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WEEK 5 PRIMER: Undefeated Lambert, South Forsyth highlight start of region play
Friday's game between Lambert and South Forsyth will feature a pair of explosive offenses. Photos by Jay Rooney Photography; Paul Ward

Denmark at North Forsyth

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

Records, rankings: Denmark is 0-3 and unranked in Class 7A; North Forsyth is 4-0 and unranked in Class 7A.

Series history: These two teams have never met.

Last meeting: N/A

What to know: The first-ever matchup between Forsyth County’s newest school and one of the county’s oldest schools.

North Forsyth is off to its best start since 2013, beating Alcovy, Harrison, Hapeville Charter and Etowah to finish its non-region slate undefeated. The Raiders have a chance this week to become the first North team since 2005 to start the season 5-0. North’s 28-0 win against Etowah was one of its most dominant defensive performances, as the Raiders held the Eagles under 200 yards of total offense and scored a defensive touchdown on the first play of the game, when Jumel Lewis returned a pick-six 25 yards. Opponents are averaging only 6.5 points per game against an opportunistic North defense that has forced 10 turnovers this season.

That’s bad news for a Denmark offense that has struggled to find its footing through the first three games, though the Danes did return QB Aaron McLaughlin last week in a 38-27 loss to Lanier. McLaughlin, a North Carolina State commit, injected life into a Denmark offense that failed to score a point in its first two games, completing 23 of 43 passes for 286 yards for two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first game of the season. Denmark’s 27 points is the most any team has scored against Lanier this season.

McLaughlin and Denmark’s resurgent offense will test North’s defensive secondary, a talented group that includes Lewis, Bentley Wheeler, Peyton Wagner and Austin Colon.

- photo by David Roberts

Gainesville at Forsyth Central

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium in Cumming.

Records, rankings: Gainesville is 1-2 and unranked in Class 7A; Forsyth Central is 2-0 and unranked in Class 7A.

Series history: Forsyth Central leads 6-2.

Last meeting: Gainesville won 34-20 in 2001.

What to know: Forsyth Central is the first county team to welcome Gainesville to Region 6-7A, as the Red Elephants are the lone region school outside of Forsyth County.

Central is coming off a dominant 41-14 win against Cambridge, compiling more than 300 yards on the ground and picking off three passes. Caydin Mowen had two of those interceptions and now has three interceptions in two games this season. Patrick Haertel (11 carries, 60 yards, 2 TDs) and Peyton Streko (9 carries, 42 yards, 3 TDs) combined for five touchdowns, while Solomon Gates (4 carries, 53 yards) averaged more than 13 yards per carry. Owen Hosonitz leads the Bulldogs with 14 total tackles, picking up eight in last week’s win.

Gainesville bounced back last week with a 48-0 win over Discovery, one week after a last-minute 29-22 loss to Flowery Branch. Central’s strength up front will be matched by Gainesville’s depth on the defensive line, which helped limit Discovery to just 16 total yards. Red Elephants quarterback Gionni Williams is a true dual-threat QB, similar to Central quarterback Bronson Landreth. Senior Cedric Nicely leads Gainesville’s offensive line and has offers from Georgia Tech, South Carolina, South Florida and Liberty.

Similar to Central’s 14-7 win against Loganville, Friday’s game figures to be a low-scoring heavyweight bout between these two teams, especially in the trenches.

Photo by Jay Rooney Photography

West Forsyth at Mill Creek

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton.

Records, rankings: West Forsyth is 2-1 and unranked in Class 7A; Mill Creek is 1-1 and No. 11 in Class 7A.

Series history: Mill Creek leads 3-0.

Last meeting: Mill Creek won 29-14 in 2017.

What to know: West Forsyth earned an impressive win against Walton last week. West’s reward is a visit to Mill Creek, which has reached the playoffs every year since 2014 and is currently ranked No. 11 in Class 7A.

Junior Ashton Van Horn stepped at quarterback last week after Keegan Stover left with an injury and helped guide the Wolverines to a 24-21 victory. Van Horn finished 7 of 16 for 114 yards and a 28-yard TD to Oscar Delp in the win. Daba Fofana lost two fumbles, but West’s senior running back was a workhorse on the ground, finishing with 31 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown – Fofana’s third straight game with at least 100 rushing yards. West’s defense played exceptionally well in the win, forcing four turnovers, including Drew Southern’s pick-six. Between Southern (11 tackles) and Dalton Tjong (16 tackles), West’s two safeties logged 27 tackles.

Mill Creek canceled its first two games of the season because of COVID-19, opening the season with a 20-14 win against Dacula before last week’s 24-13 loss to Brookwood. The Hawks are more experienced on defense than on offense, where they are replacing running back Chancellor Lee-Parker and his 1,754 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns from a year ago. First-year QB M.J. Patterson completed 10 of 18 passes for 70 yards and two interceptions last week against Brookwood. On defense, Mill Creek features West Virginia commit Brayden Dudley (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) at defensive end and one of the top sophomores in the country in Caleb Downs. Downs (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) is considered a four-star safety and has multiple offers from SEC, ACC and Big Ten programs.

If West can replicate last week’s defensive performance and limit the turnovers on offense, the Wolverines can enter Region 6-7A play with three wins and an outstanding resume.

- photo by David Roberts

Lambert at South Forsyth

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at War Eagle Stadium in Cumming.

Records, rankings: Lambert is 4-0 and unranked in Class 7A; South Forsyth is 2-0 and unranked in Class 7A.

Series history: Teams are tied 5-5.

Last meeting: South Forsyth won 42-17 in 2019.

What to know: Neither team has lost a game this season, but South Forsyth will represent Lambert’s stiffest test of the season and show how competitive the Longhorns will be in Region 6-7A.

Lambert is just the 12th team in Georgia high school football history to win its first four games after a winless season, beating Campbell, Lassiter, Meadowcreek and Duluth. However, none of those four teams had a winning record last season, combining to finish 5-35 in 2019. Still, Lambert has impressed through its first four games, averaging 33 points per game. Lambert has been particularly strong through the air, where QB Ashton Smith is 39-for-77 passing for 628 yards and eight touchdowns. Wide receiver Kojo Antwi (17 catches, 278 yards, 5 TDs) is responsible for much of Smith’s production, though Braden Bamburowski led the Longhorns with six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns last week against Duluth.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed for 774 yards and seven touchdowns against South Forsyth this year. Central Gwinnett QB Justin Johnson was 21-of-36 passing for 419 yards and two touchdowns against the War Eagles last week, but Johnson also threw two interceptions, as did Dawson County QB Zach Holtzclaw. On offense, South has been the most explosive team in the county through the early part of the season, as QB Kyle Durham is 23-of-35 passing for 456 yards and six touchdowns. Devin McGlockton (184 yards, 4 TDs), Mitch Thompson (165 yards, 3 TDs) and Gavin Morris (127 yards, 1 TD) led the War Eagles through the air, while Tre Green (28 carries, 166 yards, 2 TDs) is averaging nearly six yards per carry.

Friday’s game features two explosive offenses, and each team has the talent to turn the game into a shootout.

Photo by Paul Ward

Pinecrest Academy at Southern Christian (Ala.)

When, where: 4:30 p.m. Friday at Moore Stadium in Opelika, Alabama.

Records, rankings: Pinecrest is 3-1; Southern Christian is 0-2.

Series history: These two teams have never met.

Last meeting: N/A

What to know: Pinecrest Academy earned its most impressive win as an 8-man program last week, as the Paladins handed Peachtree Academy a 26-15 defeat. Peachtree is the two-time GAPPS Division I-AA champion. Next up for the Paladins is a trip to Opelika, Alabama, where Pinecrest will face a first-year Southern Christian football program. Southern Christian hasn’t been competitive in either of its first two games of the season, losing by a combined score of 80-6.

- photo by David Roberts