Bleckley County at Dodge County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium, Eastman
Records, rankings: Bleckley County is 4-0 overall, 0-0 in Region 3-2A and No. 5; Dodge County is 3-1, 0-0 and No. 7.
Last meeting: Bleckley County won 38-33 in 2020.
Things to know: This is a region opener matching the teams that finished first (Dodge County) and fourth in 3-2A last season. Now, they’re the two highest-ranked among the four teams from the region in the top 10 (No. 8 Washington County and No. 9 Northeast are the others). Bleckley County handed Dodge its only region loss last year. Bleckley’s Jahvon Butler ran for 243 yards in that game. He’s back for his junior season and is averaging 128.3 yards rushing for a team that runs for 199.8 per game. QBs Eli Mullis and James Teston combine for about 16 passing attempts per game, and more often than not their target is Jaden Mobley, who has 18 of the team’s 35 receptions and 202 of the 375 receiving yards. Dodge rebounded from last year’s loss with four consecutive regular-season wins to claim its third region title in six years. The Indians’ only loss this season came against No. 2 Fitzgerald (15-6) two weeks ago. Freshman QB Duke Gordon has passed for 430 yards and run for 166, second on the team behind Demron Gordon’s 288 rushing yards.
Brooks County at Irwin County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Buddy Nobles Stadium, Ocilla
Records, rankings: Brooks County is 2-1 overall, 0-0 in Region 2-A Public and No. 2; Irwin County is 2-2, 0-0 and No. 1.
Last meeting: Irwin County won 27-19 in the 2020 Class A Public championship game.
Things to know: This game, the Region 2-A Public opener for both teams, is the 44th regular-season game in GHSA history between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same class. Irwin County beat the Trojans twice last year, once during the regular season (21-13) and again in the A Public final, when Irwin won its second consecutive state title. Irwin County has won six of the past seven region titles, although Brooks didn’t join the region until last year after dropping from Class 2A. Irwin County gets about two-thirds of its offense from a running game led by junior Damarcus Lundy (28 carries, 345 yards, four touchdowns) and freshman Shane Marshall (32-217-2). Junior QB Cody Soliday has passed for 506 yards, rushed for 105 yards and accounted for 10 touchdowns. Brooks County is more of a passing team – junior QB Jamal Sanders has thrown for 649 yards and nine touchdowns in three games – but the Trojans are dangerous in the running game. Omari Arnold, a first-team all-state selection last year, is averaging 103.7 yards per game rushing with four TDs.
Camden County at Coffee
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jardine Stadium, Douglas
Records, rankings: Camden County is 4-1 and unranked in Class 7A; Coffee is 5-0 and No. 5 in 5A.
Last meeting: Coffee won 37-13 in 2020.
Things to know: The coaches in this game have won 12 state championships and almost 700 games between them. Coffee’s Robby Pruitt is 373-90-1 with seven titles, all in Florida, while Camden County’s Jeff Herron is 316-55 with five titles. They’ve faced each other once, in 2012 when Camden beat Coffee. Coffee is balanced offensively this season. Maurice Turner, a preseason Georgia Power 100 player who’s committed to Louisville, has 128 yards and four touchdowns rushing and 263 yards and four touchdowns receiving, plus 192 returning yards. Coffee has scored 34 or more points in every game. Camden is rushing for 327.8 yards per game and passing for 22.2. That’s after Herron restored his favored offense, the wing-T. Camden got 60% of its total yards passing under the previous staff last season. Deonte Cole (419 yards, 16.1 per carry) and four-star recruit Jamie Felix (413 yards, 9.0 ypc) are the leading rushers. Camden’s loss came Sept. 10 against Marietta, 40-17. These two have a common opponent, Glynn Academy. Camden beat Glynn 46-21; Coffee won 42-0.
Cedartown at Calhoun
When, where: 7:30 p.m. today, Phil Reeve Stadium, Calhoun
Records, rankings: Cedartown is 3-0 and No. 6 in Class 4A; Calhoun is 3-1 and No. 7 in 5A.
Last meeting: Calhoun won 14-7 in 2020.
Things to know: Calhoun beat Cedartown last year for the first time since 1932, ending a 14-game winless streak, although these northwest Georgia programs hadn’t met since 1985. Calhoun took a 14-7 lead on Christian Lewis’s 55-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, and Cole Speer intercepted a pass in Calhoun territory to clinch the victory. Lewis and Speer are back. Lewis has thrown for 819 yards. He’s played only the first halves of the past two games, both blowouts. In those four quarters, he’s 19-of-19 passing for 428 yards and eight touchdowns. By contrast, Cedartown has completed only three passes all season, though two went for touchdowns. Cedartown’s top player is DE/RB C.J. Washington. He and Calhoun’s Speer are committed to Georgia. Washington has rushed for 239 yards and recorded 2.5 sacks and another two tackles for losses. Cedartown is allowing 3.3 points per game while Calhoun is averaging 43.5. Calhoun’s loss was against McCallie, a reigning Tennessee champion.
East Coweta at Collins Hill
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Fahring Field, Suwanee
Records, rankings: East Coweta is 5-0 and No. 9 in Class 7A; Collins Hill is 5-0 and No. 1 in 7A.
Last meeting: East Coweta won 24-17 in 2020.
Things to know: In the 2020 game, East Coweta won in overtime on Daniel Shoch’s TD pass to Tyrell Fudge after Beau Beldon kicked a 22-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. The victory boosted East Coweta into the top 10 for the first time since 2010 and moved Collins Hill out. Collins Hill would rally and reach the Class 7A championship game. The only other team to beat Collins Hill was champion Grayson, twice. Shoch is back and committed to Mercer. He’s thrown for 650 yards with six touchdowns. East Coweta, with three shutouts, is 5-0 for the first time since 2015. Collins Hill, with two shutouts, is 5-0 for the first time since 2013. Collins Hill’s Sam Horn has thrown for 1,023 yards in four games. Travis Hunter has 32 receptions for 553 yards. They’ve hooked up on 40 TD passes in their careers. DE Asani Redwood has 13 tackles for losses and nine sacks.
Fitzgerald at Pierce County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Bearville Stadium, Blackshear
Records, rankings: Fitzgerald is 4-0 and No. 3 in Class 2A; Pierce County is 3-1 and No. 3 in 3A.
Last meeting: Fitzgerald won 27-17 in 2020.
Things to know: This is Pierce County’s home opener and marks the debut of the stadium’s new artificial turf. Pierce is hoping it’s also the season debut of all-state RB D.J. Bell, working his way back from a knee injury. He rushed for 177 yards last season against Fitzgerald in what turned out to be Pierce’s only loss. Bell also threw a 74-yard TD pass for a 17-9 first-half lead, but Fitzgerald was dominant from there. Fitzgerald is 7-0 all-time against the Bears. Both teams went on to reach the state finals with Pierce winning Class 3A and Fitzgerald losing in 2A. Fitzgerald is typically a run-first team, but QB DeNorris Goodman was 10-of-11 passing for 126 yards in a 29-13 victory over Cairo last week. Goodman has rushed for 254 yards and six touchdowns. Fitzgerald is allowing 192.8 yards per game. All four of Fitzgerald’s opponents have been ranked this season. Pierce County hadn’t allowed a point in 11 quarters until taking out its starters in the second half of a 33-13 victory over Clinch County last week.
Flowery Branch at Jefferson
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
Records, rankings: Flowery Branch is 3-1 overall, 0-0 in Region 8-4A and No. 7; Jefferson is 4-0, 0-0 and No. 1.
Last meeting: Jefferson won 40-10 in 2020.
Things to know: This is the region opener for the two highest-rated teams in 8-4A, and the winner will be heavily favored to win out. Last year’s game ultimately decided the championship, giving Jefferson its seventh region title in 13 years. Flowery Branch’s only loss this season came against 7A Gainesville (42-35) in a game that was postponed a week over COVID concerns. QB David Renard was 16-of-23 passing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons rebounded with a 56-0 victory over Hiram last week, getting big nights in the running game from Myles Ivey (134 yards), Malik Dryden (106) and Zion Buffington (84). Jefferson is led by QB/RB/LB Malaki Starks, the No. 2-rated player in the state and a Georgia commitment. Starks did a little bit of everything for the Dragons last year, and still does, but he got a big boost on offense with the arrival of Commerce transfer Sammy Brown, who is averaging 103.8 yards rushing. The Dragons run almost exclusively, averaging 325.3 yards per game on the ground while attempting just seven passes for the season.
Grayson at Mill Creek
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Markham Field at Mill Creek Community Stadium, Hochston
Records, rankings: Grayson is 4-1 and No. 8 in Class 7A; Mill Creek is 4-0 and No. 2 in 7A.
Last meeting: Grayson won 20-13 in 2020.
Things to know: Grayson beat Mill Creek in double overtime last year in what turned out to be the Rams’ toughest game in a 14-0 season. Grayson returned about six starters total and opened with a 19-14 upset loss to Creekside but has won four straight since. Grayson is leaning heavily on the run (228.2 rushing yards per game, 71.8 passing). Joe Taylor, one of three rushers with more than 300 yards, leads the team with 464. Mill Creek is more balanced. Hayden Clark has thrown for 681 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Caleb Downs, a top-40 national recruit among juniors, is Mill Creek’s best all-around player. He’s an elite safety with more than 200 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. Grayson has a similar but younger safety, sophomore Michael Daugherty, a four-star recruit. Grayson is 3-0 all-time against Mill Creek.
Lee County at Warner Robins
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, McConnell-Talbert Stadium, Warner Robins
Records, rankings: Lee County is 5-0 and No. 1 in Class 6A; Warner Robins is 4-0 and No. 1 in 5A.
Last meeting: Lee County won 27-7 in 2020.
Things to know: Lee County rose to No. 1 in Class 6A after Buford’s loss to Chaminade-Madonna, Fla., last week, elevating this to a matchup of top-ranked teams. Lee County handed Warner Robins its only loss during a 13-1 state championship season in 2020. Lee County suffered significant graduation losses since then but has gotten big contributions from younger players this season. Freshman RB Ousmane Kromah is second in Region 1-6A with 663 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 51 carries (13.0 ypc). Sophomore QB leads the region in passing with 570 yards and 10 touchdowns. Warner Robins, which has won 13 consecutive games, will be going for a sweep of Lee County’s Region 1-6A. The Demons already have beaten Valdosta (48-20), Northside of Warner Robins (49-7) and Houston County (49-9). They have an explosive but balanced offense (240.5 yards per game rushing, 229.8 passing) and are led by senior QB Christon Lane (762 yards, 10 TDs passing) and junior RB Malcolm Brown (549 yards, nine TDs rushing).
Valdosta at Lowndes
When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Martin Stadium, Valdosta
Records, rankings: Valdosta is 1-3 and No. 9 in Class 6A; Lowndes is 2-2 and unranked in 7A.
Last meeting: Lowndes won 33-21 in 2020.
Things to know: Valdosta leads the series between these crosstown rivals 37-22, but Lowndes has won 13 of the past 17, including the last four. Valdosta, being coached by Shelton Felton after the offseason firing of Rush Propst, is 1-3 for the first time since 2017, but the schedule has been rough. The Wildcats forfeited a game against Bainbridge on Sept. 3 and lost to Class 5A No. 1 Warner Robins (48-20) and Class 7A No. 5 Colquitt County (48-42). The Wildcats have been balanced on offense, led by QB Joseph Gardner (22-of-52 passing, 410 yards and four touchdowns) and RB Terrell Denson (29 carries, 195 yards, two TDs). Lowndes is led by QB Jacurri Brown, a four-star senior prospect who has committed to Miami. Brown is No. 2 in 1-7A in passing (47-of-79, 646 yards, nine touchdowns) and No. 5 in rushing (345 yards, three TDs) despite playing one fewer game than every other team in the region. Jacarre Fleming (231) and Chase Belcher (187) also are key contributors in the run game. Khris Thomas leads the region in receiving yards (307 yards).
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