Where lightning wrecked havoc on the first two weeks of the regular season, it was COVID-19's turn in Week 3. However, with only 12 games on the dockett, there was still plenty to take away from Friday night's action.
Here are five things we learned in Week 3:
1. Chestatee's experience finally paying off
Friday night's 41-28 win over Union County was a long time coming for the Chestatee War Eagles. It snapped an 11-game losing streak, marking their first win since the final game of the 2019 season. It did not come without dramatics though. The War Eagles jumped out to a 20-0 first half lead, only to see the Panthers score 21 unanswered points to take the lead in the 3rd quarter. Many teams on long losing streaks would have collapsed in that moment, with the sting of prior losses no doubt creeping through their minds. Instead, Chestatee rallied to reclaim the lead and then clinch the win with a pick-six on Union County's last-ditch drive. One of the strenghts of this year's team was expected to be its bevy of senior leadership and its overall experience on the roster. While experience is often talked about, it payed off for Chestatee as they stayed cool under pressure at home to finally capture a win. Now, the hope is that long-awaited victory will add confidence to the equation and lead to more wins, perhaps even in region play as the War Eagles try to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
2. Jefferson can be a force of nature
If there were any doubters about Jefferson as they entered the season as the consensus No. 1-ranked team in Class 4A, they're sounding awfully quiet right now. While the Dragons looked impressive, especially defensively, in their opening 22-13 win over Class 2A then-number-one-ranked Rabun County, their last two performances have been downright absurdly dominant. Against Central Gwinnett in Week 2, Jefferson jumped out to a 35-0 halftime lead and then on Friday night against Southside of South Carolina, Jefferson took things to another level, storming out to a staggering 42-0 lead at the end of the 1st quarter. Most of the damage was done by Jefferson's star-studded backfield with sophomore Sammy Brown returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then adding a 14-yard score less than a minute later. Senior Georgia-commit Malaki Starks added a 34-yard touchdown run and seniors Reese Johnson and Isaiah Copeland both got in the end zone in the quarter as well. Brown capped it off with a fumble recovery in the end zone for good measure. The Dragons unsurprisingly won 45-7. Keep in mind that Jefferson is currently without star senior running back Jordan Perry, and their last two outputs look downright scary for anybody in their path.
3. North Forsyth's defense will have a say in the 6-7A race
Once again, Region 6-7A looks to be a race that a betting man wouldn't want to touch with a 10-foot pole. Six of the seven teams in the region already have a loss this year and the only still-unbeaten team, Lambert (3-0), started 4-0 last year before missing the playoffs. Most of the talk about a potential region champion has focused on West Forsyth's offensive talent or Gainesville's experience and new offensive system. It may be time to add North Forsyth's defense to that conversation. The Raiders are allowing just 11 points per game through their first three contests and flexed that defense again Friday night on their way to a 42-10 rout of Dalton at Raider Valley. The Catamounts had been scoring 42 points per game through their first two weeks, but could find nothing against North Forysth. The Raiders offense played well too, racking up nearly 450 rushing yards in the effort, but so far the defense has stolen the show. It's starting to look like a unit that teams like West Forsyth, Gainesville and Denmark will have to crack if any of them hope to win the 6-7A crown.
4. Despite losing records, North Hall and White County showing grit ahead of 7-3A schedule
Speaking of highly competitive regions, 7-3A also looks to be firmly in that category again in 2021. Last year's region champion Cherokee Bluff has done nothing so far to indicate that they will be anything other than a top contender again and West Hall is off to their best start since 2014. However, don't forget about North Hall and White County. While both teams have identical losing records at 1-2, they have played perhaps the toughest non-region schedules of any teams in the region. The Trojans opened their season with a 23-14 road win over Class 6A Paulding County, but then faced two straight Region 8-3A powerhouses in Stephens County and Hart County. After being blown out by the Indians in Week 2, they responded with a dogfight at Hart County Friday that ended in a 48-37 loss. The Warriors, meanwhile, also played both Stephens County and Hart County, losing to both before beating Pickens on the road Friday night 20-7. The Dragons were coming off of a rout of Commerce the week before. Just like last year, North Hall and White County are setting themselves up to be firmly in the 7-3A championship race, and something as shallow as a non-region win-loss record shouldn't deter fans from thinking otherwise.
5. East Jackson going old school in Pettus' third year
Most coaches talk about playing to the strengths of their rosters, but few will practice it to the degree that East Jackson's Cameron Pettus has so far this season. Last year, the Eagles were an up-tempo, offensive minded team that found themselves in a number of shootouts early in the season. This year, they have done a stylistic 180-degree turn, now using a running game to grind out the clock, sacrificing points and big plays to limit opponents' possessions. That strategy finally payed off with a win Friday night in a 28-0 shutout of Banks County in Nicholson. Pettus said the new style fits his current roster. "We've got a pretty big and physical offensive line," Pettus said. "I've done it all...our philosophy is let's run the ball, let's freaking huddle up, let's go old school on these guys and drag those guys deep into the fourth quarter and have a shot to win every game we play." So far, they have indeed been within striking distance in every fourth quarter this year. Hopefully that will continue as they prepare for a brutal Region 8-3A schedule later this year.