (11-0, No. 1 seed Region 5-6A); 
Last week: North Forsyth beat Blessed Trinity, 24-21; Hughes beat River Ridge, 49-6
Where: Cannon Field, Fairburn
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: First-ever meeting between the two programs. North Forsyth is into the 2nd round for just the second time since 2005 and has its most wins since 2005 as well. A win would give them their most wins since 2001 when Bruce Miller led them to the Class 3A semifinals. The Panthers, ranked No. 1 all season, are looking for a 3rd straight trip to the quarterfinals after reaching the state championship game last season [losing to Buford]. This will be the toughest test yet for the Raiders. Hughes leads 6A in scoring (582, 52.9 ppg) and is 2nd in defense allowing just 102 points (9.2 ppg). Hughes has won 13 straight at home going back to a 7-6 loss to open the 2021 season. The Raiders are 3-2 on the road in 2022.
What to watch for: The Hughes offense vs. the Raiders defense. North Forsyth has been solid all year and has allowed just 16.1 ppg over its last 7 games (6-1). The Raiders have forced 20 turnovers (1.8 turnovers/game). However, Hughes has committed just 5 turnovers on the season so something will have to give.

Records: Spartans (8-3, No. 2 seed Region 5-6A); Red Elephants (11-0, No. 1 seed Region 8-6A)
Last week: South Paulding beat Sequoyah, 28-13; Gainesville beat Sprayberry, 51-21.
Where: City Park Stadium, Gainesville
Radio: 102.9 FM WDUN
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Gainesville leads the series 1-0. The Red Elephants won the only meeting 51-12 in the 2nd round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2013. Gainesville is looking for its first Elite 8 berth since 2014. This will feature two of the top offenses and two of the best RBs in 6A with Gainesville’s Naim Cheeks (6th in 6A, 1,305 yards, 15 TD) and the Spartans’ Jamarion Wilcox, who leads 6A with 2,059 yards and a whopping 29 TDs on the season. Overall the Red Elephants are 6th in offense (39.1 ppg) and South Paulding is 10th (398, 36.1 ppg). The difference may be on the defensive side. Gainesville is 5th allowing just 12.0 ppg. The Spartans are 42nd out of 57 teams giving up 29.0 ppg.
What to watch for: The Gainesville defense vs. the Spartans offense. South Paulding has scored 28 or more 9 times in 2022 and is averaging over 310 yards/game and 175 yards/game on the ground behind Wilcox. The Red Elephants have not allowed more than 23 in any game this season. They have forced 13 turnovers to go with 36 TFL. Gainesville Sr. LB and Tennessee-commit Jeremiah Telander could be difference maker. he leads the team in tackles (xx) and TFL loss and was in the Sprayberry backfield as much as the Yellow Jackets last week.


Records: Panthers (8-3, No. 3 seed Region 8-2A); Hornets (10-0, No. 1 seed Region 6-2A)
Last week: Union County beat Model, 28-14; South Atlanta beat Landmark Christian, 44-21.
Where: Lakewood Stadium, Atlanta
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Union County leads the series 1-0. The Panthers won the only meeting, 19-15, in the first round of the 2019 playoffs in Blairsville. Union County has the No. 1 passing attack in Class 2A behind QB Caiden Tanner (2,617 yards, 23 TD, 8 INT) who leads the classification in yards and is 2nd in TD passes. Union’s Jensen Goble leads 2A in catches (81) and receiving yards (972) and teammate Griff Young is 5th with 718 yards and 4th in catches (50). The duo has combined for 16 TD catches on the season.
What to watch for: The Union County defense vs. the Hornets offense and Keyjuan Brown. South Atlanta is 2nd in offense in 2A in scoring average (443, 44.3 ppg) and the 443 points in 2nd in program history behind the 2021 group (515) but is ahead of that unit’s pace so far. They punish teams on the ground bhind RB Brown, who is 2nd in the state, all classes, in rushing with 2,504 yards and he has 29 TDs as well. Brown had 365 yards and 4 TDs on 30 carries in the first round. The Panthers defense is just 22nd in 2A (219, 19.9 ppg) with most of the damage coming against high-powered passing attacks. They are 7-0 when holding teams under 28 points. They fared well vs. power rushing teams this season holding down Banks County, East Jackson, and Armuchee to just 34 combined points (11.3 ppg). But no one has been able to slow down Brown, who is averaging 250 yards/game.


Records: Redskins (8-3, No. 2 seed Region 5-A D1); Wildcats (11-0, No. 1 seed Region 8-A D1)
Last week: Social Circle beat Whitefield Academy, 10-7; Rabun County beat Dade County, 45-7
Where: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Rabun County leads the series 8-0. The two teams played every year from 2012-19 as part of Region 8-2A but have not played since then. Experience should matter in this one. The Redskins got just their 2nd-ever GHSA playoff win last week and first since 2005 but have never advanced past the 2nd round. The 8 wins are the 2nd-most in program history and the most since winning 9 in 1986. The Wildcats are into the 2nd round for the 9th consecutive season and have won 7 straight 2nd round games. Last week’s win for the Wildcats highlighted their future as Fr. QB Ty Truelove came on for Sr. Keegan Stover and was 6-of-9 for 92 yards and 2 TDs passing. Coach Michael Davis said Stover will start this week. Jaden Gibson and Willie Goodwyn each had a pair of TD catches for Rabun. Stover has thrown for 3,052 yards and 36 TDs. Gibson leads the state in receiving with 1,685 yards with 26 TD catches.The Redskins are in the top 15 in Class A D1 in both offense and defense, sitting 13th in defense (177, 16.1 ppg) and 15th in offense (306, 27.8 ppg). They have two common opponents -- Commerce and Whitefield Academy. The Wildcats went 2-0 while the Redskins lost to Commerce in overtime. Rabun County has now won 17 straight at home and 8 straight home playoff games.
What to watch for: The Rabun defense vs. the Redskins offense. Social Circle can be potent in the passing game behind Sr. & 6-6 QB Logan Cross (2,265 yards, 29 TD, 4 INT). He has three dangerous targets in Sr. Mason Moore (43 rec., 706 yards, 10 TD), Sr. WR DaShon Hyman (41-537, 10 TD) and So. WR Jude. Nelson (50-667, 6 TD). The Wildcats have allowed more than 22 points just once and have yielded just 114 points over their last 8 games (14.2 ppg).


Records: Lightning (7-3, No. 3 seed Region 1-2A); Warriors (9-2, No. 1 seed Region 1-2A)
Last week: Lanier Christian beat Creekside Christian, 38-10,; Cherokee Christian beat Rock Springs Christian, 47-0.
Where: Woodstock
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Cherokee Christian leads the series 1-0. The Warriors beat the Lightning 21-7 in the regular season finale two weeks ago. This is the semifinals of GAPPS and the top 4 defensive teams are all still alive. LCA is 4th in defense (14.6 ppg). The Warriors are 4th in offense scoring 33.5 ppg on the season. The winner will play The King's Academy-Skipstone Academy winner in next week’s GAPPS 11-man championship game. LCA lost to The King’s Academy 21-16 during the regular season and has not played Skipstone.
What to watch for: The LCA offense vs. the Cherokee Christian defense. The Warriors are 3rd in defense allowing just 13.9 ppg). Cherokee Christian held the Lightning to their lowest output of the season in their earlier matchup. But LCA still leads GAPPS in scoring (45.3 ppg). Lightning QB CJ Britt is averaging 175 yards/game passing with 26 TDs and just 4 INTs on the season. RB Zeke Clanton surpassed the 1,000-yard mark last week to lead a rushing attack that is averaging over 150 yards/game.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Buford football, Gainesville football, North Forsyth football, Rabun County football, Union County football, lanier christian academy football
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