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Football: Preview of Week 1's matchups

West Forsyth kicked off the GHSA football season Wednesday with a 38-8 win over Carver in the Corky Kell Classic, but seven other Forsyth County schools are in action Friday night. 

Here's how they stack up.

Cedartown at Denmark

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Denmark High School in Alpharetta.

Records, rankings: Cedartown is 0-0 and ranked No. 6 in Class 4A; Denmark is 0-0 and unranked in Class 7A.

Series history: These teams have never met.

Last meeting: N/A

What to know: The second season of the Mike Palmieri era begins against Cedartown, one of the top teams in Class 4A. Denmark reached the Region 6-7A championship game last year and fell to West Forsyth, but the Danes cruised into the second round of the Class 7A playoffs with a 63-0 win against Discovery, their first playoff win as a member of Georgia’s highest classification. Since then, a few key pieces have graduated, including Denmark’s leading passer, leading tackler and all three leading receivers. Still, the Danes expect to be tough, especially on defense, where they bring back the most experience. Palmieri expects a breakout season from linebacker Dee Crayton, while defensive backs Treston Jordan and Kenon Dicks will be a true test for any quarterback. Expect Michael McClellan and Jacob Nelson to rotate at quarterback, with Amon Williams providing some consistency at running back.

Cedartown is ranked No. 6 in Class 4A and is coming off an 8-3 season that saw the Bulldogs win the Region 7-4A championship. Denmark will get a first-hand look at four-star prospect and UGA commit C.J. Washington, who leads Cedartown on both sides of the ball. Washington, listed at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, led the team in tackles for loss [10], QB hurries [10], sacks [6] and forced fumbles [2] last season. He also scored 15 touchdowns out of the backfield and averaged 9.6 yards per carry [73 carries, 698 yards]. The Bulldogs have a two-headed monster at running back, including Harlem Diamond, whose 710 yards on 77 carries led the team in 2020. The Bulldogs run a modified Wing-T offense while also incorporating some flexbone looks, which allows them to get multiple talented backs on the field at the same time.

Northview at Forsyth Central

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Forsyth Central High School in Cumming.

Records, rankings: Northview is 0-0 and unranked in Class 5A; Forsyth Central is 0-0 and unranked in Class 7A.

Series history: Northview leads 2-0.

Last meeting: Northview won 48-21 in 2013.

What to know: One coach is going to get his first win Friday. David Rooney is in his first year as head coach at Forsyth Central, while Scott Schwarzer replaced James Thomson after he filled the opening at Tucker. Schwarzer has some head coaching experience [Chamblee 2019-20, Winsor Forest 2013-14] and actually led Chamblee to a 43-10 loss to Central to open the 2019 season. The Bulldogs are auditioning two different quarterbacks in Drew Mullvain and Koby Balthazor, and both split repetitions last week in a scrimmage against Pope. The Bulldogs are at their best when they can get senior running back Patrick Haertel running with a full head of steam. Carson Leak had a strong showing against Pope and could prove to be among the county's top linebackers by the end of the season.

Northview finished 2-7 last year and graduated quarterback Caden Dickey, but the Titans bring back a pair of offensive weapons. Patrick Hester is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound tight end and Marcus Godbey led Northview in rushing last season with 457 yards and two touchdowns. Northview fell 56-0 to Riverwood last week in a scrimmage.

Ridgeland at East Forsyth

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Half-Mile Stadium in Gainesville.

Records, rankings: Ridgeland is 0-0 and unranked in Class 4A; East Forsyth is 0-0 and unranked in Class 3A.

Series history: These teams have never met.

Last meeting: N/A

What to know: East Forsyth will play its first-ever regular-season game Friday against Ridgeland at home at Half-Mile Stadium. The Broncos are led by head coach Brian Allison, who brings a wealth of experience after coaching the past 13 seasons at Union County. In all that time, however, Allison has never coached against fellow north Georgia school Ridgeland. By design, East doesn't have a single senior on its roster, but the expectations are still high for the Broncos. Quarterback Will Moffit has shown an ability to move the ball through the air and on the ground, while it seems Brandon Peoples will be a go-to target for the first-year signal-caller. 

Meanwhile, the past 15 years at Ridgeland have been the best in school history. The Panthers won a school-record nine games in 2008 and have equaled or surpassed that total five separate times, most notably in 2012 when they won 13 games and reached the Class 4A finals. But Ridgeland went 1-7 last year and have had three different coaches since 2017, which indicates the Broncos will have a great shot at winning their first game in program history.

Horizon Christian Academy at Holy Spirit Prep

When, where: 4:30 p.m. Friday at Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta.

Records, rankings: Horizon is 0-0, Holy Spirit is 0-0.

Last meeting: Horizon won 61-6 in 2020.

What to know: Holy Spirit Prep was the first victim during Horizon Christian's 2020 state championship campaign, as the Warriors rolled over the Cougars 61-6. Horizon lost do-it-all player Malachi Mathis to graduation, but Zane Lamonde will quarterback the Warriors after successfully rehabbing a torn labrum and head coach Damon Taylor is high on wide receiver Tanner Story. Holy Spirit finished 0-9 last season and was outscored 64-447 in those games. Expect Horizon to roll to another win.

Centennial at Lambert

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Horn in Suwanee.

Records, rankings: Centennial is 0-0 and unranked in Class 6A; Lambert is 0-0 and unranked in Class 7A.

Series history: Tied 2-2.

Last meeting: Centennial won 45-36 in 2015.

What to know: Lambert trended in the right direction in 2020, winning its first four games of the season and snatching a region victory away from Forsyth Central. Since then, wide receiver Kojo Antwi has committed to Ohio State, offensive lineman Grayson Mains has committed to South Carolina, and according to head coach Tommy Watson, the Longhorns emphasized their weight training in the offseason. Watson is eager to watch his offensive line, which will block for running back Harrison Peyton, who flashed his ability at running back last season before a season-ending injury. Either Ashton Smith or James Tyre will lead the Longhorns' offense at quarterback. On defense, outside linebacker Darren Guy moved to safety and Antwi will see time at cornerback. There's plenty of talent at linebacker, too, led by Brennan Schneider and Jake Johnson.

Centennial is looking for its first win since 2018 after finishing 0-8 in 2020 and 0-10 in 2019. Opposing teams outscored the Knights 87-296 last season. Centennial has some pieces, though, beginning with sophomore offensive lineman Daniel Calhoun, a 6-foot-5, 330-pound, four-star recruit who is rated by 247sports as the No. 2 tackle in the nation. Centennial's three leading tacklers from a year ago are now juniors, and running back Nathan Webster returns after rushing for 252 yards and a touchdown as a freshman.

Alcovy at North Forsyth

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Raider Valley in Coal Mountain.

Records, rankings: Alcovy is 0-0 and unranked in Class 6A; North Forsyth is 0-0 and unranked in Class 7A.

Series history: North Forsyth leads 1-0.

Last meeting: North Forsyth won 35-3 in 2020.

What to know: North Forsyth kicked off the 2020 season with a 35-3 thrashing of Alcovy, and the Raiders look to do the same this year. The win was part of an impressive non-region run, which saw North knock off defending Class 6A champion Harrison and Hapeville Charter, then the No. 6 team in Class 4A. The Raiders graduated quarterback Brady Meitz, but first-year QB Drew Aucoin shined in North's scrimmage win against Dawson County. Aucoin tossed a 67-yard TD pass to Logan Curry on the Raiders' first possession, then threw three more as North romped its way to a 46-10 victory. Patrick Corrigan is a punishing linebacker and the reigning Forsyth County News Defensive Player of the Year, while Chris Herock is a difference-maker on the defensive line. Herock had three sacks last year against Alcovy. 

Alcovy went in the opposite direction last season following its Week 1 matchup with North. The Tigers lost their first five games of the season, snuck into the Class 6A playoffs and were smacked by Brunswick, 41-6. Still, quarterback Ashton Evans threw for more than 1,100 yards as a sophomore, while defensive end M.J. Stroud made 10 tackles for loss and five sacks. Stroud is garnering Division I attention and holds an offer from Mississippi State. The Tigers also return leading rusher Tristan Mayweather [558 yards, 4 TDs] and leading receiver Mathias Height [437 yards, 3 TDs]. Stroud also plays wide receiver for Alcovy and caught 23 passes for 415 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

South Forsyth at Roswell

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Roswell High School in Roswell.

Records, rankings: South Forsyth is 0-0 and unranked in Class 7A; Roswell is 0-0 and unranked in Class 7A.

Series history: South Forsyth leads 1-0.

Last meeting: South Forsyth won 17-14 in 2017.

What to know: South Forsyth is under the direction of first-year coach and longtime assistant Troy Morris. South had a stiff test last week in its scrimmage against No. 10 North Gwinnett, and despite falling 41-21, the War Eagles began clicking in the second half. First-year QB Ty Watkins completed 9 of 10 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns after halftime, with two going to Josh Nelson, who caught four passes for 146 yards and the two scores. Running back Gavin Morris sustained an injury early in the scrimmage and sat out the second half, but Troy Morris is hopeful he can return. If not, the War Eagles can turn to a combination of Blaylen Lomax, Cade Yeager and Baylor Duncan. 

Roswell is a formidable opponent for South. The Hornets went 8-3 last season and finished second in a competitive Region 5-7A. Cornerback Ethan Nation is a four-star prospect and among the best defensive backs in the nation. Nation had eight interceptions last season and will likely draw Josh Nelson in some capacity, which could open up opportunities for South's other receivers. Quarterback Robbie Roper threw for more than 2,100 yards and 23 touchdowns last season as a junior, though two of his top targets graduated. Shaun Spence is the Hornets leading returning receiver after catching 35 passes for 509 yards and six touchdowns. Additionally, both of Roswell's leading rushers -- Ryan Hill II [879 yards, 7 TDs] and Ryan Stephens [518 yards, 8 TDs] -- return, making the Hornets' offense a potentially tough out.