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Gainesville, GA News Feed

Chestatee jumps up big early to drop North Hall in season opener

When asked what was the best part of Friday night’s rivalry game between the Chestatee High and North Hall High football teams, War Eagles head coach Shaun Conley immediately pointed to the scoreboard at War Eagle Stadium.

And for the first time in 12 seasons, the numbers were immensely on the home team’s side.

The senior offensive tandem of quarterback Storm Yarbrough and running back Nick Lyles shined in the regular-season debut as the War Eagles cruised to a 42-12 rout of North Hall, their second win over the Trojans in the last 16 meetings since both schools split back in 2002.

With friendships across both sidelines stemming from outside of football and dating back to youth football years, it wasn’t too hard for Conley to motivate his kids leading up to this highly anticipated opener.

“That’s a big one there for us,” a smiling Conley said. “It’s great for the program to get off on the right foot, no matter who we play. We wanted to beat North Hall with our rivalry. Hopefully now, we can make it a rivalry, and it’s special.”

The spread attack of Chestatee (1-0) gave North Hall (0-1) fits from the start as the War Eagles sought payback for a heartbreaking 35-28 loss last season. The War Eagles accrued 420 yards of total offense and scored on four consecutive drives to ensure their first win over their cross-county foes since 2005.

Yarbrough and Lyles accounted for a bigger pieces of that puzzle. Yarbrough completed 10 of 13 throws for 198 yards and two long touchdowns, and he added another 77 on the ground that included a 12-yard touchdown scramble in the third quarter. It was the War Eagles’ fifth score of the night.

Senior wideout Jacob Goodall also stood out, hauling in four passes for 103 yards and a score.

“That’s our goal. Going in, we really wanted to be balanced, where people just couldn’t key on Nick, or just couldn’t key on Storm,” Conley said. “I said time and time again, Storm’s done a great job in the past month, month-in-a-half. And I’m so proud of him.”

Yarbrough simply added execution was on Chestatee’s side.

“It’s what we’ve been expecting. We should have been doing it for the past four years. I mean, it’s just a great feeling.

Ain’t no other feeling like it,” Yarbrough said. “ ... We came here with a gameplan, and we executed perfectly. That’s all we had to do. I don’t see any outcome change if we do that all year.”

Linebacker Reggie James (two sacks, forced fumble) headlined a Chestatee defense that held North Hall’s contrasting Wing-T attack well at bay for most of the game and forced a pair of turnovers on downs. The Trojans were able to find the end zone only once right before the half on a misdirection run by Noah Holman, and once more with less than a minute left as Payton Mavity scored on a 30-yard scamper.

“Our kids played their hearts out,” Conley said. “Our defense — woo, I’m telling you, I’m proud of those suckers.”

Last year’s 1,300-yard back Nick Lyles (12 carries, 106 rushing yards, four total touchdowns) opened the game with a 25-yard scamper, and it was mostly Yarbrough from there.

He started his senior campaign with two big pass plays, the first to James for an 11-yard pickup to Chestatee’s 44-yard line. His second was to Lyles on a quick swing pass in the backfield, with Lyles taking care of the rest for a 32-yard touchdown to put the War Eagles on the board just seconds into the game.

Yarbrough was nearly perfect for the half, completing his first nine attempts for 193 yards. Yarbrough’s eighth completion turned into the host’s most explosive play before intermission as he connected with freshman Christian Charles off the play-action deep downfield.

Goodall bypassed a defender up the middle and ran into the end zone to put the War Eagles up 21-0 less than four minutes into the second quarter.

Meanwhile, North Hall failed to do much in response. The Trojans’ first score, resulting from a 12-play drive, was the only time they surpassed midfield in the first half. Chestatee got a pair of sacks from James and junior nose tackle Daniel Briseno, and a fumble recovery from Matthew Jarrard set up Chestatee fourth scoring drive.

The 11-play drive was capped by a Lyles 1-yard plunge.

The non-region slate continues for both teams next week. North Hall hosts Flowery Branch, while Chestatee welcomes in East Hall. Both games will be a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

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Protest planned against Gainesville's Confederate monument

A protest of the Confederate memorial in downtown Gainesville is planned for 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Three groups are coordinating the protest: the Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America, its Gainesville-based Northeast Georgia chapter and Athens for Everyone, a social justice organization based in Athens.

They’re protesting the “Old Joe” monument erected in 1909 by the Gen. James Longstreet Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The groups filed a permit with the city of Gainesville this week, according to protest organizer Brad Latham. Gainesville Police Department spokesman Kevin Holbrook confirmed the event is permitted and the department is “planning accordingly.”

Latham is a Gainesville resident and has been involved with the DSA for years. He told The Times on Friday that the event will be a peaceful, low-key demonstration against the Confederate monument.

He’s encouraging participants to not “get rowdy” during the event or bring megaphones or offensive signs.

“We’re absolutely committed to this being as peaceful a protest as possible,” Latham said. “... We’re really not trying to get any kind of strife or conflict.”

The protest was coordinated with a national day of action planned by the Movement for Black Lives and the national DSA, Latham said.

“They specifically wanted actions at the site of Confederate monuments,” Latham said.

The day of action is a response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where groups of white nationalists, members of the “alt-right” and, in some cases, neo-Nazis marched through the streets of the college town.

The demonstrations led to violent clashes between those groups and counter-protesters, eventually peaking with an attack using a vehicle on counter-protesters that left one woman dead and almost 20 people injured.

Latham began organizing the protest for Gainesville on Wednesday. He said he hoped it would be a “low-key gathering” of people who oppose the placement of the monument in the downtown square. It won’t be a march or a rally, he said, and it should last about 45 minutes.

“We do just want to stand up and take action that this is our stance and we really don’t like the idea behind these confederate monuments, and we want them gone,” Latham said. 
We’re basically trying to be firm in our position that day, but we also want it to go as peacefully as possible – especially with the things happening in Durham right now.”

Protesters in Durham, North Carolina, tore down a Confederate monument on Monday while chanting their opposition to the Klu Klux Klan and fascism.

Gainesville’s Confederate monument doesn’t commemorate a specific general or person, but instead commemorates “the defenders of the Confederacy” and “the record of whose fortitude and heroism in the service of their country is the proud heritage of a loyal posterity,” according to wording on the monument.

The statue sits on land owned by Hall County. When the statue was built, the land was leased to the Longstreet Chapter of the UDC for 99 years, according to the county. The lease was renewed in 2008 and lasts until June 30, 2033.

A message was left with Longstreet Chapter of the UDC but was not immediately returned.

Richard Higgins, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, said before news of the protest surfaced that he hoped both sides of the issue would moderate their stances. 

“It gets people fired up on each side, and it’s just too costly. We’ve got too many other things (to worry about),” Higgins told The Times. “I’m from Gainesville and Hall County. I’ve lived here all my life. When I think of the statue, I think of both sides and how horrific the Civil War was … for both sides, it was terrible.”

The statue was built with $2,500 of private money raised by the Longstreet chapter in the early 1900s. In today’s dollars the statue cost more than $2 million.

Local DSA chapters have spoken with officials of the Georgia Democratic Party about the statue and other Confederate statues, Latham said, but the socialist group is leaving the political work of getting the statues removed to the more-organized Democrats.

Latham said no one from the DSA has contacted the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 

“They haven't reached out to us, we haven't reached out to them, and to be honest I can't really imagine them being all that friendly with us in the first place,” he said.

Good News Clinics reflects on 25 years, pushes to continue its work

Thursday night’s dinner wasn’t just a celebration of Good News Clinics’ 25th anniversary.

As the Gainesville-based free clinics’ biggest annual fundraiser, it was meant to keep the funds rolling in so that other anniversaries could be observed.

In a pitch for financial help, the Rev. Bill Coates, pastor of First Baptist Church on Green Street, told some 500 people gathered in his church’s banquet hall a poignant story about a family unaware the clinics even existed.

The wife of a man who had just died told Coates that her husband never went to a doctor — he couldn’t afford it. Coates asked her if he had ever been to Good News Clinics.

“She said, ‘What is that?’” the pastor said.

“I want more and more people to know about this clinic,” Coates told the audience. “And I’m very grateful that people like you are making it possible.”

The Christian-based clinics, which began at Good News at Noon homeless shelter but later became its own entity, had a goal of raising $100,000 by the end of the dinner, said Liz Coates, the clinics’ community engagement director.

Some $69,000 was raised in table sales. Liz Coates said the clinics hoped to raise the rest through donations at the event.

To mark its 25th anniversary, the clinics have started another giving initiative. Officials are asking for 100 people to pledge to give $2,500 — to be paid over two years — for a total $250,000 in donations.

“First Baptist Church doesn’t know it yet, but they’re going to match my grant,” Bill Coates said, drawing laughter from the audience.


Another highlight of the dinner was an awards presentation.

The Sam Poole Community Volunteer of the Year Award, named after the clinics’ first medical director, was presented to nurse practitioner Eva Johnson.

“I feel like what I do is my service for the Lord,” Johnson told the crowd. “And this is the most wonderful clinic I’ve ever been at, and (it) will continue to work hard to take care of all these patients.”

The center treats some 3,500-4,000 people without insurance annually, with a roster of doctors providing voluntary services. With an annual budget of $1.4 million, Good News Clinics officials say it provides about $21.8 million in health care services.

The clinics have income requirements, such as a monthly income maximum at $3,075 for a family of four and $1,508 for a single person. And patients must be Hall County residents.

The Anne Warren Thomas Volunteer of the Year Award, named after a longtime clinics supporter, went to Kevin Price, who has served on the clinics’ board of directors throughout its history.

“We have very good health care here for people who can afford to pay and those who can’t,” Price told the audience. “We are very blessed.”


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Fazoli’s out of the picture in Gainesville

The much-talked about opening of a Fazoli’s Italian restaurant in the New Holland area has been derailed, The Times learned Thursday.

Earlier this week, the Gainesville City Council gave final approval to the annexation and rezoning of 6.32 acres on the intersection of Jesse Jewell Parkway and White Sulphur Road for a commercial development to be anchored by Fazoli’s.

However, local businessman Wayne Keel, who had planned to develop the property, said he recently was shocked to learn that it had been sold to another buyer.

“We were floored because we understood we were the prefered buyer of the property from Pacolet Milliken,” Keel told The Times on Sunday. “We had made plans with the city to put a Fazolli’s and a car wash there. Well, none of that happened because Pacolet Milliken signed with someone else.”

Keel said he does not know who bought the property instead.

“We’ve asked a couple of times and they won’t say,” Keel added.

Keel said he’d been dealing with The Simpson Company, a commercial real estate firm in Gainesville, which was representing Pacolet Milliken. He said a representative from The Simpson Company told him the property had been sold to someone else.

The Times left a voice message with a Simpson manager Thursday, but did not get a call back.

Sam Nelson, Fazoli’s vice president of franchise recruitment and development, confirmed to The Times that the deal to bring a franchise to Gainesville is dead because Keel is no longer in the picture.

“Late last week we learned that Mr. Keel was not in control of this real estate,” Nelson wrote in an email. “At this time, we do not have a Gainesville location for a Fazoli’s Restaurant.”

Although hurt, Keel said he’s not bitter.

“We feel like we were a little out-done by somebody there,” Keel said. “I can’t blame Pacolet Milliken for selling their property. I know they wanted to. We had every intention of buying. We had contract in hand ready to sign.”

Keel said the contract he never got to sign would have paid Pacolet Milliken $1 million for the property. He said his lawyer did not recommend taking legal action.

“There’s no reason to fight it,” Keel said. “It might cost more to fight it and there’s a chance of losing in the end anyway. It’s the big guys against the small guys, that’s all it is.”

A Hall County resident for more than 30 years, Keel said he lost thousands of dollars trying to make the deal work, hiring an engineer and an attorney.

Reached by phone, Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said he was not aware of what transpired with Keel and the plans to open a Fazoli’s.

“He was the applicant and we approved it,” Dunagan said. “We made the condition that it had to be a restaurant. As far as any of their dealings in the back doors and stuff, I don’t know anything about it.”

Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said the city council approval covers the land use for the property and does not set requirements for the names of the businesses to be located at any site. However, Lackey said approval came with a condition requiring a restaurant be located on the lot closest to the intersection.

“We are looking forward to a quality development at this location,” Lackey responded by email.

Game of the Week: Chestatee, North Hall renew bitter rivalry in season opener

North Hall High football coach David Bishop and Chestatee High coach Shaun Conley both said they try to downplay the heated rivalry between the two schools.

Their players, however, can’t help but acknowledge it.

“This whole week has been intense and moving by slowly,” War Eagles senior quarterback Storm Yarbrough said. “It’s all everybody is talking about. Getting North Hall at home makes it even better. Nothing compares to the way our team feels about this game.”

For the 16th time since the schools split in 2002 due to growing enrollment, North Hall and Chestatee will renew their annual yet lopsided rivalry at 7:30 p.m. tonight at War Eagle Stadium in Gainesville. The Trojans have won the matchup in every year except 2005, and they intend to keep it that way.

“I was here in 2001, so I saw the whole thing take place,” Bishop said. “Now we’re in a position where they’ve only beaten us once. Every year the kids talk about not being the team that loses and breaking that streak … It’s bragging rights for a whole year.”

The Class 4A War Eagles almost ended their drought against North Hall last year, falling 35-28 despite being across midfield when time expired.

That heartbreaker began Conley’s tenure at Chestatee, which he took over after the team went winless in 2015. But the War Eagles surged to four regular-season wins and a playoff appearance, momentum Conley hopes to build on this season.

Knocking off a bitter rival would make a season-opening victory that much sweeter.

“I know that some of our kids are neighbors with kids from North Hall. They live in very close proximity, they go to church together,” Conley said. “That makes it fun for them. I’m sure those kids are talking back and forth.”

Indeed, Yarbrough said students — even those who don’t play football — from both schools have kept up the chatter this week.

Those from North Hall have bragging rights on their side, though the Trojans lost 14 starters from last year’s squad that went 6-5 and reached the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

With workhorse rusher Kyle Bacus gone, Bishop is looking to quarterback David Seavey and a host of other backs to pick up the slack in his Wing-T offense. Several of those offensive players will also serve on defense and attempt to stop the War Eagles’ up-tempo spread attack.

The clashing styles add another layer of intrigue to this fierce rivalry.

“They’re ball-control and clock management, and we’re almost the other extreme,” Conley said. “We go fast and try to run as many plays as we can. It is a contrast of philosophies, but it all still boils down to blocking and tackling and those type of things.”

Seeing a spread squad so early in the non-region schedule is a boon for the Trojans, who will face similar offenses throughout their Region 7-3A slate.

Bishop entered his run-heavy team into several 7-on-7 passing tournaments over the summer, mostly to get his defense acclimated to seeing such tactics. Now that live game action is finally here, North Hall will find out how much the offseason work paid off.

“(Playing Chestatee) helps us a little bit, but every spread team is a little different, depending on personnel,” Bishop said. “Some people run it like Chestatee does. It’s different from week to week.”

War Eagles coaches expect Yarbrough to take a step forward in his second year running their spread system, especially with 1,300-yard rusher Nick Lyles lining up beside him.

The senior playmakers and their teammates are eager to finally get a leg up on their rivals once again. Yarbrough said the Junior War Eagles teams he played for routinely beat the Junior Trojans squads, but he hasn’t experienced a win against North Hall since eighth grade.

Yet Yarbrough insisted he and his teammates are trying to treat tonight’s contest like any other game in hopes of avoiding the added pressure that’s usually present when rivals meet.

But sometimes history and hostility are hard to ignore.

“We all see each other frequently, so there was a lot of talk when we got the schedule this year,” Yarbrough said. “ … We all grew up playing against each other ever since were 6, so we know a lot of them. At the same time, you set friendships aside and do what you’ve got to do.”

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