High School Football
Reunion just a sidebar as Hawks travel to Tattnall
by Chris Goltermann
Not too long ago, Clint Morgan gave a 19-year-old college student his first crack at coaching high school football while a head coach at Bulloch Academy.
Tonight, in his first season at Tattnall Square, Morgan be able to see how well Kevin Prisant does in action as a head coach on the sidelines of The Heritage School as both he and former colleague D.J. Clay try to defeat their former boss in a key Region 2-AAA contest for a pair of programs on the verge of a potential state-playoff berth.
Thoughts of a reunion tonight certainly have brought back happy memories for both Hawks coaches. Morgan first helped introduce Prisant to Clay, his current defensive coordinator and Bulloch’s then-secondary coach, as he took on his first role as a college intern. The sophomore went on to become roommates with Tattnall’s current defensive coordinator, Travis Absher, when the two later took bigger jobs at Randolph Southern.
But that was the past.
“(Morgan) is as close to family as anyone I know. But I think we’ve tried to downplay all that this week,” Prisant said. “It makes a nice story, but it’s still a football game.” Prisant understands that none of that will come into play tonight with his Heritage lineup looking to build off an important and equally hard-fought 25-20 victory over Westminster that kept the team well in the hunt to return to the GISA playoffs for the third consecutive season following three consecutive losses where the Hawks were outscored by a 138-15 margin.
“It was good to see after a good week of practice how pumped up our players were for each other,” Prisant said. “It’s easy for freshmen and sophomores to go through something like that and say, ‘Forget this.’ But to come out and be upbeat when things went so bad was a positive. We fought hard last week.”
Morgan helped introduce Prisant to the flex-option, an offense he brought in that helped Heritage reach last year’s Class AAA state championship game while led by star running back Candler Rich, a freshman on Yale’s football team this fall.
“That’s where I learned it from,” Prisant said. “They pretty much run the same thing except they’ve been using a tight end with it the last couple of weeks with their wing set.” While the Hawks have certainly missed Rich’s production, they received as close an individual effort to last year’s accolades from junior quarterback Brad Macke in the victory over Westminster.
The second-year starter excelled in all three phases, contributing 168 of Heritage’s 215 rushing yards and a score, throwing for another 248 and a touchdown and adding a 90-yard punt return for a score on special teams. On defense, Macke contributed four tackles and one of the team’s two interceptions.
“He took over the game,” Prisant said of his quarterback. “I mean it was a Candler Rich-esque type performance.”
Tattnall quarterback Lane Watson, however, has been no slouch either while leading what Prisant calls a “four-headed monster” among the Trojans’ backfield. A state-champion hurdler, the 6-3, 175-pound senior has passed for 367 yards and four touchdowns while adding 559 yards rushing and three scores on the ground as the team’s leading rusher.
“You can’t give him a chance to make a play,” said Prisant. “He’s so athletic. They like to get him open in space in one-on-one situations.”
Four running backs — J.J. Battle (493 yards, 2 TDs), Ahmad Barron (304, 4 TDs) and Aubrien Kemp (289, 2 TDs) and Jonathan Ward (185, 3TDs) have combined for 233 carries over eight games.
Ward, whose older brother Tyler was a standout on last year’s Tattnall lineup, is as much an asset on defense at linebacker, with Prisant calling the 6-0, 190-pound junior “one of the best players in the GISA.”
“He’s just a hard-nosed football player,” Prisant added. “They’re very, very sound on defense and play good technique.”
Coming off a 14-13 loss to Stratford in a battle for first place in 2-AAA last week in a game that came down to a potential game-tying PAT in the fourth quarter that was blocked by the Eagles, Tattnall may not be prepared to give an inch after holding Stratford to 259 yards of total offense.
“We’re not going to be able to disguise anything,” Prisant. said. “We’re going to have to take what they give us.”