Former Newnan stars on opposite ends of rivalry
by Doug Gorman
When freshman Tray Matthews steps on the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium this afternoon for the Georgia Bulldogs, he will experience his first taste of the rivalry simply knowns as 'Clean Old Fashion' hate between the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Yellow Jackets' senior lineman Ray Beno - another former Newnan High standout - knows it all too well while preparing for his final game against the Bulldogs today at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Kickoff for today's nationally broadcast game on ABC is set for 3:30 p.m.
Both Newnan graduates appear healthy and are ready for the regular-season finale after getting bit by the injury bug earlier this season.
Georgia and Georgia Tech each enter the season with 7-5 records, and despite less than stellar season, both Beno and Matthews should help lead their teams into bowl games next month.
Matthews was named the starter at free safety for Georgia before the start of the season, but missed the middle part of the campaign with an injured hamstring. He returned and started for Auburn and Kentucky in the past two games.
Beno has been banged up throughout the season, but the redshirt senior from Newnan has been getting better since hurting his foot in October and was in on 12 snaps against Clemson.
He made his first start since the Miami game last week in the team's 66-7 win over Alabama A&M.
Matthews has 36 tackles and one forced fumble heading into the contest. He also had his only interception against North Texas early in the third game of the season.
'I always been a Georgia fan,' he said. 'I never wanted to go anywhere else.
He helped his cause with his standout career at Newnan.
'I always had great coaches,' he said.' They got me where I needed to be.'
Beno has been a standout for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets throughout his career, helping open the holes for Paul Johnson's triple option.
The former Cougar has already earned one degree at Tech and has spent this season in graduated school at Georgia Tech.
'It is a complicated offense,' he said before the start of the season. 'It took me awhile to grasp it.'
Beno has played in three bowl games for Tech and helped the Yellow Jackets to a 21-7 victory over USC in the Sun Bowl last year.
'Winning that Bowl game was really big for us last year,' Beno said. 'It got the monkey off our back.'
Former East Coweta offensive lineman Zach Harness is also listed on the Tech roster. He is expected to red-shirt this year.
FACYSON OFF TO FAST START AT VIRGINIA TECH: Brandon Facyson will experience his own rivalry game this afternoon when his Virginia Tech Hokies travel to the University of Virginia for an ACC battle this afternoon.
The true freshman has turned in an impressive first season for long-time Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer garnering five interceptions.
Facyson and Virginia Tech teammate Kendall Fuller are second in the ACC in interceptions behind Boston College's Myles Wilis, who leads the league with eight.
Facyson had four interceptions through his first five games.
One of his best games so far this year came when he returned home to play against Georgia Tech in a Thursday night national televised game on ESPN. Facyson had one interceptions and also forced a fumble in the team's 17-10 win.
'I wanted to make a big impact early,' he said after the Georgia Tech game. 'I didn't really expect anything like this, I am grateful to the coaches for giving me a chance.
Virginia Tech comes into today's game already bowl eligible with a 7-4 record.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
STORMS LEADS FURMAN INTO PLAYOFFS: After losing five of their first seven games, the Furman Paladins rebounded in a big way, winning five of their last six games. It was good enough to put Furman into the FCS playoffs on the road against South Carolina State today at 1 p.m.
East Coweta graduate Ryan Storms will try and extend his college football career with a first-round victory for Furman.
The offensive lineman has battled injuries at times this year, appearing in only three games, but he worked his way back into the starting lineup in the team's 27-14 win over Wofford last week. Furman will be making its 16th trip to the playoffs, but its first since 2006.
ROBINSON, LENOIR RHYNE REACH SECOND ROUND OF DIVISION II PLAYOFFS: Lenoir-Rhyne (10-1) hosts Carson Newman (10-1) in the second round of the Division II playoffs today with former Newnan High running back Chris Robinson appearing in 11 games this season for the Bears while rushing for 172 yards on 40 carries including 43 in the team's latest win over Catawba.
LUTZ , RANSBY HOPING TO CLOSE OUT SEASON WITH WIN: To say it's been a long-year for former Coweta high school standouts Jamal Ransby (Newnan) and Wil Lutz (Northgate) and the Georgia State Panthers might be an understatement. The Panthers are 0-11 in their first season in the Sunbelt and close out the season with a conference game at home in the Georgia Dome against South Alabama today.
Despite the team' struggles, Lutz , the team's starting kicker, is the Panthers' second leading scorer.
Lutz has booted 7 of 10 field-goal attempts while also going 23 of 24 on extra points. He also connected on a school-record 53-yard field goal in the team's 45-3 loss to top-ranked Alabama earlier this year.
Ransby, a three-year letter winner for the Panthers, has six solo tackles for the Panthers. He will be playing his last game for Georgia State after being part of the program's first signing class in 2009.
USHER, ARNOLD HELP MERCER MAKEHISTORY: Payton Usher (Northgate) and Lendell Arnold (Newnan) were big contributors in Mercer's return to the football field this fall while helping the Bears to a 10-2 record following the program's 70-year absence.
Usher missed the final two games of the season with an injury, but the freshman rushed for 776 yards and two touchdowns, third best on a team that set a national record for wins by a firstyear program, breaking Old Dominion's mark of nine wins set in 2009.
Usher also had nine catches for 81 yards and seven punt returns for 27 yards.
On the other side of the ball, Arnold was second on the Bears' defense with 62 tackles from his cornerback position while playing in all 12 games. He added two pass breakups and also recovered a pair of fumbles this season.
FORMER STANDOUTS MAKE DEFENSIVE CONTRIBUTIONS AT WEST GEORGIA: In his final collegiate season, senior linebacker Adam Strakose (Newnan High) started 10 of 11 games en route to the Wolves 6-5 record. Strakose finished as the team's fifth leading tackler, finishing with 43, including 18 unassisted. He had a season high seven in the team's 34-31 loss to Valdosta State. Four of his tackles went for a loss and he had one sack.
Junior Zach Fore and redshirt freshman David Singleton - who both starred at East Coweta - also made ample contributions to West Georgia's defense. Fore played in 10 games and finished with 12 tackles from the defensive line in addition to a fumble recovery. Singleton, meanwhile, added 12 tackles in nine games with three pass breakups in his first season on the field.
ROPER ENDS CAREER WITH MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME: Former Northgate football player Sheldon Rogers ended his college football career turning in 37 tackles while playing in seven games for the Buccaneers which went 5-5. Roper had one interception on the season that he returned 34 yards.
RICH ENJOYS FIRST SEASON AT YALE: Candler Rich left The Heritage School as the GISA school's alltime leading rusher. During his first season as a member of the Yale Bulldogs football team he didn't miss a beat, showing his ability to both run and catch the football.
Rich finished his first college campaign in the Ivy League as Yale's second leading rusher, finishing the team's 5-5 season with 444 yards and three touchdowns. He also showed he could catch the ball out of the backfield, finishing with 12 catches, including three for TDs.
WILLIS CLOSES FIRST YEAR AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Former East Coweta standout running back and Times-Herald Player of the Year Tay Willis finished his first season at Southern Illinois with 321 yards rushing on 60 attempts while appearing in all 12 games this season for the 7-5 Salukis. The 5-8, 165-pound junior averaged 5.3 yards per carry.