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Posted: Monday, August 25th 2014 at 3:25pm

5 things: What we learned from 'Week Zero' of prep football

By Morgan Lee Editor
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Isaac Nauta and Konnor Houston combine to sack Trinity Christian quarterback Billy Cobb during the Wolves' win on Saturday in Buford. / photo: David McGregor
Here’s a look at five things we learned from “Week Zero” of the prep football season...

1. Tales of North Gwinnett’s demise were premature -- to say the least

Was Bob Sphire poor-mouthing this preseason when he worried that his team might be “rebuilding” in 2014? We’ll never know. What we do know is that -- after a thrilling 52-49 defeat of Class AAAAAA preseason No. 1 McEachern on Saturday -- this Bulldogs team already has an extraordinary offense. And if North Gwinnett continues to improve this campaign -- which is a certainty -- the sky may be the limit. In fact the Bulldogs look simply to have reloaded after graduating a number of stars from last year’s state runner-up squad. North Gwinnett has already found one star in quarterback John Urzua. The senior connected on big play after big play on Saturday, passing for seven -- yes, seven -- touchdowns and 498 yards against just one interception. He spread the ball around to nine different receivers, including the explosive Joshua Imatorbhebhe (8 catches, 173 yards, 3 TDs). It was downright shocking to watch the scores roll in on twitter on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and if there’s a better offense in this state, we’d like to see it. If North Gwinnett’s defense can follow suit -- and it has the athletes to do so -- look out.

2. Buford’s defense -- just... Buford’s defense

We could almost feel some of the hits taking place on the field while sitting up in the pressbox on Saturday night at Tom Riden Stadium. Think minor car crashes and that’s about what it looked/felt like when the Wolves and an equally-talented Trinity Christian team took turns smashing into each other in a match-up of defending state champions from Georgia and Florida (a 17-0 win for Buford). The visiting Conquerors simply had no chance against a Wolves defense that controlled the line of scrimmage and used its speed on the corners to keep Trinity’s explosive runners hemmed in. Buford coach Jess Simpson noted after the contest that his team had played far from perfect defense, missing some calls and experiencing some moments of confusion (typical for season-openers) -- which only makes us scared for just how good this bone-crunching group will be. Consider that they allowed 74 yards to a Florida state champion -- a team riddled with FBS talent. Good luck to any offense that must face the Wolves the rest of this season.

3. Jefferson’s offense is ahead of the curve

Dragons coach Ben Hall worried that replacing his entire starting offensive line and fullback from 2013 might mean some growing pains early in 2014. It was anything but in Jefferson’s season opener, however. The Dragons rolled over a talented Rabun County team for 503 total yards in a 50-14 win at Memorial Stadium on Friday -- and looked very much in sync in the process. It helps that Jefferson has three outstanding playmakers in receivers Dalton Hill and TK Skelton and quarterback Evan Shirreffs, who all made big plays in the opener. But it was the play of the line and running back Sammy Williams that was perhaps most telling. Jefferson’s front five plowed some big holes in the line of scrimmage and kept Shirreffs upright and clean for most of the contest. Meanwhile, Williams made the most of the space, gashing the Wildcats for two early touchdowns and showing that Jefferson remains -- at its core -- a power team that likes to throw, rather than a passing team that also runs the ball. And you can only expect the group to improve as the season continues. The rest of Region 8-AAA would do well to take note.

4. Lumpkin County’s running attack will be hard to stop

New head coach Ty Maxwell said he wanted to bring a power running game to the Indians -- one like his offensive line helped create at Chestatee. And even though his Indians suffered a setback in game one last week, falling 15-8 at Model, Lumpkin County showed it has bought in to that rushing attack, rolling up 304 yards on the ground -- split between four ball carriers. Most impressive was Zach Matthews, who led the charge for Lumpkin, carrying 37 times for 176 yards, while Timmy Summersett added 62 yards on 16 carries, and Bradley Womack also rushed for 42 yards. It is the kind of start that bodes well for the future, and you can expect the Indians’ ground game to make a difference in 2014.

5. It can’t get any hotter, can it?

OK, this one isn’t to do with football exactly, but with only a handful of games taking place this past week, we were a little short on material -- and, frankly, the weather was just as big a talking point of “Week Zero” as some of the play itself. Field temperatures during the day (throughout the state) reached searing levels, including a supposed 118 degrees on the field before Mill Creek’s kickoff contest against Colquitt County at McEachern in the Kell Classic. Those were the kind of temperatures that have direct effects on the game itself -- though, impressively, we didn’t see many games stopped for cramping players (although it did occur on the sidelines). Next week’s early forecast is calling for anywhere between high 80s to low 90s. We just hope its on the low end of that range.

Hebron Christian 35, East Jackson 15
Jefferson 50, Rabun County 14
Madison County 31, Johnson 3
Model 15, Lumpkin County 8

Buford 17, Trinity Christian (Fla.) 0
Colquitt County 31, Mill Creek 14 (at McEachern)
North Gwinnett 52, McEachern 49

Apalachee at Woodland-Henry
Banks County at Commerce
Berkmar at Buford
Dawson County at Forsyth Central
East Hall at Wesleyan
Fannin County at Gilmer
Flowery Branch at Chestatee -- Radio: 102.9 FM
Gainesville at Grayson -- Radio: 1240 AM
Habersham Central at Rabun County
Lakeview Academy at East Jackson
Lanier at Lambert
Madison County at Jackson County
Mill Creek at West Forsyth
North Cobb at North Gwinnett
North Forsyth at Cherokee
Pickens at White County
Riverside Military at Fellowship Christian
Stephens County at Franklin County
Union County at Towns County
West Hall at Johnson -- Radio: AM 550
Winder-Barrow at Jefferson
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