Prep Football: Unbeaten Heritage School looks to take next big step
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
South Georgia GISA football, meet The Heritage School. The Heritage School, meet GISA football in south Georgia.
And if all goes to Kevin Prisant’s plan, y’all will be getting to know one another on a regular basis in the near future.
“I expect this to be the most physical game that we’ve played so far,” Prisant said. “I’m not saying that this is going to be a fistfight. But we’ve got to be able to take a shot in the mouth and then come back and be able to give one back.”
This week’s game was one Heritage School's second-year coach, a native of south Georgia and a former GISA player himself, circled in red as soon as it was scheduled during the preseason. It serves as the Hawks’ opening game against an AAA opponent after moving up to the classification for the first time. But it’s also an opportunity for Heritage to get accustomed to playing a well-established program that is also experiencing its best start since the 2006 season.
“I want to play teams what have been in GISA for a while and have won. I’ve had a lot of coaches come up to me at track meets who know me, but don’t know much about Heritage School. All they see is our scores. We really have no tradition yet. I want to change that.”
Heritage School and Southland scrimmaged twice during the preseason with each lineup coming away somewhat satisfied while splitting ‘victories’ during a stay at camp, also in south Georgia. The Hawks got a small taste of what they’ll face out of the Raiders’ I-formation attack featuring a pair of bulldozing fullbacks and a massive front line led by senior Grady Barfield (5-11, 310) and junior Ford Roach (6-4, 250).
Along with guards Devon Varnum (5-10, 230) and Lance Harrod (6-1, 270) and tackle Austin Hale (6-0, 250) the starting group averages well over 200 pounds.
“Their offensive line is big and physical. In camp, you pretty much see everybody’s base [offense] Their base, they line up and hit you in the mouth. They might have a couple of different formations, but they pretty much stick to what they do best,” Prisant said. “The thing about them in the I-[formation] is they have the ability to throw the ball through play action because they run it so well.”
Southland, while picking up three wins against sub .500 opponents, has still made quite the impression so far starting with a 23-22 overtime win over snake-bitten Tattnall Square, one of the Hawks’ new 2-AAA rivals. The Raiders matched their win total from both the 2011 and 2010 seasons last Friday by handing Terrell Academy, a Class AA rival, its first loss in a game where Southland regained a 12-10 lead on a 30-yard field goal to close the third quarter.
Junior running back Dustin Shattles capped off the victory with a 28-yard score in the fourth quarter while teaming with Andrew Alexander in the backfield. Alexander also finished with 10 tackles, including six solo hits, in the win.
Heritage School, though, counters with as potent an offense as it’s had in its short seven-year varsity history. Stopping two-time All-State running back Candler Rich expects to be the biggest focus of a Raiders staff led by 16-year veteran head coach Tim Goodin, who previously led the program at Lee County High. But the Hawks have received key contributions throughout the lineup so far while averaging 50.3 points-per-game in its three contested games.
After receiving touchdown passes from sophomore Brad Macke and returning senior Joe Bonner at quarterback last week, Heritage School may opt to keep a rotation as Bonner works his way back to full strength. Macke threw for a pair of scores while continuing to prove he can operate the Hawks offense behind center.
Rich now has four interceptions, two of which have been returned for touchdowns, as D.J. Clay’s defensive unit expects its toughest challenge of the season to date.
In essence, the same goes for Heritage School's football program as a whole.
“We’ve pushed that it’s big in that we could be the first Heritage team to go 5-0 to start a season,” Prisant said. “It’s also our first triple-A game as a triple-A school and we’re going to play a program that’s been around for forty years. We are probably the underdog quote, unquote. It’s just that nobody’s heard of us.”
At least, not yet.