Denmark at West Forsyth
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Den in Cumming.
Records, rankings: Denmark is 5-3 and unranked in Class 7A; West Forsyth is 6-3 and unranked in Class 7A.
Series history: These teams have never met.
Last meeting: The first meeting between Denmark and West Forsyth will determine the Region 6-7A championship, with the winner earning the No. 1 seed entering the Class 7A playoffs.
What to know: Denmark and West are currently surging after overcoming early season hurdles. Denmark, already the smallest Class 7A school, had a slew of injuries and faced a difficult non-region schedule early in the year, starting 0-3. However, the Danes haven't lost since then and have outscored opponents 153-67 in five region games, warding off Gainesville 24-21 last week to force a de facto region championship. West's meeting with Denmark is somewhat serendipitous for the Wolverines, as Denmark QB Aaron McLaughlin is dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him in the pocket against Gainesville. McLaughlin thrives outside the pocket, racking up 638 rushing yards and four scores on 85 carries in five games this season. The injury didn't hinder Denmark's potent passing game, though, as McLaughlin completed 14 of 19 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns -- two to Azarai Brown and one to Teddy Davenport. Denmark's defense was gashed by a couple of big plays against Gainesville -- a 76-yard TD pass and a 63-yard TD run -- but largely kept Gainesville in check and gave Denmark's offense a short field on two separate occasions.
West also had a rocky start to the season, beating Mays 42-6 in the Corky Kell Classic, but falling to Cartersville, Mill Creek and North Forsyth to open the season 2-3. West played without QB Keegan Stover for two of those losses, but the Wolverines' sophomore signal-caller returned for a 41-34 double-overtime win against South Forsyth, which sparked West's current four-game winning streak. Stover owns a sensational 15:1 touchdown to interception ratio and reached the 1,000-yard mark last week against Lambert, completing 14 of 23 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Oscar Delp is West's leading receiver with 38 catches for 669 yards and eight touchdowns. William Orris (62 carries, 266 yards) and Ryder Stewart (22 carries, 182 yards, 1 TD) lead the rushing attack in place of an injured Daba Fofana. Kobe Haynes moved to linebacker prior to the start of the season and has been sensational, turning in 74 total tackles and 14 tackles for loss -- both team highs.
Friday night's game comes down to how well West defends against McLaughlin, who has the arm strength -- and receivers -- to stretch the defense vertically. The Wolverines' front seven is especially adept at pressuring opposing quarterbacks, which will be pivotal against Denmark.
North Forsyth at Gainesville
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bobby Gruhn Field in Gainesville.
Records, rankings: North Forsyth is 6-3 and unranked in Class 7A; Gainesville is 5-4 and unranked in Class 7A.
Series history: North Forsyth leads 6-0.
Last meeting: North Forsyth won 21-7 in 2019.
What to know: North Forsyth can still make the playoffs, but the Raiders have their work cut out for them.
Prior to last week's 52-7 loss to South Forsyth, North's two losses had come by a combined 11 points. In fact, last week's game marked just the second time all season North trailed at halftime. North can sneak back into playoff contention by beating Gainesville by 13 points, while scoring at least 22 points. North could be without QB Brady Meitz, who watched the second half against South from the sidelines while using crutches. Drew Aucoin relieved Meitz at quarterback, completing 9 of 20 passes for 61 yards, while throwing two interceptions. North has history in its side heading into Friday's game, as the Raiders have never lost to Gainesville. The Red Elephans have collected 752 wins over more than a century of high school football but are 0-6 all-time against North. The latest matchup came last year, when the Raiders ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-7 win. The Raiders held dynamic QB Gionni Williams to just 36 yards on five completions in the game, forcing a pair of interceptions.
On offense, North will have to get its running game going against Gainesville after averaging less than a yard per carry against South. On defense, the Raiders must limit the chunk plays that drive Gainesville's offense.
Lanier Christian at Pinecrest Academy
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday Between the Pines in Cumming.
Records, rankings: Pinecrest Academy is 8-2; Lanier Christian is 4-5.
Series history: Pinecrest Academy leads 1-0.
Last meeting: Pinecrest Academy won 42-0 on Oct. 9, 2020.
What to know: Months after not knowing whether the school would play football this season, Pinecrest is set to face Lanier Christian in the GAPPS 8-man Division II state championship game. The Paladins routed the Lightning back on Oct. 9, 42-0. Ryan Bartling scored three times for Pinecrest in the win, with Brock Barbee and Bryce Balthaser each involved in two scores. Pinecrest breezed through the first round of the playoffs last week with a 66-6 win against Hearts Academy.