The Pickens Dragons are gearing up for their annual rivalry game with the Gilmer Bobcats, which will be played in Ellijay at Huff-Mosley Stadium this Friday night. This matchup comes in a season that has seen both the Dragons (4-2) and the Bobcats (5-1) play very competitively, leading most to expect a very close contest.
Played every year since 1957 according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, Gilmer holds the most wins in this long running series, boasting a 34-20-1 record over that time. The Bobcats have also dominated this series as of late, winning the last four matchups to give Gilmer its longest winning streak against Pickens since 1997.
Influenced by their option offense, the Bobcats are expected to focus on running the ball against the Dragons on Friday. Gilmer’s home run threat on the ground comes via senior running back Johnie Flakes, the state champion wrestler who just happens to have 519 yards and eight touchdowns for Gilmer. Along with Flakes’ tremendous speed comes the power of fellow senior Tyler Bertolini, who leads the team in rushing attempts (102) as well as yards (580) through six games. Although quarterback Chris James has shown an ability to make big plays via the passing game when called upon, it is evident that Gilmer’s gameplan will be to torch the Dragons’ defense on the ground.
Gilmer’s defense has been just as stout so far this season as it was in last season’s 8-3 campaign, and at this point the Bobcats’ defense is dominating opposing offenses, allowing a little under twelve points per game (Gilmer gave up almost 21 points per game last year). Led by the likes of Austin Davis (52 tackles and 1 sack), Austin Cole (51 tackles and 1 interception), and Corey Waters (3 interceptions), the Bobcats’ make their opponents work for their points no matter what the situation, something that can be expected from any team led by Gilmer head coach Wesley Tankersley. In order for Pickens to put up a fight with Gilmer, the Dragons’ offense must stay patient in regards to running their style of offense, no matter if the Bobcats are foiling their attempts at big plays. Gilmer’s defensive unit is solid, so it will be critical that Tanner Brumby and Co. simply take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves and not try and force plays that are not there.
Prediction: This Highway 515 rivalry will definitely be one to remember for both sides, as the Bobcats and Dragons trade blows back and forth throughout the four quarters of the play thanks to excellent running from Gilmer’s Johnie Flakes and Pickens’s Shannon Brooks. The Dragons render a late blow with a fifteen yard touchdown pass from Tanner Brumby to Brooks, giving Gilmer very little time to respond. Flakes and his fellow Bobcats do what they can to tie the game once again, but the clock eventually proves to be their undoing. The Dragons get the win in this contest, giving the team its first win over the Bobcats since 2008. Final Score Pickens Dragons 34, Gilmer Bobcats 27