While it may be hard to realize, the 2019 high school football season has turned the corner on the midpoint, and the race to the finish and post season is in full swing around our area.
This week, Region 8-AAAAAA and the Raiders of Habersham Central, join the other regions in our area and begin region play. Region 8-AAAA, the smallest region in our area with the Stephens County Indians will begin play in two weeks for region and post season play.
What do we know to date? We know that in Region 8-AA, the first two weeks of region play have separated the region into two groups. Elbert County, Banks County, Rabun County, along with Union County have held serve for the first two weeks and have pulled away to form a lead peloton from the other teams in the region. Now, this week, the lead group begins to play against each other, so we’ll have more of an idea as to how this region will settle out.
Down in 8-AAA, region favorites Jefferson and Hart County opened play with impressive offensive performances in wins against East Jackson and Jackson, while Morgan County defeated Monroe Area in a week one match up of region powers.
Region 8-AAAAAA opens play this weekend with three games. Region favorites Lanier and Dacula, both ranked in the Top 10 in the state in Class AAAAAA, open play with Lanier traveling to Habersham while Dacula plays host to Gainesville. Elsewhere, Apalachee and Winder-Barrow hook up at Winder in a pivotal game for both teams, as they look to grab one of the four playoff spots from the region.
Habersham’s Benji Harrison called the Longhorns of Lanier, “very talented team with a lot of athletes on both sides of the ball”. He added that for Habersham to be successful, “we must play our best football and work to get the game to the fourth quarter. Lanier went the the semifinals last year and are maybe better this year. This will be a big challenge for us on Friday night.”
Looking back to this past weekend, the common denominator for games was offense. Seven of the teams in our area won games by scoring more than 40 points. If you love offensive football, your game of the week was Union County and Putman County. Union outscored Putman 74-57. I believe someone once called that “basketball on grass”? In the game, Union County’s Pierson Allison threw for 426 yards and 6 touchdowns, while Jonah Daniel gained 225 yards rushing.
The Elbert County Blue Devils moved their record to 3-2 on the year and 1-0 in region 8-AA, by defeating Social Circle by the score of 56-7 this past Friday night in Elberton. This sets up a big matchup in Region 8-AA for next Friday at Blairsville, when Elbert pays a visit to high scoring Union County, who is undefeated at 5-0 for the 2019 season.
Union County upset Elbert County 29-28 in a game last year in Elberton, which put the Blue Devils on the road in the opening round of the State AA playoffs, where they were defeated by Callaway of Columbus.“We have been playing a lot better the last couple of weeks as a team, and we did a good job of coming out fast against Social Circle,” said Brad Waggoner, Elbert’s Head Coach. When asked about the challenge faced this week playing Union County, Waggoner stated that, “Union is the best offensive team we have faced this year. They have nine seniors who start on offense and have the best guarterback in Pierson Allison that we’ve seen this year. They have big play players at all spots”. Asked about the key for Elbert to gain revenge on Union from last year, Waggoner stated that, “we have to keep our offense on the field and be able to finish drives against this team. We can not give up the big plays because of breakdowns on defense.”
The other matchup of 2-0 teams takes place in Clayton, where 5-0 Rabun County plays host to the surprising Leopards of Banks County, who are currently 2-0 in region play. Banks County has defeated both Social Circle and Oglethorpe County in the first first two weeks of region play.
In Rabun’s win over Monticello on Friday, Wildcat quarterback Gunner Stockton was 21 of 25 through the air with 5 touchdowns. Stockton, a 6’2 sophomore, is rated as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the class of 2022 in the United States by a number of national recruiting services.
Rabun County, the defending region champion, defeated Banks County in 2018 by the score of 68-7. Rabun County has not lost a game in region play since midway through the 2013 football season.
Down at Herndon Stadium in Hartwell, the Hart County Bulldogs opened Region 8-AAA play with a 56-13 win over Jackson County. Junior running back Malecki Thomas and the Bulldog passing game were the stars of the show. Thomas had over 250 all purpose yards and added 3 touchdowns,1 rushing, 1 receiving, and 1 on a punt return for the Bulldogs. Luke Lee, Hart’s senior quarterback was 17 of 26 throwing the football, for 3 touchdowns against Jackson. Lee completed passes to 8 different receivers.
In Madison GA, the Morgan County Bulldogs defeated defending region champion Monroe Area Purple Hurricanes by the score of 27-17, in a week one matchup of region favorites. Morgan County’s offense was extremely balanced against Monroe Area, passing for 212 yards while running for 221 yards.
Over in Jefferson, at East Jackson High School, the Jefferson Dragons struck quickly to defeat the Eagles by the score of 70-6. Jefferson, who lead 35-0 in the first 10 minutes, had over 400 yards on the ground and scored 8 rushing touchdowns.
At Carnesville, the Franklin County Lions continue to search for their first win of the 2019 season, falling to Habersham Central by the score of 34-19. Franklin will open region play on Friday as they take on Jefferson in a game at Jefferson. The Lions lost to Jefferson in the final minutes last season in a game played at Carnesville by the score of 17 – 10. In the matchup, Franklin was able to control the tempo of the game with its ball control ground game. Habersham Central’s Benji Harrison said,”I thought we played pretty well, especially in the second half of the game. Franklin is a really tough team to play against because of their style of offense, and we were able to get the lead and get a couple of stops for the win.”
In Region 8-AAAA, the Stephens County Indians fell to the Jaguars of Cedar Shoals by the score of 36-6 in a game in Athens. while over at Commerce, the Tigers of Commerce amassed over 400 yards on the ground in defeating Madison County by the score of 42-14.
This week is an open week for Hart County, Stephens County, and Madison County. Hart County returns to action next Friday at home against Jefferson in a matchup of teams currently residing in the State AAA top 10. This is the first of two consecutive open dates for Stephens County before they open play in Region 8-AAAA against Oconee County on October 18. Madison County will take on North Oconee in a region matchup for both teams on October 11.
In the upstate of South Carolina, this weekend includes two teams looking to continue perfect seasons, as Greenwood visit’s 5-0 TL Hanna, and 4-0 Daniel plays host to Palmetto. Other matchups include Powdersville visiting Crescent, Westside hosting Laurens, West-Oak traveling to Pendleton. Seneca, still looking for win number one on the 2019 season, is playing host to Liberty.
The countdown in on for the start of post season football, with only 6 weeks remain in the 2019 season. The weather should be finally football fall weather, so get out and see a high school game in your area this weekend!