For those that don’t recall, the Lions actually started region play at 2-0 last fall in Grant Chesnut’s first season leading the Central program, though it’s a little different scenario this time around.
Central defeated Haralson County and Columbus as a member of Region 6-AAA last year to open the region slate, leaving perennial powers Troup, LaGrange, Shaw and Carrollton to deal with the rest of the way.
And not to disrespect any of the region teams left on the Lions’ schedule this fall, but they don’t hold the same playoff pedigree that the former region quartet did.
Outside of Callaway and Rockmart, only Chapel Hill has even reached the postseason before out of the remaining five region foes left on the Lions’ schedule, the other two being relatively new programs.
The Yellow Jackets (40-14 loss to Cedartown) and Panthers (46-7 loss to Douglas County) both suffered one-sided setbacks on Friday, while the Cavaliers (0-1) were off after dropping a tight, 43-37 affair to a strong Heard County ball club on Aug. 24.
So while the Lions have put themselves in the best position possible up to this point, Chesnut said there’s still a long ways to go.
“I mean, we’re excited to be 2-0 and I haven’t even thought about it being like last year, to be honest with you. We’re taking everything just like always — one game at a time. The most important ball game on the schedule is Bremen. We know what kind of program that is and we know that it gives us an outstanding opportunity to continue to improve,” Chesnut said of next Friday’s showdown with the Blue Devils.
Of course, the second-year Lion coach isn’t going to deny the significance of starting region play with back-to-back wins, either.
“Well, we played hard again, and that’s a positive. We’re 2-0 in region, and that’s a positive. So we’ve just got to keep working. Like I said in the summer, we’re a young football team. The more reps we get, the more game experience we get, the more improvement we’re going to make. We’ve just got to keep plugging away at it,” Chesnut said.
“I’m proud of our kids. They’ve overcome adverse situations in both football games and found a way to win. If we continue to move forward in our program, that’s very important.”
Memorable Night in MZ
The Mt. Zion High School football team kept the home fans on the edge of their seats Friday night upon opening Mt. Zion Stadium. And though the Eagles came up just short in a 7-6 nail-biter against Ranburne (Ala.), first-year Eagle coach Keith Holloway was mighty proud of the fight his ball club exhibited.
As for the atmosphere for the first on-campus game, he said it was a sight to see.
“It was great. The fans were great. They got the kids fired up. I was proud of the kids. As the game went on, they really focused on the ball game and didn’t get caught up in some of the ceremony stuff. It was great. We had a great crowd. It was a hot and muggy night, but it was a great ball game — two great defenses slugging it out,” Holloway said.
MZ now has a week off before playing host to its second game at the stadium when North Cobb Christian comes in on Sept. 14.
“We’ll have a few days to [get healthy] and get ready for North Cobb Christian. We’ll come out here and give it our all again. We’ll expect to win when we walk on this field,” Holloway said.
Tough Finish for Trojans
In a season-opening meeting of perennial powerhouses, Oxford (Ala.) found a way to prevail in the closing minutes after trailing by 10 at the half in the 21-17 decision over Carrollton.
The Trojans struggled moving the ball in the second half, but the momentum ultimately swung in the Yellow Jackets’ favor in the first few minutes of the third quarter on a play that normally yields negative results.
On the opening possession of the second half, the Carrollton defense appeared to force a three-and-out, with Oxford set to punt from its own 31-yard line on fourth-and-16.
The snap to Oxford punter Racean Thomas — who is also the Yellow Jackets’ electrifying junior tailback and kick returner — sailed over his head.
As Thomas scrambled and scooped up the ball while being pursued by a number of Trojans deep in Oxford territory, he was able to find daylight. And using his great vision, footwork and ultra-elusive athleticism, Thomas — who had 220 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns — got all the way to the Oxford 49-yard line, good for a first down.
The game-changing play set up a four-yard touchdown run by Oxford quarterback Ty Webber to pull the Yellow Jackets within 17-14 and really knock the wind out of the Trojans’ sails.
“Yeah, that was huge. That was a momentum-changer. We had them pinned deep, but our kicking game continues to be a sore spot. And it’s kind of frustrating because we work it really, really hard,” Carrollton coach Rayvan Teague said. “But we’ll just have to put our nose to the grindstone and work more.”
All for One at HC
While the senior trio of Nii-Okai Reindorf, Bryce Wrenn and Lane Fortune have proven to be the top play-makers for the Haralson County High School football team — with Reindorf and Fortune doing a little bit of everything — second-year HC coach Alan Lane said you can’t overlook the value of the rest of the squad’s effort in the Rebels’ 27-6 victory at Temple on Friday night.
The Rebel coach pointed to the fact that his ball club had 57 offensive snaps with five offensive linemen that didn’t take a single snap last season at the varsity level.
“We’re getting some play from kids that didn’t get to play any last year at all. Whether it was new kids, JV kids and I even had some freshmen go in and play [Friday] night. So it’s not just one person getting it done. Sure, Nii-Okai had a good night, Bryce had a good night and Lane Fortune had a good night, but it was really a total team effort,” Lane said.
Restless Red Devil
Dwight Hochstetler may not have slept too well leading up to his season opener, but the veteran Bowdon High School football coach assuredly got a good night of rest following the Red Devils’ 34-14 triumph over Woodland (Ala.) late Friday night — or possibly early Saturday morning.
Noting how concerned he was with a total new skill unit taking the field in the border battle with the Bobcats, Hochstetler was pleasantly surprised with the performance. Bowdon led 21-0 at half and went up 28-0 in the third.
The Red Devils got touchdown runs of 50-plus yards from junior halfbacks Chris Keith and Jarod McKey, while sophomore Darnell Holland added a pair of scores out of the Bowdon backfield.
And while he was happy to see the skill players execute, in the end, Hochstetler said his team won the game in the trenches.
“I thought our line of scrimmage on both sides really dominated and took over the ball game. I thought our defensive front did a nice job stopping them. They had a couple good runners. Offensively, I thought our line of scrimmage did a good job opening up some holes. We had about three long runs we took advantage of,” Hochstetler said on Friday night.
Making Strides in Temple
Temple High School football coach Seth Rogers wasn’t happy with the result in his team’s 27-6 home loss to HC on Friday, but the sixth-year Tiger coach said the effort was much better than it was in the season-opening setback to Walker.
“Our kids played hard. I thought we played a lot better this week than what we did against Walker. It was a football game. We just didn’t get run out of the stadium,” Rogers said.
“I thought our kids responded to what we were trying to do this week, as far as being more physical and actually making somebody earn stuff rather than just giving it to them. So I’ll never be satisfied losing a football game. But at the same time, I think we’ve made strides to get better this week.”
After impressive season-opening victories, Bremen, Heard County and Holy Ground were all off on Friday night. The Blue Devils return to action next Friday in their home opener against Central, while the Braves host Chattooga and the Stallions welcome Life Christian to Roopville. Villa Rica was also off and opens the season next Friday at home against South Paulding.
Times-Georgian Sports Reporter Jordan Hofeditz contributed to this story.