AAA  Aug. 26, 2016 11:59 PM ET
North Georgia high school football previews
  Thomasville Times-Enterprise, Ga. (TNS)
Tribune Content Agency, LLC
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Calhoun (1-0) at Dalton (0-0)

• WHEN: Tonight, 7:30

• WHERE: Harmon Field, Dalton

• RADIO: WYYU 104.5 FM

• LAST WEEK: Calhoun beat Douglass 28-0. Dalton was off.

• LAST TIME: Calhoun won 28-7 (2015)

• THE SERIES: Dalton leads 34-10-1

• COACHES: Hal Lamb, Calhoun (20th season, 197-32 at Calhoun, 202-47 overall); Matt Land, Dalton (seventh season, 45-23)

• KEY PLAYERS: Calhoun — QB/LB Baylon Spector (Sr., 6-3, 215), RB/LB Olico Dennis (Sr., 5-9, 185), OL/DL Noah Davenport (Sr., 6-3, 270), WR/DB Malik Lawrence (Sr., 5-10, 180), OL/DL William Long (Sr., 6-6, 290); Dalton — QB JP Tighe (Jr., 6-0, 203), RB/DB Kyric McGowan (Sr., 5-11, 187), WR Zek Cobb (Sr., 6-4, 207), LB Tucker Sumner (Sr., 5-11 220), FS Maddux Houghton (Sr., 6-0, 185)

• PREVIEW: The Catamounts look to finally get over the Calhoun hump tonight as they host the Yellow Jackets, who have won seven in a row against Dalton. The Yellow Jackets were upset in the Class 3A state playoffs in 2015, but have won two state titles in the past five years in addition to dominating their yearly meeting against the Cats.

This year Calhoun has a new starting quarterback in Baylon Spector, an athlete committed to play at Clemson as a safety. The Yellow Jackets lost several playmakers from last year’s team that went 13-1, but Dalton coach Matt Land said while they may look different his expectations won’t be any different.

“When I look at Calhoun I see a team with great chemistry and I don’t see any loss of production in them,” Land said. “They are different than they have been, but when you have a quarterback who is as big as he is and can run a 4.4 (second 40-yard dash), he better be running the ball. And we know they are going to make us stop that before they throw the ball. But coach Lamb takes what he has and he puts them in a position to be successful and they certainly have enough to be very successful (this season).”

The past four years, Calhoun had been Dalton’s second game of the season. An old cliche among coaches is that teams improve the most from week one to week two. With the Yellow Jackets having already played a game and the Cats coming off an opening week bye, Land is wary of that situation but doesn’t think it will affect the game. Instead, he looks at three things to determine the outcome.

“I look for Calhoun to be a different team than they were Friday night because there will be things they’ve improved upon and things they’ve changed, and we are not at that point yet, so we will have to make adjustments on the fly,” Land said. “But the first thing I look at is turnovers. We have to protect the ball and have to get the ball. Secondly, at this point of the season conditioning plays a big role, so how well have you prepared to this point.

“Lastly, in this game the team that wins is usually the team that is best at being themselves. Sometimes you have guys that can do more than you typically do, but whoever stays true to who they are has the best chance to win.”

Coosa (0-0) at Coahulla Creek (0-1)

• WHEN: Tonight, 7:30

• WHERE: Colt Stadium, Varnell

• LAST WEEK: Coahulla Creek lost 49-0 to Southeast Whitfield. Coosa was off.

• LAST TIME: First meeting

• COACHES: Todd Wheeler, Coosa (fourth season at Coosa, 15-17. 5th season, 18-24 overall); Chad Barger, Coahulla Creek (third season, 2-19).

• KEY PLAYERS: Coosa — C/NG Chase Corn (Sr., 6-1, 257), RB Patrick Zinnermon (Sr., 6-0, 180), TE/MLB Chandler Hubbard (Jr., 6-2, 210), OLB/TE Sean Brown (So., 6-5, 218), QB/DE Duke Blackburn (Sr., 6-5, 200). Coahulla Creek — QB/WR Gavin Steele (Sr., 6-3, 200), WR/FS Bryson Whitmore (Sr., 5-10, 155), RB/CB Ryan Ray (Sr., 5-10, 135), RB/CB Austin Tibbs (Sr., 5-10, 180), QB/CB Bryan Ray (Sr., 5-11, 140).

• PREVIEW: Coahulla Creek is looking to bounce back after a tough season opener on Saturday against Southeast Whitfield. The Colts were shut out, and coach Chad Barger said mistakes seemed to build up on top of each other.

“We had things that snowball-effected us a little bit,” Barger said. “When you turn the ball over a couple times, they had a scoop-and-score for a touchdown, a pick-6 for a touchdown, then a punt return and we had a bad punt that led to a touchdown. Then we have a pass on the sideline, we go up, have hands on it, should’ve been picked off, that’s 35 points. It’s one of those things when it starts to snowball on you, you never want to see it happen, but it happens to you from time to time. Our guys are resilient, they’ll be here and they’ll be ready to fight, come out swinging next week.”

Barger said the team has put last week’s game behind them, getting ready to for the home opener against Coosa.

“We’re going to come out and do what we can to prepare,” he said. “We’re going to work and we’re going to put in the time, so we’ll see what happens on Friday night.”

Tonight is Coosa’s first game of the season. The Eagles went 1-9 in 2015, but Barger warns that’s not indicative of the team they are.

“They’re a little better than their record showed last year, they got some good players,” he said. “They’re tailback is a pretty good player and they got a nose guard that’s a big kid, committed to West Point if I’m not mistaken. A big, tall, rangy quarterback, they’ve got some weapons. I think in other areas we’ll match up a little better with them than we did last week.”

Barger said the biggest thing for his team is to come out tonight with more intensity and to play fundamentally sound.

“We just need to see some execution and see a little more desire on the field,” he said. “Our guys didn’t have much of a sense of urgency on the offensive end. That’s a big situation. We’re working up front with some young kids. Those guys have to progress a lot faster than sometimes they’d have to, but they’ll be ready to go. Overall I think we’re OK.”

South Atlanta (0-1) at Northwest Whitfield (1-0)

• WHEN: Tonight, 7:30

• WHERE: Bruin Stadium, Tunnel Hill

• LAST WEEK: Northwest beat Ringgold 49-24. South Atlanta fell to Heard County 22-19.

• LAST TIME: First meeting

• COACHES: Brad Stephens, South Atlanta (first season, 0-1); Josh Robinson, Northwest Whitfield (sixth season, 34-19).

• KEY PLAYERS: South Atlanta — DE Dar’jarri Coleman (Jr., 6-5, 220), MLB/FB Richa’d White (Sr., 6-0, 215), QB/CB Jalen Thompson (Jr., 5-4, 140), WR/FS Phillip Jackson (Jr., 6-2, 170). Northwest Whitfield — QB Luke Shiflett (Jr., 6-2, 183), WR Jay Jones (Sr., 5-10, 170), RB Dominique Sistrunk (So., 6-1, 220), RB Sebastian Orozco (Jr., 5-8, 185), WR Will Blanchard (Sr., 6-0, 170).

• PREVIEW: The Bruins welcome an unfamiliar foe to town in the Hornets, one that runs a system that’s a bit unfamiliar itself.

“Defensively, they’re a 4-3 defense much like us, although they play a lot deeper with their safeties,” Northwest coach Josh Robinson said. “Offensively, they’re an option-based team. I guess the best way to put it in terms for people up here, it’s kind of like the old Bill Napier Murray County teams, but they run it out of a double slot Wing T.”

Robinson said there are plenty of challenges when it comes to defending the option.

“The big thing is, it’s an advantage for a team that comes in and runs that because everyone now is a downhill team or a spread team. You don’t see much option anymore,” he said. “You’ve got to be disciplined. As soon as you try to peak one way, you’re going to guess wrong. They’ve got some really good athletes too. Two or three Division-I (college) kids with multiple offers.”

South Atlanta has struggled in the recent past. It’s won four games combined the past four seasons and hasn’t had a winning year since 1995. But Robinson says there is plenty to be concerned about with this year’s Hornets team.

“Their defensive end is a 6-6, 220-pound kid. I know Tulane and a couple other guys have offered him. He also plays wide receiver and tight end for them on offense,” Robinson said. “Their QB is not a big kid, probably only 5-5, 5-6, but he can really move. Their line is a bit above average size-wise on both sides. They have a really good defensive tackle who will be one of the best we’ll see this season, other than their defensive end.

“Their defensive line is their strongest point. Our offensive line has a lot of work cut out for them.”

Coming off last week’s win against Ringgold, Robinson says there are still a few things his Bruins need to clean up.

“Two major things, number one is penalties, those have got to disappear. I think we we were only 9 for 95, but really it was more than that, because it was taking away big plays. putting us in second- and thirrd-and-long. We also need to improve on individual technique. That’s something you drive home at the beginning of every year. We made a lot of small mistakes that will turn out to be big mistakes if we don’t fix them as the year goes on.”

Last week the Bruins were able to jump on top of Ringgold early, scoring on the game’s first possession. Robinson hopes they can get off to a similar start tonight.

“They’re so athletic, they run hard overall across the board, they can break a play at any moment,” Robinson said of South Atlanta. “You’ve got to be on your toes, go out there with a mindset to put points on the board every time you have the ball. If they take a lead, you’ve got to answer the call and match them.”

Southeast Whitfield (1-0) at Gordon Central (0-1)

• WHEN: Tonight, 7:30

• WHERE: Ratner Memorial Stadium, Calhoun

• LAST WEEK: Southeast Whitfield beat Coahulla Creek 49-0. Gordon Central lost to Murray County 55-13.

• LAST TIME: Southeast Whitfield won 45-0 (2015)

• THE SERIES: Gordon Central leads 14-6

• COACHES: David Humphreys, Gordon Central (12 seasons, 2-29 at Gordon Central, 61-62 overall); Sean Gray, Southeast Whitfield (9 seasons, 18-24 at Southeast, 35-48 overall)

• KEY PLAYERS: Gordon Central — RB/OLB Dalton Freeman (So., 5-10, 158), OL/DL Blaize Goss (Sr., 5-10, 275), QB/LB Martavius Harris (Jr., 5-7 185), RB/LB Cameron Pierce (So., 5-10, 185), RB/LB Cam Williams (Jr., 5-7, 170); Southeast Whitfield — QB/DB Landon Eaton (Jr., 5-9, 161), RB/LB Taylor Shirah (Sr., 6-1, 178), FB Cody Gillean (Sr., 6-0, 200), OL/DL Chandler Ferralin (Sr., 6-5, 235), RB/DE Luke Johns (Jr., 6-4, 215), WR/FS Brian Parks (Sr., 5-11, 156)

• PREVIEW: Southeast Whitfield has a lot of momentum heading into its first road trip of the young season. The Raiders won both scrimmages and dismantled Coahulla Creek in dominating fashion in the home opener. Coach Sean Gray hopes the team can keep moving forward against the Warriors.

“I told them let’s keep it going full steam ahead,” Gray said. “We’ve said all along this could be a special year for us. We lost a ton offensively (from last year), but it could be special if things fall the right way.”

The Warriors opened the season with a tough loss on the road at Murray County in which the Indians led 49-7 at halftime. Last year, the Raiders shut out the Warriors 45-0, also on the road. But Gray said he is wary of a team that is coming off a big loss like Gordon Central had against Murray and knows that the Warriors have weapons the Raiders must keep contain.

“It’s their home opener and they are certainly going to want to play better than they did,” Gray said. “They are going to come out hungry and looking to play harder. I think they will have a much better showing and look like a better team than they had last year.

“Their quarterback is a really good athlete and the running back is a junior that’s really good. They have a wide receiver that made some good plays against Murray and then No. 43 (Cam Williams) transferred in this year and he’s a big H-back. So they have some weapons and we have to go down there ready to play.”

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