High School Football
Hawks put focus on football, first game against Flint River
by Doug Gorman
Just three days after the Heritage School's football team learned head coach Kevin Prisant submitted his resignation for personal reasons, the Hawks have shifted their focus to the business of playing football.
Heritage opens the 2014 season at home against Flint River Friday night in a nonregion game, and interim head coach D.J. Clay, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach Monday morning, is confident his team is going to be ready to take the field despite the distractions.
'Monday was a rough practice, and very emotional, but we are a family and we know we are going to get through this,' Clay said. 'I think our guys responded well. We had a great practice on Tuesday. It was really upbeat.'
The biggest challenge for the Hawks on Wednesday was finding a way to beat the weather, between sweltering temperatures and late afternoon thunderstorms.
Clay solved the problem by letting the Hawks practice in shorts and helmets.
Now, it's just a matter of switching gears from more of a preseason mode to a gameweek formula. 'I think these guys are ready for the opportunity,' Clay said. 'We are ready to play somebody different.'
The mission for the Hawks is to erase last season's disappointing 3-7 record, including a 25-13 loss against Flint River.
Like, Heritage, Flint River is also going through a coaching change.
Former assistant Josh Darher takes over for Jason Carrera, who led the Wildcats to the postseason in his two season at Flint River.
'Last year we hated to keep saying wait until next year and we are going to be a better team, but we are going to be a better team,' Clay said. We lost some good seniors who gave us really great leadership, but we have some real quality kids coming back this time. We bring back nine guys on defense. All it is, is about execution, it doesn't matter if you played last year, or are a new player. We have to step up to the challenge.'
A year after being forced into playing 16 freshmen and sophomores, some almost immediately, Heritage's dynamics this fall are more comparable to its 2012 roster that finished 11-2, with plenty of optimism.
Se ver a l pl ayer s a re back,including quarterback Brad Macke who rushed for 655 yards scored six touchdowns and also passed for 1,134 yards and threw for eight touchdowns.
Running back Matt Burns returns after rushing for 442 yard in 2013.
Cole Jones, who was the leading receiver in 2013 with 18 catches for 346 yards and two touchdowns.
Trevor Sawyers returns after leading the team with 90 tackles.
Jones also had 50 tackles and was the third leading tackler on the Hawks squad.
Several players will have to play on both sides of the ball for the Hawks this year, which is nothing new for many high school teams, especially at Heritage where numbers dedicate some of the best players have to stay on the field most of the game.
'We ask of our guys to do a lot, but hopefully some kids on special teams will be able to step up and give some of our other players a spell,' Clay said. 'We also hope the referee will give us a couple of water breaks.'
The Hawks want some revenge this week against Flint River after losing the last two meetings.
However, there are no secrets between the two teams after meeting the last six years.
'We expect them to play Flint River football and try and pound it right at us,' Clay said. 'The past couple of years, they have been in a spread, but now I think they are getting back to running right at you. I expect them to try and get the ball to the outside. We are preparing for a pound game and a finesse game.'
The Hawks' first-year coach is also excited about being able to take center-stage under the lights in the county this week.
'We know one thing, we are the only game in town this week, so there a chance for us to show everybody what Heritage football is all about,' Clay said.