Published Wednesday, November 28, 2012
By DOUG GORMAN
The Heritage School football Kevin Prisant loves going home to Albany whenever he gets the chance.
Most, times, however, there isn’t too much pressure on the Hawks’ second-year coach. That can’t be said for Prisant’s upcoming trip to Albany Friday night.
This time, Prisant’s Hawks will play for high school football’s top prize as Heritage School battles his high school alma mater Deerfield-Windsor for the GISA Class AAA state title. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“I haven’t been there for an athletic event since I graduated 10 years ago,” said Prisant, who left on top after playing receiver and defensive back for the Knights on its first GISA state championship team.
The Heritage School coach would love to downplay some of the hype that has been created by his matchup against Deerfield Windsor and his former coach Allen Lowe. Only problem is ... friends and family won’t let him forget it.
“My phone has been ringing all the time and I am getting all sorts of e-mails,” he said. “I am trying not to think about it. I guess once I get there and they turn the lights on and I look over on their side of the field, it will dawn on me just what is happening.”
Lowe never thought he would coach against Prisant, who was an assistant with Bulloch Academy in Statesboro both during and after attending Georgia Southern before moving on Randolph Southern in Shellman.
“I really didn’t know he had the desire to coach back when he was here,” Lowe said. “When he got to college he started talking about it, and he has done an incredible job. I am very proud of him.”
The Hawks, who just moved Class AAA this year, secured the school’s first berth in the state title game with 42-10 victory over Westfield School.
Deerfield-Windsor earned the right to host Friday’s title game with a 24-17 victory over Stratford, a team that beat the Knights in the playoffs last season.
Heritage School comes into the game with a 10-1 record, while Deerfield has gone 12-1 while playing all but one week since opening the season on Aug. 24. The Knights’ only loss has come out of league — and out of state — against North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, Fla.
“When you get in games like this, it probably is going to come down to the team that has the fewest turnovers,” Lowe said.
Both teams have dominant running attacks fueled by star players.
Heritage School senior Candler Rich, who became the school’s all-time leading rusher a year ago, tallied some big yardage in last week’s victory picking up 211 yards on just 12 carries and scoring on touchdown runs of 92, 75 and 10 yards. He also caught a 84-yard touchdown pass from Joe Bonner.
Rich has gained 1,755 yards rushing this season with 23 total touchdowns.
Deerfield senior Kh’ron McClain has meant just as much to the Knights’ offensive success. In last week’s 24-17 win over Stratford Academy, McClain rushed for 136 yards and two scores. Deerfield’s offensive line boasts two standout tackles, including 6-4, 310-pound senior Patrick Forrestal, who has verbally committed to play at Navy.
Prisant knew he wanted to be a football coach a decade ago when he was still in high school.
“Coaching was something I always wanted to do,” he said. “Everybody wants to play for a state title. Once you get here, you realize it’s not so easy."
Prisant is just in his second season as the Hawks’ head coach after taking over for Danny Cronic – the program’s fourth head coach – but also the youngest at just 28. All three of his predecessors, which included fellow and future Coweta Sports Hall of Fame member Ron Beaucham, had head coaching experience, however.
Prisant just never dreamed he would be given the chance to play in the big game this early in his career.
“I have been so blessed,” he said. “I have a great group of players and coaches, and everybody has bought into what we are trying to do.”
Prisant also knows many good coaches never get a chance to play for a state title.
“I am young, but I know I may never get back here again,” he said. “I am trying to enjoy it.
Although a victory would be the first for the school in football, Prisant is trying not to let the pressure get to him.
“My Dad is nervous enough for both of us,” Prisant joked, “and my mom just has a great big smile on her face, she is really enjoying this.”
Both were on hand for Heritage School's semifinal blowout of Westfield in a tight matchup that got out of hand for the Hornets after the Hawks scored three times in the second quarter, including twice in the final minute before halftime.
Regardless of what happens on the field Friday night, Prisant knows the game has nothing to do with his homecoming.
“I won’t make one tackle, block or catch the ball,” he said. “It’s not about me, it’s about these kids who have worked really hard.”