Wednesday September 28th, 2022 11:22AM

ICYMI: Week 6 previews — Regions 8-5A, 7-3A, GAPPS join region play party this week

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

As we enter Week 6 of the 2022 campaign, region play is starting to heat up and early pretenders and contenders are emerging.

Things are beginning to take shape in Region 8-4A as Cherokee Bluff is off to a 2-0 start with preseason favorite North Oconee, Walnut Grove, and newcomer East Forsyth all at 1-0 after the first couple of weeks.

Region 8-6A got underway last week with preseason favorites Gainesville and North Forsyth taking big road wins. Gainesville is off this week but the Raiders are in action again this week against Shiloh at home and the rest of the region opens their schedules, including Habersham Central at home against Lanier.

This week, Regions 8-5A, 7-3A, and the GAPPS 11-man league will open up with some key games on Thursday and Friday night. 

In 8-5A, Flowery Branch opened its Region 8-5A schedule on Thursday with a 34-14 loss to Eastside.

Jefferson and Clarke Central will tangle in Athens in a battle of preseason region favorites on Friday.

In Region 7-3A, preseason favorite Dawson County is at home against West Hall to renew their budding rivalry to start the region and surprise team Lumpkin County plays host to Pickens as the Indians try to keep their best start in 30 years going and show they are a true player for a region title.

And Lanier Christian, still stinging from a tough overtime loss last week, opens its GAPPS region at home against Pinecrest Academy.

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

(Gainesville, Towns County, Union County, and White County are off this week.)


(Games listed in alphabetical order of visiting team)
Records: Wolves, ranked No. 1 in Class 7A (4-0, Region 8-7A); Blue Devils (1-4, Region 3-7A)
Last week: Buford beat Carver-Atlanta, 44-16; Marietta lost 30-17 to Walton
Where: French Johnson Field at Northcutt Stadium, Marietta  
Radio: WDUN AM 550
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: First-ever meeting between the two programs. There is an interesting tie-in in that Dexter Wood, who led Buford to three state titles (2001-03) coached the Blue Devils for 8 seasons (1987-1994, 72-23-1 record) before taking the Buford job in 1995. Justice Haynes is showing his versatility and big-play ability. The Sr. RB had 216 all-purpose yards and 3 TDs of 53 yards or more last week. Buford is 10th in 7A in scoring (39.7 ppg) and 5th in defense allowing just 44 points (11.0 ppg). This is the 6th straight week for the Blue Devils without an off week. Marietta is struggling on defense allowing 27.6 ppg, 5th-worst in Class 7A. The Blue Devils are 0-2 at home this year. This will be Buford’s first true road game of the season.
What to watch for: The Marietta offense vs. Wolves’ defense. The Blue Devils are averaging nearly 2 turnovers/game and are averaging just 65 yards/game on the ground. Wolves DE Eddrick Houston had a huge game last week with 15 tackles (7 solo), 6 TFL, including 4 sacks, he forced one fumble, and was in the backfield most of the game with 7 QB pressures as well. If they can’t find a way to stop Houston and the formidable Buford front-7, it will be a very long night.

Records: Bears (2-2, 2-0 Region 8-4A); Trojans (1-3, 1-1 Region 8-4A)
Last week: Cherokee Bluff beat Chestatee, 42-21; North Hall beat East Hall, 69-0.
Where: The Brickyard, Gainesville
Radio: 94.5 FM The Lake
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: The series is tied 2-2 but the Bears have won two straight. The Trojans got their first win for new coach Sean Pender as the offense finally broke loose with their biggest output since a 76-0 win over East Hall in 2018. QB Tanner Marsh had a career-high 192 yards passing, 72 yards rushing, and accounted for 4 TDs. The Bluff offense continues to put up big numbers averaging 33.75 ppg and the defense is making strides allowing just 40 total points during the win streak compared to giving up 89 points in their first two games.
What to watch for: The Bluff defense vs. the North Hall offensive line. Both units overall have improved over the past two weeks. Have the Trojans truly turned the corner on its early offensive line troubles? The Bears front-7 has gotten better each week. Can the North Hall line handle the Bears pressure to give Marsh time to throw?

Records: Tigers (2-2, Region 8-A, Division 1); Leopards (4-0, Region 8-2A)
Last week: Commerce beat Lincoln County, 28-12; Banks County beat George Walton Academy, 33-0.
Where: Leopards Stadium, Homer
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Commerce owns this series with a 32-2 record. The Tigers have won 17 straight going back to 1993. The last Banks County win came in 1992, 28-0 in Homer. The Leopards’ only two wins have come at home (1990). This may be the most intriguing matchup in the history of the series. Banks County is off to its best start since the 1991 team opened the season 6-0. That year, Commerce handed the Leopards their worst loss of the season (40-11). Banks County is 5th in 2A in scoring average (34.5 ppg) and 4th in scoring defense (10.0 ppg). Leopards’ Sr. RB Andrew Shockley remains 2nd in 2A in rushing with 775 yards and tied for the lead in TDs with 11. The Tigers, who have played a brutal schedule, are just 24th in offense (97, 24.2 ppg) and 21st out of 38 Class A D1 teams in defense (92, 23.0 ppg). Jaiden Daniels is averaging over 160 yards/game for the Tigers with 9 TDs. This is the first of 4 straight road games for Commerce. Banks County is 2-0 at home. 
What to watch for: The defenses. Both units will be put to the test by bruising ground attacks. Banks County LB Cam Cooper had 12.5 tackles, including 6 TFL and he forced and recovered a fumble. Whichever defensive unit is able to suppress the other’s rushing attack should win this one. 

Records: Vikings (2-2, 0-2 Region 8-4A); Jaguars (1-3, 1-1 Region 8-4A)
Last week: East Hall lost 69-0 to North Hall; Cedar Shoals beat Walnut Grove, 35-28.
Where: Waters-Wilkins Stadium, Athens
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Cedar Shoals won the only meeting between the two programs in 2021, 42-8. The current Vikings are battling injuries at several key positions, including starting QB and at WR. Both offenses have been struggling all season. East Hall is averaging 11.25 ppg but the Jaguars, who had scored just 27 total points in their first three games, exploded last week against a pretty good Walnut Grove defense. 
What to watch for: Both defenses. Whichever unit can generate a stop or two may decide this one. The injuries also have impacted the Vikings defense, which has allowed 113 points the last two weeks (56.5 ppg) compared to just 27 points (13.5 ppg) the first two weeks. The Jaguars have given up the 8th-most points in 4A (148, 39.25 ppg).

Records: Panthers (1-4, 0-1 Region 8-6A); Wildcats (2-2, 2-0 Region 8-6A)
Last week: Jackson County lost 14-3 to North Forsyth; Apalachee lost 55-6 to Gainesville.
Where: R. Harold Harrison Stadium, Bethlehem
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Apalachee leads the series 5-1. This will be the 5th straight years they have played with the Wildcats going 3-1 over that span. The only Panthers victory in the series came in 2020 in Hoschton. Jackson County QB Chase Berrong is putting together a pretty good first season. He is 8th in passing in Class 6A with 901 yards and 6 TDs. However, he has thrown 5 INTs and was held to just 128 yards and no touchdowns last week. Panthers DB Cooper Galley was all over the field last week with 17 tackles and also had one pick.
What to watch for: Jackson County defense vs. the Apalachee offense. The Wildcats have averaged just 6.6 ppg so far, the third-fewest in Class 6A, while the Panthers are allowing just 18 ppg and have forced 8 turnovers to go with 30 TFL on the season.

Records: Dragons (2-2, 0-0 Region 8-5A); Gladiators (1-3, 0-0 Region 8-5A)
Last week: Jefferson was off; Clarke Central lost 41-34 to South Forsyth.
Where: Billy Henderson Stadium, Athens
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Shockingly, it’s the first-ever meeting between the two nearby programs. The Glads are struggling having lost 3 straight for the first time under coach David Perno and the first time since 2012. They have played a brutal schedule with their last three opponents posting a 12-3 record. Defense has been the issue during the losing streak giving up 39.0 ppg while scoring just 63 total points. The Dragons are just 5 points from being unbeaten. The two teams have Oconee County as a common opponent with Jefferson losing 9-7 and the Glads losing 33-9.
What to watch for: Jefferson RB Sammy Brown. The Jr. is 5th in 5A in rushing with 544 yards and 9 TDs and is quickly climbing the list. Dragons’ QB Max Aldridge is 2nd in 8-5A in yards (556) but leads the region in yards/game at 139. His favorite target has become Elijah Dewitt, who is 9th overall in the state with 427 yards receiving and is second in Class 5A behind Decatur’s Kedric Lackey (446).

Records: Knights (0-4, non-region); Eagles (2-2, Region 8-3A)
Last week: Johnson lost 42-0 to East Forsyth; East Jackson beat Franklin County, 35-17.
Where: Eagles Stadium, Commerce
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: First-ever meeting between the two programs. The Knights set a new program record last week with their 26th straight loss but they had been a tough out so far until last week. Johnson has been within one score of taking the lead in the 4th quarter in two of their losses and a missed PAT from possible OT in another. Defensively the Knights have made huge strides allowing just 28.75 ppg after giving up the most points in Class 5A in 2021. The Eagles have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2019 and much like the Knights, defensive improvement has fueled the turnaround. After surrendering 49.6 ppg in 2020, the Eagles have gotten better each season and are allowing just 14.5 ppg so far this season.
What to watch for: The offenses. The Knights are averaging just 10.75 ppg while the Eagles have scored 61 points (30.5 ppg) in their last two games. Whichever unit can find traction could be the difference.

Records: Longhorns (1-3, 0-0 Region 8-6A); Raiders (2-2, 0-0 Region 8-6A)
Last week: Lanier lost 55-3 to Mountain View; Habersham Central beat Forsyth Central 28-21
Where: Raider Stadium, Mt. Airy
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Lanier leads the series 5-1 but the Raiders only win in the series came in 2020, the last time the two teams played in Mt. Airy. It is the region opener for both teams. The Longhorns have their third coach in three seasons in Tyler Maloof. It has been a rough start against a brutal schedule. They have scored the 2nd-fewest points in Class 6A (25, 6.25 ppg) and suffered their 2nd-worst loss in program history last week. They are averaging less than 300 total yards/game. The Raiders are 2-0 when scoring more than 14 points and 0-2 when scoring 14 or less. Habersham's Zeke Whittington is 2nd in 8-6A in receiving with 399 yards and 1 TD and has played one fewer game than North Forsyth's Logan Curry (431 yards, 3 TD).
What to watch for: The Raiders defense vs. the Longhorns offense. Lanier has scored more than 3 points just once and if Habersham Central can keep the Longhorns struggling offense in check it could be a big night for the Raiders. Can the Raiders hold a lead? They have led in the 4th quarter in every game this season.

Records: Titans, ranked 2nd in Class 4A (3-0, 1-0 Region 8-4A); War Eagles (1-3, 1-1 Region 8-4A)
Last week: North Oconee beat Madison County, 42-0; Chestatee lost 42-21 to Cherokee Bluff.
Where: War Eagle Stadium, Gainesville
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: North Oconee leads the series 4-0 and has the past two region meetings by a combined 92-20. After scoring just 20 points in their first two games, the War Eagles offense is starting to find traction averaging 32.5 ppg the past two games. But defense is still an issue as they have allowed the 6th-most points on average (149, 37.75 ppg). The Titans, however, are 2nd in 4A in defense allowing just 6.3 ppg (19 total points).
North Oconee’s Khalil Barnes is one of the biggest playmakers in the region and had a 32-yard TD catch and returned a punt 57 yards for a score last week.
What to watch for: Can Chestatee defense slow down a Titans offense that has averaged 36.1 ppg in region play the last two seasons? North Oconee QB Max Wilson last week was an efficient 7-of-8 passing for 155 yards and added 69 yards and 2 TDs on the ground as well. The Chestatee offense managed the most points against the Titans in region play last year (20).

Records: Patriots (3-1, Region 5-A, Division 1); Eagles (0-4, District 4A-3A GIAA)
Last week: Oglethorpe County beat Greene County, 34-33; Riverside lost 54-12 to Georgia Military
Where: Maginnis Field, Gainesville
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Oglethorpe County leads the series 7-3. This is the first meeting since 2015, also at Maginnis Field, when both teams were part of Region 8-2A. However, RMA has won 2 of the last 3 meetings, the last in 2014, a 21-0 win in Lexington. The Eagles are still trying to recover from the 2020 campaign and are mired in a 10-game losing streak. They have struggled on both sides scoring just 39 points (9.75 ppg) and surrendering 209 (52.25 ppg) on defense. The Patriots are off to their best start since 2012.
What to watch for: The Patriots offense vs. the Eagles defense. Oglethorpe has yet to fumble in 134 attempts on the season while averaging over 200 yards/game on the ground. RMA will have to find a way to slow down Jake Turner (493 yards, 5 TD) and Will Sampson (218 yards, 2 TD) to have any chance.

Records: Dragons (1-3, 0-0 Region 7-3A); Indians (4-0, 0-0 Region 7-3A)
Last week: Pickens beat Christian Heritage, 24-22; Lumpkin County was off.
Where: The Burial Grounds, Dahlonega
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Pickens leads the series 19-18-1. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2009. The Indians have won three straight and are 11-8 all-time at home vs. Pickens. The Dragons last win in the series came in 2006 in Dahlonega. Lumpkin is off to its best start since 1988 and is 1 of 2 teams in Class 3A to be in the top 5 in both scoring average and scoring defense. Lumpkin is 3rd in scoring average, 41.0 ppg, and is 2nd in defense allowing just 8.25 ppg. Savannah Christian leads 3A in both categories. Pickens has given up the 6th-most points in 3A (141, 35.25 ppg) and the most of any 7-3A team through four games.
What to watch for: The Lumpkin offense vs. the Dragons defense. The Indians have averaged right at 400 yards/game over their past three games while the Dragons are giving up more than 400 yards/game. The winner of that matchup most likely will open the region with a win. 

Records: Paladins (2-2, 0-0 GAPPS Region 1-2A); Lightning (3-1, 0-0 GAPPS Region 1-2A)
Last week: Pinecrest Academy lost 34-0 to Skipstone Academy; Lanier Christian lost 52-44 in OT to Calvary Christian.
Where: Cabbell Field, Gainesville
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: First-ever meeting between the two programs. GAPPS region-opener for both teams. Despite the back-and-forth, shootout loss, LCA is still the highest scoring team in GAPPS (223, 55.75 ppg). That will be a problem for the Paladins, who have given up 95 points in their last three games, two of them losses. Pinecrest gave up just 160 points in all of 2021. LCA Fr. QB CJ Britt is 2nd in GAPPS with 641 yards, 13 TDs, and no INTs passing on the season.
What to watch for: Can Pinecrest slow down the Lightning offense? LCA has been even more explosive in the 11-man league. They have seven different players with TD catches, led by Shepard Acton (181 yards) with 4.

Records: Generals (1-3, 0-0 Region 8-6A); Raiders (3-2, 1-0 Region 8-6A)
Last week: Shiloh lost 20-18 to Archer; North Forsyth beat Jackson County, 14-3
Where: Raider Valley, Coal Mountain
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: First-ever meeting between the two programs. It’s the region-opener for Shiloh. The Generals have played a brutal schedule with all three of their losses coming to Class 7A teams by a combined 24 points. They are yielding the fewest points of any 8-6A team (64, 16.0 ppg) but their only win came against first-year program Seckinger (55-0). They have scored just 40 points (13.3 ppg) in their other three games. North Forsyth’s defense, expected to be one of the best in the region, looked like it last week holding Jackson County to less than 200 yards and forcing four turnovers, (three on downs).
What to watch for: The North Forsyth offense vs. the Generals defense. The Raiders are averaging just under 300 yards/game and have the top passer in the region in West Roberts (1,008 yards, 9 TD). But Roberts has also thrown 9 INTs, the most in Class 6A. The Shiloh secondary has 4 INTs on the season.

Records: Patriots (2-3, District 5A-3A GIAA); Lions (2-2, District 4A-3A GIAA)
Last week: Strong Rock beat Loganville Christian, 35-14; Lakeview Academy beat Creekside Christian, 42-6.
Where: Lakeview Stadium, Gainesville
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Strong Rock leads the series 2-0. The Patriots won the last meeting, 34-14, in Locust Grove in 2019. The Patriots have won two straight, which snapped a 15-game losing streak going back to 2020. However, they have given up the 6th-most points in Class 4A GIAA (123, 24.6 ppg). Lakeview has allowed the 8th-most points (127, 31.75 ppg).
What to watch for: The offenses. It may come down to the final possession. Both teams have been picking up the pace of late. Lakeview scored its most points in 14 games going back to a 59-point effort against St. Francis in 2020. After scoring just 31 points in their first three games (10.3 ppg), the Patriots have scored 78 points (39.0 ppg) during their two-game win streak.

Records: Warriors (3-1, 1-1 Region 8-4A); Broncos (3-0, 1-0 Region 8-4A)
Last week: Walnut Grove lost 35-28 to Cedar Shoals; East Forsyth beat Johnson, 42-0
Where: Broncos Stadium, Gainesville
Radio: 102.9 FM WDUN
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: First-ever meeting between the two programs. The Broncos lead Class 4A in defense, allowing just 17  points (5.6 ppg) and only have given up 2 TDs on the season. The Warriors, averaging 29.0 ppg, will be the best offense the Broncos have seen so far. Walnut Grove is averaging 300 yards/game rushing behind RB Emaad Howard (558 yards, 8 TDs) and QB Ashton Adams (426 yards, 3 TDs), who have been a tough duo to stop.
What to watch for: The Broncos defense vs. the Warriors rushing attack. East Forsyth held down Johnson’s option attack last week without allowing a touchdown but the Warriors bring a big O-line in front of Howard and Adams.The Broncos have 18 TFL and have forced 6 turnovers, including 3 fumbles, in their first three games.

Records: Spartans (1-3, 0-0 Region 7-3A); Tigers (2-2, 0-0 Region 7-3A)
Last week: West Hall lost 48-7 to Union County; Dawson County was off.
Where: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: Dawson County leads the series 7-6 and has won four straight, including the two meetings in Dawsonville. After a 1-1 start, everything has turned sour for the Spartans. They were averaging 18.5 ppg and only allowed 26 points in their first two weeks. But they have scored just one touchdown over their last 8 quarters -- they sit in the bottom five in scoring in Class 3A (44 points, 11.0 ppg) -- and given up 74 points in back-to-back losses. Now they get a Dawson County team that usually gets better during the region schedule. But an inconsistent rebuilding offense has been an issue for the Tigers. In their two wins, they have averaged 29.0 ppg. In their two losses, they have scored just 16 points. Sid Maxwell’s squads are 7-0 in region openers since taking over the program. West Hall is just 1-5 in its last 6 road games overall and 1-5 in road games since joining Region 7-3A in 2020. Dawson County is 5-1 in its last 6 region home games.
What to watch for: The West Hall defense vs. the Tigers offense. The Spartans have played better than the numbers and the Tigers have struggled at times. Whichever unit can take control may decide this one.

Records: Wolfpack, ranked 7th in Class A Division 1 (4-0, Region 6-A, Division 1); Wildcats ranked 3rd in Class A Division 1 (4-0, Region 8-A, Division 1)
Last week: Whitefield Academy was off; Rabun County beat Heard County, 42-13
Where: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
Time: 7:30 p.m.
The Statisticals: First-ever meeting between the two programs. This could be an early playoff preview as both teams are among classification leaders in several categories. Rabun is 1st in Class A D1 in scoring, averaging 44.25 ppg. The Wolfpack are 5th averaging 36.75. If there is an edge on paper it may be on the defensive side where Whitefield is 4th in Class A D1 yielding just 11.0 ppg while the Wildcats are 10th giving up 14.75 ppg. 
What to watch for: The Rabun offense vs. the Whitefield defense. The Wildcats possess one of the most dynamic passing duos in Keegan Stover and Jaden Gibson. Stover is 2nd in Class A D1 and in the top 10 in all classifications with 1,249 yards passing and leads Class A D1 in TD passes with 16, which is good for 3rd in all classes. Gibson leads the state in receiving with 643 yards and is tied for the state lead in TD catches with 10. But the Whitefield Academy secondary may be the best they'll see all season. Ayden Duncanson, Jonathan Cassady, Wyman Shaheen, and Mac Wotton all have 2 INTs on the season for the Wolfpack.

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