Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson, who broke the state’s career records for passing yardage (9,360) and passing touchdowns (108) as a junior in 2012, gets a chance to begin padding those stats on Friday when the Red Elephants travel to West Forsyth.
Watson passed for 4,011 yards and 50 touchdowns last season in leading Gainesville to its first state championship. He also rushed for 1,441 yards and 24 touchdowns. Another season like that one will put him at almost 13,400 career passing yards. Only one other player in Georgia history has passed for more than 9,000 yards in his career – Metter’s Zach Stanford had 9,062 from 2001 to 2004.
Against West Forsyth last year, Watson pass for 304 yards, rushed for 60 and accounted for four touchdowns. But he also threw four interceptions – half of his season total – in a 32-30 West Forsyth victory. West Forsyth went on to win its first region title and finished 10-2, losing to Parkview 26-23 in overtime in the second round of the playoffs.
Here are some of the other big games involving Class AAAAA teams this weekend:
*Flowery Branch at Northside-Warner Robins: This was supposed to be a good game last year, too – and it was for a half – but Northside blew it open in the third quarter. The 45-7 victory launched the Eagles on their way to a third consecutive 10-0 regular season. Flowery Branch lost again the following week against West Forsyth but then won eight straight to capture the Region 8-AAAAA title over state champion Gainesville. Northside lost 14 of 22 starters from last year but always seems to reload.
*North Paulding at East Paulding: North Paulding made the first playoff appearance in the school’s five-year history last year and was fairly competitive with East Paulding in a 38-17 loss. East’s Kamani Thomas and Kyler Neal, who both graduated after rushing for more than 1,000 yards, combined for almost 400 yards against North Paulding. Quarterback Mitchell Webb and several good linemen return for East Paulding, but the Raiders will be looking for capable replacements in the backfield.
*Thomas County Central at Valdosta: Thomas County Central played Colquitt County in Week 2 last season, but Colquitt wanted out of the return date so that it could play Hoover, Ala., on television. So Thomas County Central ended up with Valdosta, which lost its date with last year’s opponent, North Augusta, S.C. Thomas Central and Valdosta both played Colquitt County last season, and both were two-point games. Valdosta won 38-36, and Thomas County Central lost 35-33.
*Elsewhere: Ware County, the Class AAAAA runner-up in 2012, travels to Class AAAAAA Coffee, which handed the Gators their only regular-season loss last season. … DeKalb County’s M.L. King and Stephenson will take on Florida teams at Hallford Stadium on Saturday in the Battle of the Borders High School Showdown. Fifth-ranked M.L. King will play Blanche Ely of Pompano Beach at 5:15, followed by third-ranked Stephenson against Norland of Miami Gardens at 8:30. … Creekside will be playing with heavy hearts when it hosts Class AAAAAA Hughes. It will be the Seminoles’ first game since junior De’Antre Turman died after being injured in a scrimmage two weeks ago.