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  Today, we preview the Falcons HS Game of the Week between Dacula and Walton. Also, check out the left panel for Thursday's football scores.

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Thursday, Sept. 22
Cairo 40, Shaw 0

Northside-Columbus 24, Americas-Sumter 7

Riverdale 23, McIntosh 7

Westover 23, Carver-Columbus 20

Windsor Forest 47, Groves 40

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Friday, September 23, 2016

By Craig Sager II

Unbeaten Oconee County hosts Eastside

Eastside (2-1-1) at Oconee County (4-0)
After five weeks of games, some of the biggest questions remaining in Class AAAA are how good this year's undefeated Oconee County Warriors are, will be and can be. Former Stephens County head coach Travis Noland improved the Warriors' record from a 2-8 finish in 2013, to 8-4 his first season on the job. Last year, the Warriors improved once again to a 9-3 finish. Now that Oconee County is 4-0 and consensually ranked across the state, Friday's home game versus Eastside has become a titillating matchup as they take the field one last time before opening region play with North Oconee, St. Pius, Stephens County, Madison County and Jefferson. Oconee County has won its first four games this season by an average of 20.5 points per game, with no margin of victory underneath 18 points. Eastside has history on its side as far as the matchup itself is concerned. The Eagles have won their last two meetings with the Warriors (2008, 2009) by a combined score of 93-7 and own the all-time series 3-1. Eastside is also coming off a 21-0 loss to Loganville on Sept. 9 and has had two straight weeks off to prepare for this matchup.

Cartersville (4-0) at Cedartown (3-1)
While Eastside's slight historical advantage against Oconee County Friday offers little insight for the expected outcome, Cedartown may need its history and some divine intervention to get past Cartersville this Friday. Cedartown won its last meeting with Cartersville 18-10 in 2011 and has taken three of its last five and seven of its last dozen meetings with the Purple Hurricanes, but remains a heavy underdog. The Maxwell Week 6 projections has Cartersville as a 39-point road favorite, while Oconee County is favored by a mere five points at home against Eastside. Cedartown is 3-1 on the season and its loss game to out-of-state Piedmont (AL) (29-22) the first week of the season. As solid as the Bulldogs have been, no team in the state rides more momentum into Week 6 than their opponent Cartersville, which carries a state-best 19-game winning streak. Cartersville has allowed just seven points its past three games, while scoring a combined 125 points.  This is the Region 5 opener for both squads.

Class AAAAAA Gainesville (2-1) at Jefferson (3-1)
Jefferson faces Class AAAAAA Gainesville in one of the final 20 non-region matchups of the season that are slated in Class AAAA this weekend. Thomson stunned the Dragons 42-20 on Sept. 2, but the Dragons came off a bye and pitched a 33-0 shutout last Friday night against Flowery Branch. This will be the first time in history that these two former state championship programs have faced one another.

Friday, Sept. 23 (*Designates region game)
Region 1
*Americus-Sumter at Northside-Columbus (Kinnett Stadium) (Thursday)
*Cairo at Shaw (Columbus Memorial) (Thursday)
*Carver-Columbus at Westover (Mills Stadium) (Thursday)
*Hardaway at Columbus (Kinnett Stadium)
Region 2
Houston County at Spalding (Griffin Memorial)
Jordan at Upson-Lee
West Laurens at Warner Robins (McConnell Talbott Stadium)
OFF: Howard, Mary Persons
Region 3
Baldwin at Evans
Effingham County at Burke County
Cross Creek at Greenbrier
Hephzibah at Hancock Central
Richmond Academy at Grovetown
OFF: Thomson
Region 4
*North Clayton at Druid Hills (Adams Stadium)
Eastside at Oconee County
*Salem at Woodward Academy
OFF: Henry County, Luella
Region 5
*Cartersville at Cedartown
*LaGrange at Central-Carroll
*Chapel Hill at Troup (Callaway Stadium)
OFF: Sandy Creek
Region 6
*Gilmer at Heritage-Catoosa
*Southeast Whitfield at LaFayette
*Northwest Whitfield at Ridgeland
OFF: Pickens
Region 7
Blessed Trinity at McCallie, TN
Habersham Central at Chestatee
Chamblee at Marist
Rabun County at West Hall
White County at Dawson County
Region 8
Gainesville at Jefferson
Madison County at Franklin County
North Oconee at Winder-Barrow
Eastside at Oconee County
Lanier at St. Pius
Stephens County at Hart County


Walton hosts Dacula for first time since their 2011 quarterfinals classic

Class AAAAAA Dacula at Class AAAAAAA Walton is the Atlanta Falcons High School Game of the Week. The last time Walton and Dacula faced was 2011. Current Ola head coach Jared Zito was leading a senior-laden Dacula squad into Raider Valley, where current Glynn Academy head coach Rocky Hidalgo's undefeated Raiders would host the quarterfinal showdown. Walton's Tyren Jones (Class AAAAA Offensive Player of the Year) ran for 156 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries and returned a punt for a score, while Zack Blaylock (First-Team All State Defensive Back) had two crucial fourth-quarter interceptions to go with a 96-yard touchdown reception to help the Raiders hold on for a 21-13 victory.  In the five years since the Elite 8 classic, both programs have ushered in new coaching eras and seen a pendulum of successful and substandard seasons.  Dacula went 1-9 in 2012 and current head coach Tommy Jones took over the program the following 2013 season. The Falcons returned to contention and went on to finish 10-2 in 2014, but fell to 5-5 this past season. Walton plummeted to a 2-8 finish in 2014, before current head coach Mo Dixon led a 9-2 effort this past season in what marked his second season on the job.
Now, Dacula faces a 2-2 Walton team in Raider Valley, with a 1-3 record that includes three straight losses. This is the final non-region matchup for both teams.
Walton opened the year with back-to-back losses to Gwinnett schools. First, Norcross defeated the Raiders 46-14 in the MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic and the following week Brookwood roared past Walton for a 40-13 victory. A 59-33 win over rival Pope and a 35-14 win over neighboring Wheeler the past two weeks, however, has the Raiders back on track.
Dacula opened the season with a promising 34-13 win over visiting Central Gwinnett, but was outmatched by Mill Creek 30-0 the following week. The loss over the No. 1 ranked Hawks was vindicated, but a 24-21 loss to Arabia Mountain and a 31-14 loss to West Forsyth last Friday gives the Falcons one last chance to search for answers before region play opens up.

Two contrasting offensive styles will likely determine the outcome. Walton's offense is orchestrated by quarterback Addison Shoup, while Dacula will feature 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back Ty Harris in its run-oriented offense. 


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