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The Halfway Mark: My notes midway through football season
Football Playbook Stock

Well, we made it! We’re now right in the middle of the 2021 season with week six just passing by last weekend. I must say that I have enjoyed my first football season as the Sports Editor of the Bryan County News and Coastal Courier. It’s been an unexpected one, but that’s what makes it so special. We have teams that have raised the bar early, and we also have teams who the jury is still out on. So, let’s talk about? Ok, cool.

Ravon Grant
Ravon Grant runs the ball in game at Northside - photo by Gerald Thomas III

Richmond Hill Wildcats: Man, what a season it has been for the Wildcats. From missing 54 players during their season opener at Beaufort, to falling a point short at Burke County, and then laying an egg against Northside before finally earning their first victory against Bradwell last week. The Wildcats saw their struggles. I would be a liar to say that I expected them to be 1-3 on the season so far. But I also have to say that once you get that one win, it can turn everything around. That was a different team out there at Wildcat Stadium when they played Bradwell for homecoming. I saw a poised team that knew that region play was rolling and flipped the switch as they won 37-14 while blocking three punts in one night. We all know the story of safety Tommy Bliss, returning from his gruesome broken femur and torn meniscus injury two games into the 2020 season. Bliss is blocking punts, returning kickoffs, and has 20 tackles on the season. Bliss’ running mate on defense linebacker Bodie Custer is a man on the prowl this season with 38 tackles in six games. Nearly 40 percent of his tackles came in one game, where he brought down the ball carrier 14 times against Bradwell. Rahmaan Moore, a sophomore linebacker for the Wildcats is also making his presence known already, securing four sacks in four games in his second high school season. First year starting quarterback Ty Goldrick has played only three games this season, missing the Beaufort game. In his first game of the season against Burke, he completed 14-20 passes for 207 passing yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. A decent first game. But then against Northside, Goldrick took a step back, passing for 121 yards on a 46-completion percentage, a touchdown, and four INTs. Every coach always wants their players to have short-term memory. So, in the following week against Bradwell, Goldrick came out and passed for 196 yards on 13-19 passes, and a touchdown. When I spoke with Wildcats’ Head Coach Matt LeZotte, he said that the quarterback played with confidence, which led to a better performance. I also remember when me and LeZotte first met, he told me that he was looking forward to seeing transfer senior running back from Swainsboro Ryan Dekle tote the rock. Dekle is fresh off a 119 rushing yard and one touchdown performance. He has followed behind his offensive linemen led by Alex Workman and Thomas Zimblatti, who have combined for 10 pancakes this season. The Wildcats have Statesboro Friday. I truly believe this is the game that will show us where they stand in Region 2-6A this season. A good performance will equate to being a threat but if they struggle, that could be the beginning of the end of the season. It’s not necessarily contingent on winning, but if they compete, then they’ll be in business and in talks for a possible region championship run.

Carlos Singleton
Carlos Singleton drops back for a pass against Johnson - photo by Gerald Thomas III

Liberty County Panthers: Dress it up and make it real for him. It’s head coach Kirk Warner’s 20th season at Liberty County! It’s a must for them to do something special. A Region 3-3A title or a playoff run would suffice. Honestly, they’re capable of getting that region trophy that they haven’t hoisted since 2017. But this upcoming game against undefeated Southeast Bulloch will be a teller if they can make that happen. The Panthers may be the biggest threat to the Yellow Jackets. Region play is just different from playing in normal contests with no type of playoff implications. The Panthers already got some region burn against Johnson last week, beating the Atomsmashers 22-20 in overtime. The Yellow Jackets haven’t played a region game yet this season, so the Panthers will have one up on them experience wise. I’ll say this. When the Panthers and the Atomsmashers went to overtime, and Johnson scored first, I thought it was over. I thought Liberty would get the ball and phase out. But nah. They scored, tying it at 20 AND going for two, converting to add insult to injury while securing the win. It shows that Warner really trusts his team. But how could you not when you have a guy at quarterback who I believe will be a star for the Panthers and will one day play on the next level. Sophomore Carlos Singleton threw a pass to receiver Paul Brown for 24 yards to get his team to the goal line and then the quarterback was the guy that would score on the two-point conversion, keeping the ball for a sneak against Johnson. The dual-threat quarterback got his first start in the Statesboro game on Sept. 17. Warner said that he believes that he doesn’t think they will play a defense as good as Statesboro’s this season. Though the Panthers didn’t pick up the win, Singleton passed for 145 passing yards on 12-16 passing and rushed for 60 yards. Be on the lookout for Singleton this year and the next two. I’m telling you; he’s going places.

Bryan County High School head football coach Cherard Freeman with quarterbacks and running backs during an Aug. 13 practice. - photo by Jeff Whitten, Editor

Bryan County Redskins: This season is already a W. It seems small but to go from being a team that lost 24 straight games to holding a 2-3 record halfway through the season is a step forward for the Bryan County Redskins. Celebrate it. Head Coach Cherard Freeman is trying to put the Redskins on the map in his second season. When me and Freeman spoke, he said that his team was so young a season ago that no one even owned a learner’s license. Now he says no one has their driver’s license. That’s some true youth right there. These guys can be in play for the 1A playoffs this year. But it would have to go through Jenkins County on Oct. 15, as I believe one of these two teams will be No. 4 in Region 3-1A. Metter, Emanuel County, and McIntosh County Academy are shoo-ins to be those top three seeds. But this could be the start of something special in Pembroke. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, they know that they can pick up victories. 37 of their players are either freshmen or sophomores. Maybe they’ll be a threat to 1A in a year or two if they set the groundwork right now. Especially with sophomore running back Austin Clemens succeeding out of the Wing-T set, jumping on the scene, and rushing for 145 yards and three touchdowns in the Redskins’ first game this season.

Bradwell football
Tigers run out for their game against Richmond Hill - photo by Gerald Thomas III

Bradwell Institute Tigers: Bradwell fans. R-E-L-A-X. Chill out. This season has been a struggle, but it was expected to be that way. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But I’m going to say this. Put your trust in newly hired head coach Deshon Brock. He knows what he’s doing. Brock came from Mitchell County to return to the area. During his time with the Eagles, Brock put together a 33-11 record in Camila and added two region chips and a quarterfinals appearance. He’s qualified for the job. But it’s a tall task to build a program that has had six different head coaches in the last nine seasons with three of those years being winless ones. Be patient with the man. He’s a winner. So, I believe that he is and will continue to put his best foot forward to turn this program around. So what they’re 0-3. I don’t think anyone expected them to turn around their struggles overnight. I must say that these Tiger players compete. With emotions high in their last game at Richmond Hill, I stood near their sideline as these players and the coaching staff had a never say die attitude. And they also have some nice athletes on the team within their defensive stars Mikah Kent, Eli Leiataua, and Jah Besant along with an impressive running back in Michael Prince. Give Brock the keys to the program and fully put your trust in him, Bradwell fans and alumni. He’s not going to go down without a fight and with his roots being closely related to Hinesville, I think he will do whatever it takes to be one of the driving forces of returning Bradwell to the glory that they had from the 60’s all the way to the early 2000’s.

Dwayne Rowe Long Co.
Dwayne Rowe celebrates touchdown score against Butler - photo by Gerald Thomas III

Long County Blue Tide: First year head coach Mike Pfiester said this year is all about getting to game 11. And Division 1 free safety prospect Dwayne Rowe said he wants to be on the team that puts Long County on the map before his high school football career ends this winter. So far, so good. They’re on track to do it and possibly will be the first Long County football team to ever make the playoffs. They sit at 3-3 and are fresh off a 38-33 win over Frederica Academy. If they can beat Brantley County on Oct. 15, they will be in play to head on to the playoffs for the first time ever. The defending state champions Pierce County, Appling County, and Tattnall County will most likely hold those top three region seeds.  Pfiester’s scheme of running the ball is working, utilizing his offensive line background. He has four rushers with 100-plus yards in Ahmari Douglas, Trevon Saddler, Josiah Ansorena-Smith, and Tony Phillips. Douglas leads the pack as he’s on track to break 1,000 rushing yards, having 587 along with five touchdowns in six games. When this team plays well, they are super exciting to watch as I found out in their 46-0 win over Butler. The Blue Tide football program can be on the come up with this year being the first under the Pfiester era.
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