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Prep football Week 3 previews
South Forsyth defender Michael Emerson (86) and the War Eagles will look to make it two wins in a row Friday night when they welcome North Gwinnett to War Eagle Field. - photo by Emily Saunders

The beginning of the football season offers the chance to work out any kinks, as teams play non-region contests on sultry nights at the tail end of summer.

Now, with cooler days on the horizon and those "tune-up" games out of the way, it's time to delve into region action and see how everybody stacks up.

Local teams will all be competing in region contests this weekend, three of them for the first time this season.

North Forsyth and South Forsyth are both home tonight for their Region 7-AAAAA openers, while West Forsyth heads to Pickens County for a crossover game in a subdivided Region 7-AAA. Forsyth Central travels south for its second Region 6-AAAA contest against Southwest DeKalb Saturday afternoon.

West enters tonight at 2-0 and still has two weeks before entering its crucial sub-region schedule. Still, the Wolverines would like to get off to a solid start in Region 7-AAA play with a visit to Jasper to tangle with the Pickens Dragons.

The Dragons only have one game under their belt, a 21-3 loss to West Hall in which they struggled mightily to move the ball.

Still, West coach Frank Hepler is impressed by the team's size and believes that his Wolverines will have their hands full with what he sees as a physically strong crew.

He says his team is prepared for an increase in intensity from opponents with region play starting.

"I think they realize that it is going to be a much tougher road now that we are playing within the region. We are stressing that and we believe that," Hepler said.

A tougher road unquestionably starts tonight for South. The War Eagles enter an always tough Region 7-AAAAA by facing last year's state runners-up from North Gwinnett.

South coach Wendell Early says the Bulldogs look good on both sides of the ball, and have basically reloaded after losing 10 starters from last year's defense. North Gwinnett comes in ranked sixth in Class AAAAA in the coaches poll.

The War Eagles don't look like slouches themselves, though, after topping South Gwinnett last week, and senior quarterback Brian Adams always has the potential to make things happen.

"Our kids are excited to get into region play and feel good about our chances to compete," Early said.

North will look to win its second straight game tonight when the Raiders welcome Duluth to Coal Mountain for the Region 7-AAAAA opener.

North coach Jared Zito credited both sides of the ball after last week's 17-14 win at Johnson, noting that the Raider offense controlled turnovers and adjusted to a different defense than they had seen on film. He said the win was important after a tough opening loss to West Forsyth.

As for tonight, Duluth might be hungrier than usual after losing to perennial doormat Meadowcreek a week ago.

"I think Duluth will come in here looking to win. They have played well, and with the exception of a few crucial penalties and turnovers they committed, they could be 2-0 instead of 0-2," Zito said.

Central has the night off ahead of a game against Southwest DeKalb in Clarkston Saturday afternoon.

Central coach Chris Bennett says the Bulldogs, who come in at 1-0 in Region 6-AAAA, will have their hands full against an athletic, well-coached Panther team.

Despite the unusual schedule, Central is trying to treat this like a normal week, with a short mental practice today much like the team would normally have on Thursday.

"Just because we have an extra day doesn't mean we have to wear our kids out by Friday," Bennett said. "The real challenge will be next week when we don't have as many days to recover from the Saturday game."