High School Football Notebook
Hawks overcome injuries, inexperience on emotional night
by Chris Goltermann and Doug Gorman
When the Heritage School entered Friday's season-opening football game at Flint River head coach Kevin Prisant squad couldn't help letting its emotions get the best of them.
It was the first official game the team played since tight end Tyler Henson died in a car accident last spring.
Flint River offered its condolences by painting Henson's No. 8 along the Hawks sideline, then taking a knee on its first snap from scrimmage to give the football to Henson's family.
Despite playing a senior-laden Wildcats team that returned nearly all of its skill position players and losing one of its four seniors to injury along the way, Heritage took an early lead and stayed in contention up until the final three minutes during a 25-13 loss.
'It was good to play,' said Prisant. 'We are going to take Tyler's memory with us wherever we go.'
However, Hawks didn't let the emotion carry over to its performance.
Heritage went to the locker room at the half tied 13-13 and did plenty to stay in the game.
'We had some guys get a little emotional at the end of the game and that is to be expected,' Prisant said.
In the end, Hawks were unable to overcome youth and injuries that cost them one of their four seniors and nearly another standout when junior linebacker Trevor Sawyers left with a shoulder injury.
Heritage feared the worst when Sawyers went out with what was first thought to be a collarbone injury, but was later diagnosed as a mildly separated shoulder. Sawyers, who was among the Hawks' leading tacklers as a sophomore in 2012, played the rest of game with the injury.
The verdict wasn't quite as favorable for senior running back and linebacker David Bready, who suffered a dislocated elbow and left the game. He could be out for 4 to 6 weeks if not longer.
'He was definitely one of our leaders,' Prisant said.
At one stretch in Friday's season opener, Heritage had 10 of 11 starters on the field that were either freshmen or sophomores.
'We just have to play with more consistency,' Prisant said. 'I think our young guys realize there is a big difference between middle school or JV football and playing for the varsity.'
A couple of bright spots among the freshman came from Hamp Smith and Kirby Arnold.
Prisant says the team will face challenges every week as its younger players seek to gain experience.
Next week, Heritage takes on Dominion Christian on the road. The fourth-year GISA program is out to a 2-0 start following victories over Crown Academy (48-34) and Griffin Christian (43-20), the latter coming Friday on the road.
NEWNAN'S QUICKLY FIND NEW OFFENSIVE WEAPONS: The Newnan Cougars might be younger in certain positions and entered the year inexperienced in others. But the new faces on offense sure have picked up the pace in a hurry on the heels of Friday's 42-20 victory at LaGrange.
A week after receivers Immanuel Griggs, Chrishawn Dix and Rendall Arnold all caught touchdowns in the season opener, the trio, along with Damon Key and senior transfer Donterrious Snelling all came up with big
plays. That group could be an added boost for an offense that was already returning junior quarterback Bryant Bailey, who now has three touchdown passes in each of his first two games, and junior running back J.K. Britt.
After two games, the team is averaging 31 points, ahead of last year's average of 25.3. Newnan finished last year with four receivers with more than four catches and looks well on pace to eclipse that total as well.
Britt, meanwhile, showed he was ready to handle more of the offensive load. He hauled in a 68-yard touchdown that finally broke the game open for a 28-14 lead while also making up for a goal-line fumble in the closing minutes of the first half with the Cougars ahead 14-7.
The junior, who already is receiving Division I scholarship offers including one from Clemson, made an impact on defense with several pass breakups and special teams, where his long punt return set up another score.
Snelling also had a long catch and run that set up a Cougar touchdown.
The win gave Newnan its fifth straight win over LaGrange in what has become an annual series. In the long-standing rivalry between teams, LaGrange leads by a 49-34-4 margin.
Newnan may have also received some justification for its rough opening loss to Marietta after seeing the Blue Devils roll past Pope 63-14 on Friday. Marietta's offense now has scored 115 points in two games.
Regardless, the Cougars' non-region schedule doesn't get any easier this week when traveling to face defending Class AAAA state champion Sandy Creek on Friday. The Patriots were forced to see its four-year unbeaten streak in regular-season play come to an end last week when weather ended its opener against Plant High out of Tampa in a 27-27 tie.
Sandy Creek hasn't lost to an instate opponent in the regular season since falling to East Coweta in doubleovertime to open the 2009 season.
INDIANS GAME ONE STREAK INTACT: East Coweta won its fifth consecutive football opener on Friday at the mercy of Henry County. The Indians scored three times in the first and second quarters to build a 42-point halftime lead and rolled to a 49-8 victory.
Senior Weylin Orr, looking to take over for former tailback Dee Godfrey, scored three touchdowns while sophomore Elishua Orr and freshmen Carlos Ford also reached the end zone for the first times in their varsity careers in the victory.
In all, East Coweta racked up 376 yards on the ground while using 14 ball carriers. Malik Robinson and Alex Branch were among those with touchdowns.
Last year, the Indians only had nine players with rushing attempts, with Orr (101), Godfrey (164) and quarterback Bryce Gemmel (92) making up all but 30 of the teams 387 carries in 2012.
East Coweta expects a stiffer test on Friday in a trip to play Archer, which shutout Mountain View 37-0 on Friday. The fifth-year varsity program out of Lawrenceville is coming off a 6-4 season, the first over .500 in school history while just missing out on a Class AAAAAA state-playoff berth.
BRANDON WHO? Northgate lost three defenders to Division I programs through graduation, but Friday's defensive effort against Heritage- Conyers was just as stout as any over the last three seasons under coordinator Bubba Jeter.
The Viking secondary took a hit between losing star cornerback Brandon Facyson, who was set to start his college career on the field in the Georgia Dome with Virginia Tech against Alabama on Saturday, and Aaron Stargell.
But a unit that includes juniors Malik Wade and Wendell Watson and seniors Torres Johnson and Armond Upshaw forced Heritage senior quarterback Ryan Sutton to do most of his damage with his legs in a 14-7 Patriots victory.
Sutton had only 13 yards rushing, the bulk on two bootleg scrambles for first downs, by the end of the third quarter after also being sacked twice by Northgate sophomore linebacker James Skalski. But he picked up 36 of Heritage's 72 yards, including the game-winning score on the Patriots' closing drive of the game.
Heritage's passing game, though, was fruitless, finishing 3 of 10 for 30 yards with the Viking secondary earning praise from head coach Tommy Walburn.
'I think our pass coverage was much improved,' Walburn said. 'I think James Skalski did a good job on the front end of things.'
Walburn wasn't overly concerned about a Northgate offense that sputtered most of Friday while still managing to put points on the scoreboard. Quarterbacks Tyler Rowland and Bo Zachary were a combined 2-for-6 passing for 16 yards, with the Vikings' best chance of a big gain through the air coming when fullback T.J. Womack attempted a halfback pass and missed Upshaw with a slight underthrow for what would have been at least a 30-yard gain.
'The offense early is always a work in progress,' Walburn said.
Both units will receive another stiff test this Friday when Northgate travels to face Griffin, which outlasted Dutchtown 59-35 in a shootout at home on Friday.