Heard County fights back to big Mercedez-Benz Sta­dium game

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL SPORTS - By Lo­gan Mad­dox lo­ganseth­mad­[email protected]

To­day is the day that Rock­mart and Heard County square off in the Mercedez-Benz Sta­dium in At­lanta with one prize on the line: the 2018 GHSA Class AA Foot­ball State Cham­pi­onship.

The two teams met in Week 3 of the reg­u­lar sea­son with Rock­mart win­ning 33-0 after in­clement weather at half­time forced Heard County to for­feit the matchup.

De­spite the Braves start­ing off 1-2, they have ral­lied and won their last 11 games and will en­ter Mercedez-Benz Sta­dium as the sec­ond ranked team in the state in Class AA, fac­ing off against the top-ranked squad, the 14-0 Rock­mart Yel­low Jack­ets.

Heard County had a rough go of things in their open­ing few games of the sea­son: they barely de­feated LaGrange 10-3 in over­time on open­ing week­end, fell to Hapeville Char­ter 33-3 at home, and then were heav­ily de­feated by the afore­men­tioned Yel­low Jack­ets at the Rock.

How­ever Braves Head Coach Tim Bar­ron will be the first one to tell you that these tough early-sea­son games helped his play­ers tremen­dously.

“You play tough teams like Rock­mart in the non-re­gion games so that if there are is­sues, they get iden­ti­fied. Had we played a softer sched­ule, we wouldn’t be where we are at now. After the Rock­mart loss, we looked at our­selves really closely and be­gan the process of get­ting things right.

“It didn’t hap­pen in just one game; it was a con­tin­u­ous process through­out the sea­son. As coaches you can see prob­lems in the ar­eas of your scheme and per­son­nel but the only ones who can truly fix it are the kids,” he said. “They had a strong de­sire to get it back on track. The kids are the ones who have made the big im­prove­ments. Most of these im­prove­ments really came in how they pre­pared Mon­day through Thurs­day. You take care of those days and then Fri­days will take care of them­selves.”

Bar­ron def­i­nitely knows how to re­solve is­sues for the Braves pro­gram. He ac­cepted the po­si­tion as head coach in Franklin prior to the 2002 sea­son.

The pre­vi­ous two years, the Braves were 1-19. Since 2002, the tides have most def­i­nitely turned in fa­vor of Heard County as Coach Bar­ron has boasted a 14159 record, matched with seven re­gion ti­tles in his 17 sea­sons at the helm. De­spite his suc­cess over the years and the nu­mer­ous big vic­to­ries, none will mat­ter more than the one on Wednes­day: it will be Heard County’s first state fi­nals ap­pear­ance in school his­tory.

As far as keys to the game for the Braves, it starts on de­fense: “We have to get some stops on de­fense. They are ex­plo­sive on of­fense and can score on any play. You don’t shut down an of­fense like Rock­mart’s. You can only hope to slow them down some. Ad­di­tion­ally, on of­fense, we need long drives and we need to fin­ish those drives. The longer we have the ball, the less time their ex­plo­sive of­fense is on the field.”

He also added that they needed to “try to avoid big plays from (Rock­mart’s) re­turn game.”

Need­less to say, Heard County has ob­vi­ously im­proved in mul­ti­ple as­sets of their game since their de­feat at the hands of the Yel­low Jack­ets back on Sept. 7.

“As far as big im­prove­ments for the Braves, the big­gest and most no­table im­prove­ment has been the im­prove­ment of quar­ter­back Ali­jiah Huzzie,” Bar­ron said. “As a backup for three years to former quar­ter­back (and cur­rent Flor­ida Ga­tor) Emory Jones, Ali­jiah didn’t get much ex­pe­ri­ence. We knew he was go­ing to be spe­cial but he needed the ex­pe­ri­ence. His QB play has im­proved ev­ery week and there­fore, we have im­proved of­fen­sively.”

Along with that, their de­fense has come to­gether as a unit and made op­pos­ing of­fenses strug­gle all sea­son. After the loss to Rock­mart, the most points the Braves al­lowed to an op­po­nent all reg­u­lar sea­son was 14, as they de­feated Lamar County 40-14 on Oct. 26.

The of­fense found ways to win tight games all sea­son long, ex­plain­ing their 13-10 victory over Call­away, their 20-7 win at Bre­men on Nov. 2, and their tri­umph in last week’s semi­fi­nal clas­sic, defeat­ing Fitzger­ald 38-30 in over­time.

The Braves squad in­cludes one of the top ath­letes in the en­tire state of Ge­or­gia in Aaron Beasley, a three-star Safety com­mit to the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee. Beasley plays run­ning back and free safety for Coach Tim Bar­ron. An­other Di­vi­sion 1 com­mit from Heard County is de­fen­sive line­man Zaylin Wood, a Tem­ple com­mit. Other Braves, such as quar­ter­back Ali­jiah Huzzie, de­fen­sive line­man Trey Owens, and line­backer An­drew Leak have gar­nered in­ter­est from col­leges such as Ge­or­gia State and Charleston South­ern.

Will Rock­mart win their first state cham­pi­onship since 1950? Will Heard County pull off the upset and walk away vic­to­ri­ous in their first state ti­tle ap­pear­ance?

These ques­tions will all be an­swered this af­ter­noon. Kick­off for the game is slated for 1 p.m., and the game will be tele­vised on Ge­or­gia Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Tele­vi­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.