Dacula at Lanier
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Longhorns Stadium/The Ranch, Sugar Hill
Records, rankings: Dacula is 1-2 overall, 0-0 in Region 8-6A and No. 7; Lanier is 3-0, 0-0 and unranked.
Last meeting: Dacula won 34-10 in 2019.
Things to know: For the past four years, Dacula and Lanier met near the end of the regular season in games that essentially determined the 8-6A champion. Dacula won all four. This year, they face each other to kick off region play. The winner will have a leg up in the region race, but Buford, fresh up from Class 5A, looms on the schedule for both. Dacula lost its first two games this season, against Class 7A schools Brookwood and Mill Creek, but broke out last week in a 49-27 victory over Mountain View, another 7A school. The Falcons ran for 536 yards, including 274 by Kyle Efford and 175 and four touchdowns by Kaleb Edwards (committed to Georgia Tech). These teams have a common opponent, as Lanier beat Mountain View 27-20 on Sept. 18. Lanier runs for 183.7 yards per game and passes for 155.3. QB Andrew Blackford is 31-of-69 passing for 425 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore Bryan Williams has run for 330 yards, including a season-high 149 in a 38-27 win over Denmark on Sept. 25. Tyler Washington has 275 yards receiving and 113 rushing.
Irwin County at Brooks County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Veterans Stadium, Quitman
Records, rankings: Irwin County is 2-2 overall, 0-0 in Region 2-A Public and No. 4; Brooks County is 4-0, 0-0 and No. 1.
Last meeting: Brooks County won 16-8 in 2003.
Things to know: Irwin County is the classification’s defending champion, while Brooks County is the 2019 Class 2A runner-up that was dropped into Class A in the offseason. They are among two top-five teams in the region, the other being Clinch County. Irwin is positioned to beat a No. 1-ranked team from its own class for the fourth consecutive season after defeating Clinch the past three years. Irwin is led by the Benyard brothers. Gabe had three receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown and returned an interception for a score last week in a victory over Tift County. Garland had two catches for 53 yards and a touchdown, blocked an extra point and had three sacks. Brooks has two preseason all-state players in its backfield. Omari Arnold has rushed for 438 yards on the season, 2,786 for his career. Nitavion Burrus has passed for 544 yards and rushed for 224 this season.
Jefferson at Flowery Branch
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Falcon Field, Flowery Branch
Records, rankings: Jefferson is 4-0 overall, 0-0 in Region 8-4A and No. 2; Flowery Branch is 3-1, 0-0 and No. 6.
Last meeting: Jefferson won 35-29 in 2017.
Things to know: These are the two highest-rated teams in 8-4A heading into the region opener, and the winner will emerge as the heavy favorite to win the region championship. Jefferson won region titles in six of the past 12 seasons, while Flowery Branch is seeking its first since 2012. Both teams are led by outstanding junior quarterbacks. Jefferson’s Malaki Starks is a consensus five-star recruit who is ranked as the No. 4 athlete nationally in his class. He has received 14 offers, including Alabama, Clemson and Georgia. Starks is just 7-of-24 passing (four of the completions went for touchdowns) for 225 yards but has rushed for a team-leading 513 yards and seven TDs on 52 carries. Flowery Branch’s David Renard was the state’s leading passer heading into last week’s games. He is 66-of-97 passing (68 percent) for 1,280 yards and seven touchdowns. Sophomore Myles Ivey rushed for 103 yards on 25 carries in a 34-7 victory over Hiram last week. Current Falcons coach Ben Hall came to Flowery Branch in 2017 after four seasons at Jefferson.
Lowndes at Valdosta
When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, Valdosta
Records, rankings: Lowndes is 4-0 and No. 2 in Class 7A; Valdosta is 1-2 and No. 1 in 6A.
Last meeting: Lowndes won 24-0 in 2019.
Things to know: This is ESPN’s GEICO High School Football Showcase game, presumably because it’s a storied rivalry between teams with a handful of Division I recruits apiece. There’s the added spice of a nationally known coach, Valdosta’s Rush Propst, although Lowndes has an accomplished new coach of its own. Jamey DuBose, who won three state titles in Alabama. Lowndes' prospects on display will be QB Jacurri Brown (No. 20 junior nationally, per ESPN), DB T.J. Quinn (committed to Louisville), DE Jacques Hunter (Vanderbilt), DE Leon Williams (Kent State) and LB Thomas Davis (Miami). Valdosta’s are WR Aalah Brown, WR Tajh Sanders, RB Kaleb Robinson, LB Jaylin Alderman (Louisville) and CB JaDarian Rhym. Valdosta and Lowndes are playing while ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for the second consecutive season. Lowndes has won the past three games in the series handily but trails 37-21 overall.
North Cobb at North Gwinnett
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium, Suwanee
Records, rankings: North Cobb is 4-0 and No. 6 in Class 7A; North Gwinnett is 3-2 and unranked in 7A.
Last meeting: North Gwinnett won 29-28 in 2015.
Things to know: North Cobb was unranked in preseason, and North Gwinnett was No. 4, but the script has flipped as North Cobb is in the rankings, and North Gwinnett out, for the first time for each since 2017. North Cobb was propelled by a 28-14 victory over then-No. 3 Buford of Class 6A on Sept. 9, while North Gwinnett lost to Lovejoy (19-7) and Archer (14-13) after an impressive 21-0 victory over then-No. 4 Parkview on Sept. 18. North Gwinnett has AJC Super 11 linebacker Barrett Carter, who is committed to Clemson, but he has not played since the opener. While North Gwinnett has played good defense in Carter’s absence, the offense has labored. Marcus McFarlane has three 100-yard rushing games, but the Bulldogs are 35-of-82 passing. North Cobb QB Malachi Singleton, a rising star, has rushed for 367 yards and seven touchdowns on 56 carries and completed 50 of 69 passes (.725) for 639 yards and five touchdowns. He’s a 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore with offers from Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Cam Cunningham rushed for 1,000 yards last season. DB Montrel Jenkins and Nasir Howell are Division I recruits in the secondary.
Pierce County at Fitzgerald
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jaycee Stadium, Fitzgerald
Records, rankings: Pierce County is 4-0 and No. 6 in Class 3A; Fitzgerald is 4-0 and No. 2 in 2A.
Last meeting: Fitzgerald won 35-6 in 2005.
Things to know: These teams have played each other six times, although none in 15 years, and Fitzgerald has won all six by an average margin of 28 points. Pierce County has won two consecutive region titles and 24 straight regular-season games. Senior QB Jermaine Burton has passed for 495 yards, rushed for 179 and had a hand in nine touchdowns. Sophomore D.J. Bell has rushed for 511 yards, including a season-high 169 in a 20-13 victory over Eagle’s Landing Christian last week. Leading tackler Spencer Woodcock and DB Ty Miles (committed to Northern Illinois) lead a defense that’s giving up just 5.75 points per game. Fitzgerald has made 20 consecutive playoff appearances but is 4-0 for the first time since 2016. The Purple Hurricane had its closest call of the season in its most recent game, stopping a late two-point conversion to beat Jefferson County 14-12. Mario Clark ran for 78 yards and both touchdowns in the win, and he has eight rushing TDs the past three games. WR Chance Gamble has touchdowns receiving, rushing and passing.
Rome at Carrollton
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Grisham Stadium, Carrollton
Records, rankings: Rome is 2-2 overall, 1-0 in Region 5-6A and unranked; Carrollton is 1-1, 1-0 and No. 10.
Last meeting: Carrollton won 24-20 in 2019.
Things to know: Rome and Carrollton played together in Region 7-5A the past four seasons. Carrollton was the region champion last year. Rome won the previous three region titles, as well as two state championships. Now they’re together in 5-6A, and the winner will be tied for first place with the winner of Friday’s Douglas County-Alexander game. All of Rome’s games have been decided by a touchdown or less except for a 28-14 loss to Collins Hill, and even that game was tied with nine minutes left. The Wolves got 125 yards rushing from E.J. Burks in a 22-20 victory over South Paulding last week. He ran for 208 yards in a 21-15 loss to Cherokee. QB Caleb Edwards averages about 108 yards per game passing. Carrollton’s 34-24 victory over Dalton last week was the Trojans' first game in almost a month because of COVID-19 issues. The Trojans average 131 yards passing and 125.5 rushing. Junior QB James McCauley, a transfer from New York, is 25-of-45 passing for 262 yards and three TDs. LB Chaz Chambliss (committed to Georgia) has 3.5 sacks.
Veterans at Oconee County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Warrior Stadium, Watkinsville
Records, rankings: Veterans is 4-0 and No. 5 in Class 5A; Oconee County is 4-0 and No. 3 in 3A.
Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.
Things to know: Oconee County has beaten three ranked opponents, each by 17 points or more, and is 4-0 for the first time since 2016. The team’s question mark has been quarterback after the graduation of Max Johnson, now at LSU, but Jacob Wright stepped up last week, completing 12 of 14 attempts for 244 yards and three touchdowns in a blowout win at Thomasville. TE Jake Johnson has 11 receptions for 271 yards and three touchdowns. C.J. Jones has rushed for 290 yards. Versatile LB West Weeks is committed to Virginia. Veterans had only one winning season over its first eight until coach Milan Turner arrived in 2018. The Warhawks are 21-6 since. QB Blake Ethridge is averaging 242.4 yards passing, twice his 2019 total. He has six TD passes already compared to seven last season. Lebron Fields, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, is ahead of his 2019 pace with 422 yards in four games. Veterans' 6.75 points allowed is third-best in Class 5A.
Warner Robins at Lee County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Trojan Field, Leesburg
Records, rankings: Warner Robins is 4-0 and No. 1 in Class 5A; Lee County is 3-1 and No. 3 in 6A.
Last meeting: Warner Robins won 56-14 in 2011.
Things to know: After this week, Warner Robins will have played all four of the teams in Lee County’s Region 1-6A. The Demons opened with a 28-25 loss at top-ranked Valdosta, although that loss was later overturned by forfeit, then routed Northside-Warner Robins (47-0) and Houston County (44-10) the past two weeks. Warner Robins has beaten Lee County in both of their previous meetings. Demons QB Jalen Addie has passed for 695 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for more than 350 yards. RB Jahlen Rutherford has committed to Air Force. DB Deuce Petty returned a fumble (65 yards) and an interception (27 yards) for touchdowns against Houston County last week. Lee County has the highest-scoring offense (46.3 per game) and No. 8 defense (11.0) in Class 6A. RB Caleb McDowell (South Carolina) is the leading rusher in 1-6A with 369 yards and seven touchdowns on 34 carries. Smith Pinson is 16-of-26 passing for 270 yards and six TDs. WR/QB Chauncey Magwood (Kentucky) has 90 yards receiving and 121 passing. Lee County’s loss came at Lowndes (38-13) on Sept. 25.
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