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November 01, 2014
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Posted: Monday, September 1st 2014 at 3:03pm

5 things: What we learned from Week 1 of high school football

By Morgan Lee Editor
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Flowery Branch's Jeremiah Goss just eludes the grasp of a Chestatee tackler in the Falcons' win on Friday in Gainesville. / photo: Shane Nicholson
Here’s a look at five things we learned from Week 1 of the high school football season...

1. West Hall picked right back up where it left off

The Spartans were the resurgent program of 2013, breaking a long playoff drought and nearly pulling the upset of the postseason. And on Friday, West Hall showed that it is still moving forward, blanking crosstown rival Johnson 28-0 and showing some impressive moments -- despite graduating some key players off the 2013 squad. One player that made plenty of big moments in 2013 already has a few big moments in 2014. Kwon Williams was all over the field against the Knights (0-2), rushing for 113 yards and two scores, while also picking off a Johnson pass and returning it for a TD. West Hall (1-0) has a chance to keep rolling forward this week against Chestatee -- but it won’t be easy against a War Eagles squad primed for a rebound after a tough opening-week loss to Flowery Branch. West Hall’s defense will be a key for the Spartans this season, and their attacking, 3-4 unit played well on Friday. It will have to get better, however, to shut out the War Eagles.


2. East Hall’s mental fortitude is up to the task

East Hall has not pulled off many comebacks in recent seasons like it did on Friday. Trailing Wesleyan 13-12 on the road, the Vikings scored on a Devin Watson-to-Rex Purgason touchdown pass with just 1:30 remaining. Watson then found Junior Lee for a 2-point conversion to help seal the fightback. Winning an opener like that, on the road, against a quality opponent could do wonders for a team that has been on the verge of a breakthrough for seasons but has posted three straight 5-5 records, missing out on the playoffs by one game each time. The victory showed that the Vikings have the psychological toughness -- refered to as “guts” in older times -- to keep fighting. It is an attribute that coaches relish, and one that is hard to put into a team. But once they get it, it is almost impossible to knock it out of them.


3. Flowery Branch has plenty of options on offense

The Falcons showed on Friday that, even in the face adversity, yes they still do have plenty of offensive weapons. Despite graduating their starting quarterback and entire starting receiving corps from 2013, the Falcons proved they can still sling it in their 29-0 season-opening defeat of Chestatee -- even if it is a freshman doing the slinging. Nick Lance only learned that he would be the Branch’s go-to QB about two hours before kickoff on Friday -- a call he answered impressively, completing two touchdown passes to help key the victory (including one beautiful 29-yard toss to Hayden Colee). Coaches turned to Lance after an “internal issue” benched penciled-in starter Jasen Johnson, and though the freshman needed some time to find his feet, he was helped into the game by a strong offensive line and returning standout running back Jeremiah Goss. Goss proved the bedrock on Friday, totaling 166 yards and two scores and giving the Falcons a reliable outlet for its offense. His work on Lance’s first TD pass helped give the freshman -- and the entire team -- a huge confidence boost, when he gathered a swing pass and sprinted 60 yards for the score to make it 15-0. You could see Lance grow from that point, and between the freshman and receivers Colee, Kyle King and Kane Smith, the Branch began to resemble its wide-open spread attack of the past. It also helps having a spark like Cortez Davis. The junior speedster was all over the field, picking off one pass, returning punts and taking snaps as a change-of-pace “wildcat” quarterback. Davis took one of those snaps 66 yards for the final score, one that sealed the Branch’s control of the contest. The Falcons had plenty of questions on offense coming into their opener. The answers so far have been pretty impressive.


4. Jefferson is playing power football

The Dragons like to throw the football, and can do so VERY effectively via Evan Shirreffs. But, as they have shown through the first two contests, Jefferson’s offense right now is very much about old-school, power football. The Dragons piled up almost 400 yards rushing between Sammy Williams and Colby Wood in 41-7 win over Winder-Barrow on Friday. And this is not from a wing-T or triple option. The Dragons line up in a pro set on most downs, meaning that their offensive line and fullbacks must execute in order for the ground game to work. When you figure that Jefferson replaced its entire starting line from 2013, that tells you how good their new men in the trenches have been through two weeks.


5. Gainesville must regroup

The Red Elephants knew they would face a stern test from Class AAAAAA behemoth Grayson in their season opener. After a 39-0 loss to the Rams, Gainesville knows it must work hard to correct some things. Luckily for the Red Elephants, they have a week off before playing host to Winder-Barrow on Sept. 12. Gainesville wasn’t bad by any means -- new starting quarterback Mikey Gonzalez completed 28 of 37 passes for 153 yards and Chris Byrd ran hard and totaled 69 yards -- but Grayson showed the Red Elephants that they must improve on the line of scrimmage and in their secondary if they hope to get back on track.


WEEK 1 PREP FOOTBALL RESULTS FOR AREA TEAMS:
Buford 56, Berkmar 0
Cherokee 42, North Forsyth 14
Commerce 28, Banks County 21
East Hall 20, Wesleyan 13
East Jackson 13, Lakeview Academy 6
Flowery Branch 29, Chestatee 0
Forsyth Central 27, Dawson County 7
Gilmer 41, Fannin County 7
Grayson 39, Gainesville 0
Jefferson 41, Winder-Barrow 7
Madison County 27, Jackson County 21
Mill Creek 65, West Forsyth 27
North Cobb 36, North Gwinnett 29
Pickens 42, White County 34
Rabun County 23, Habersham Central 14
Rabun Gap-Nachoochee 22, Arden Christ School, N.C. 8
Riverside Military Academy 20, Fellowship Christian School 10
Stephens County 34, Franklin County 7
Union County 57, Towns County 14
West Hall 28, Johnson 0
Woodland Stockbridge 48, Apalachee 26


WEEK 2 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE, Sept. 5
Apalachee at Winder-Barrow
Banks County at Johnson
Chattahoochee at North Forsyth
Chestatee at West Hall
Dacula at Mill Creek
East Hall at Pickens
Elbert County at Stephens County
Gilmer at Dawson County
Habersham Central at Northview
Hebron Christian at Commerce
Jefferson at North Hall
Lakeview Academy at St. Francis
Lanier at Clarke Central
North Gwinnett at Hillgrove
McEachern at Buford
Mt. Pisgah Christian at Rabun County
Murray County at Fannin County
Union County at Lumpkin County
White County at Jackson County

Saturday
Towns County at Mt. Vernon
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