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Monday October 3rd, 2022 8:03PM

Week 6 notebook: Playoff lives and positioning already under way for area teams

By Jeff Hart and Bo Wilson

Several Northeast Georgia-area teams have gotten an early jump on playoff positioning in their respective regions. Others, however, may already be fighting for their playoff lives.

Cherokee Bluff, despite a rough 0-2 start to the season, leads Region 8-4A after wins over Madison County and Chestatee. The Bears (2-2, 2-0 Region 8-4A) take on a rebuilding North Hall team (1-3, 1-1 Region 8-4A) with a chance to continue to put pressure on the rest of the field. The Trojans are looking for their second straight win.

Newcomer East Forsyth (3-0, 1-0 Region 8-4A) can keep pace but will face an improved Walnut Grove squad (3-1, 1-1 Region 8-4A) that is looking to rebound from a tough loss to Cedar Shoals last week. The Broncos beat Cedar Shoals two weeks ago.

But others in 8-4A are already in trouble. East Hall (2-2, 0-2 Region 8-4A) has been decimated by injuries and faces a huge road trip to Cedar Shoals (1-3, 1-1 Region 8-4A). Another loss for the Vikings would put them in a precarious playoff position. Madison County (1-3, 0-2 Region 8-4A) is off this week after being hammered 42-0 last week by No. 2-ranked North Oconee (3-0, 1-0 Region 8-4A).

In Region 8-6A, Gainesville (5-0, 1-0 Region 8-6A) and North Forsyth (3-2, 1-0 Region 8-6A) the two teams expected to battle for the region title, both opened with road wins last week. The Red Elephants are off this week but the Raiders can take the initial lead with a win over Shiloh (1-3, 0-0 Region 8-6A) in Coal Mountain tonight. Meanwhile, Jackson County (1-4, 0-1 Region 8-6A) faces an almost must-win tonight at winless Apalachee (0-5, 0-1 Region 8-6A) to stay alive for a playoff spot.

Regions 8-5A and 7-3A in the GHSA and the GAPPS 11-man league, which has Lanier Christian, all get started tonight.

BETWEEN THE LINES

This is a new segment we’re adding to our weekly notebook that will look at some of the more interesting lines of games involving Northeast Georgia area teams.

No way! Really?

Commerce is a 3-point underdog to Banks County. We’re asking, why? The Tigers have dominated their series with Banks County winning 32 of 34 all-time meetings. The Leopards haven’t beaten Commerce since 1993. Again, why are they an underdog? We’re not sure. But the Leopards are undefeated and the powers-that-be have made them a favorite for probably one of the few times in the history of the series. We’ll see if they’re right.

Shocking line of the week...

Class A Division 1 No. 3 Rabun County is an 18-point favorite over Class A Division 1 No. 7 Whitefield Academy. Why? Again, we’re not sure. Is it the magic of the mountains? Could be. The Wildcats have won 8 straight and 14 of their last 16 at home going back to the start of the 2020 season.

Scattered, smothered...and will cover!

In this part of this new segment we’ll look at some of the more interesting games involving area teams and look at who we think will be almost certain picks to cover the point-spread. 

So, we’ll start with one of the best matchups in the state, and the week’s most shocking line, in Tiger...

TAKE Whitefield Academy (+18) vs. Rabun County: Going back to this matchup, this really is a crazy line considering both teams have top five offenses in the classification and both defenses are in the top 10. The Wildcats do have the state’s top receiver in Jaden Gibson. But the Wolfpack have a secondary with 8 INTs in four games. Look for a close, low-scoring game, therefore, we’ll take the Wolfpack and essentially the three free touchdowns to start the game.

TAKE Lanier Christian (-16) vs. Pinecrest Academy: The Lightning lost a heartbreaker in overtime last week despite scoring 44 points. They still have the No. 1 offense in GAPPS and are probably anxious to get rid of that bad taste. Plus, the Paladins are giving up over 30 points/game. The Lightning will have this one covered by halftime.

TAKE Jackson County (-6) at Apalachee: The Panthers are much better than their 1-4 record having led at the half in all five games. The Wildcats have been ravaged by early-season injuries. Add the fact that Apalachee is averaging just 6.5 points/game and is going against a Panthers defense that is yielding just 18 ppg and has forced 8 turnovers and it could be a long night for the Wildcats. One touchdown for the Panthers may be all they need to cover.

TAKE Commerce (+3) vs. Banks County: We’ll end this week’s covers with another game we mentioned before. The Tigers are 32-2 all-time against the Leopards and have won 17 straight in the series. It will be a massive ground battle between two of the area’s best rushing attacks. But the Tigers have a two-headed backfield to counter Andrew Shockley, Class 2A’s No. 2 rusher. The Tigers will pull out a close one to keep the streak going, so you might as well take the points as well.

AREA TOP PERFORMERS: Rabun County’s Jaden Gibson continues to lead the state’s receiving list with 661 yards. Gibson, a Georgia Southern-commit, is now just 643 yards from Stan Rome’s record of 4,477 yards.

Staying on the receivers, Jensen Goble of Union County is third in Class 2A with 347 yards and his teammate Griff Young is 9th with 247 yards, giving the Panthers the only team in the classification with two receivers in the top 10.

North Forsyth’s Logan Curry is 19th overall and 5th in Class 6A with 431 yards. Also in 6A, Zeke Whittington of Habersham Central is 7th in 6A with 399 yards.

Jefferson’s Elijah Dewitt is 4th in Class 5A with 427 yards.

On the rushing list, Banks County’s Andrew Shockley dropped to 12th overall in the state with 775 yards but is second in Class 2A, just 22 yards behind classification leader Nick Woodford of Northeast-Macon (797 yards).

Shockley is the only Northeast Georgia player in the top 50 in rushing in the state but look for Commerce’s Jaiden Daniels (51st, 547 yards) and Jefferson’s Sammy Brown (52nd, 544 yards), and Buford’s Justice Haynes (62nd, 512 yards) to start climbing the charts over the last half of the season.

On the passing list, Rabun County’s Keegan Stover is the only area QB in the top 10 overall, sitting 8th with 1,249 yards. That’s good for 2nd in Class A Division 1, just 50 yards behind Aaron Philo of Prince Avenue Christian (1,299 yards).

North Forsyth' West Roberts (1,008 yards) and Gainesville’s Baxter Wright (1,007 yards) are 24th and 25th overall and 7th and 8th in Class 6A.

Union County’s Caiden Tanner is 26th overall with 974 yards and is 2nd in Class 2A behind Seth Griffin of North Murray (1,162 yards).

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