We're not in week one anymore ...
Season officially hits midway point tonight
by Chris Goltermann
To borrow a theme from Newnan High's Wizard of Oz themes this week … 'Homecoming and homestands and showdowns, Oh My!'
Either way, local lineups are hoping to find the road to victory tonight whether it be paved in gold bricks or sodded end zones as the high school football season officially hits the midway point tonight.
With region play still at least a week away, tonight provides an opportunity for teams to both build on recent success or rebound in a big way.
Four of five programs are coming off victories.
A rested Newnan team returns to Drake Stadium following a week off after 17-7 win over Troup County for Homecoming night against Hardaway in a battle of 2-2 lineups that have gone opposite directions. The Hawks have dropped two straight while Newnan has alternated losses and wins through four weeks before finally getting its first break after going non-stop since late July.
'That's it. You push, push, push to get there,' said Cougars head coach Mike McDonald of his team's early start the past two seasons. 'Last year we got to this point 3-1 and this year we're 2-2. It was good to get that off week.'
It'll be even better for Newnan to hit next week's bye by coming off another victory while looking for its first win streak of the season. Hardaway enters off back-to-back losses to Shaw (21-7) and Lowndes (63-0) but boasts a Division I prospect in senior running back Justin Crawford.
'They're much improved,' said McDonald of Hardaway. 'After two weeks, I hope we'll be ready to hit somebody again.'
While there's 'no place like home,' when it comes to Oz and high school football, Northgate's journey to Union Grove tonight begins a midseason stretch against Region 4-AAAAA's top lineups from the preseason. The Wolverines (3-1), last year's A-subregion champion, are coming off its first loss of the season to an unbeaten Whitewater team that will visit Henry Seldon Field next week in the Vikings' B-subregion opener.
For now, Northgate (2-2) has to focus its attention on building from back-to-back routs of North Clayton and Ola while getting back to the level of competition the program saw to open the season in losses to Heritage-Conyers and stateranked Griffin.
Union Grove boasts 6-foot-7 junior quarterback Jonathan Slade, who threw for a 148 yards and a touchdown. Whitewater sacked Slade four times and forced four turnovers in the Wolverines 36-17 loss.
'Our first two games were very tough, but this is a really tough stretch against region opponents,' said Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn following last week's record-setting 63-7 win over Ola.
East Coweta hasn't seen any lack of heart or courage while enduring one of the toughest nonregion schedules in Class AAAAAA. The Indians return home on the heels of three consecutive losses, twice unable to hang on to leads against Archer and Lovejoy while staring down juggernaut Sandy Creek in an emotional setting at Garland Shoemake Stadium while honoring fallen cheerleader Madeline McTier in between.
The Indians' string of five non-region opponents ends with a visit from Central-Phenix City, Ala., which like Lovejoy, also survived a victory in the closing minutes during last year's 33-31 game in the first-ever meeting between football programs (see related story).
As for The Heritage School and Trinity Christian, both GISA schools are equally about to close the non-region portions of the schedule with a chance to enter bye weeks with consecutive wins under their belts.
After an 0-2 start, Heritage have evened their record with back-to-back home wins. They face their largest opponent at Hawk Field in both school attendance and player size when 3-2 Southland Academy visits tonight.
Trinity Christian is off to a 3-1 start following a 23-15 win over Flint River in its first-ever on-campus football game. The game also opened a four-game homestand for the Lions, who will only leave Coweta County one more time before the end of the regular season.
After battling back from a 9-6 halftime deficit against the Wildcats, Trinity takes on a hungry Piedmont Academy program that has experienced its share of tough losses. At 0-4-1, the Cougars have lost games by an average of just nine points, with none of the margins of victory coming by more than two touchdowns.
Two years ago, Piedmont capped off 26 unanswered victories for its second straight Class AA state championship.
'We just have to be ready to step up to the challenge,' said Trinity head coach Chris Hanson. 'We know they have a lot of tradition and Coach (Rhett) Farmer is going to have them ready to play.'