For the second straight week, Columbia County's high school football teams will be competing in some enormously important contests Friday night.
Lakeside faces a do-or-die situation at Panther Stadium. A win in the 7:30 p.m. battle with Hephzibah would put the Panthers in fourth place in the Region 3-AAAA standings.
Although it's not a mathematical certainty, the winner of this matchup should make the state playoffs, while the loser probably will be out.
The key to the game will be up front. Lakeside's offensive and defensive lines were manhandled by Greenbrier last week, and the Panthers can't allow Hephzibah's offensive line to open holes for running back Rafael Brooks.
Lakeside's line must clear a path for fullback Matt Nixon. If Nixon has running room, the Rebels linebackers will be forced forward; that would leave Lakeside receiver Steven Rogers in man-to-man coverage, which would give the Panthers a great chance to beat Hephzibah.
Harlem has nailed down a playoff berth, but the Bulldogs will be looking to hold on to first place in Region 3-AAA when Washington County comes to town Friday for an 8 p.m. game.
WACO is nearly unbeatable in Sandersville, but the Golden Hawks are not as formidable on the road. So, in a game where intangibles count, advantage Dogs.
I'll make a bold prediction here: if Harlem doesn't turn the ball over, Jimmie Lewis' crew will win this game.
You won't find any big-time Division I prospects playing defense for Greenbrier. You also won't see the biggest, fastest and strongest group.
But pound for pound, the Pack might be the best defensive unit in the CSRA. David Weitz, Brent Edwards, the Wandless brothers and company last week limited the Lakeside offense to minus-1 yard on the ground and only 86 total yards.
Greenbrier is still in the playoff race in Region 3-AAAA, but to stay alive the Pack needs an upset at Statesboro this Friday. And the Pack defense might be the group to slow down the dynamic duo of Delandry Tanner and Jimtavis Walker.
Evans is suffering through a long season on the gridiron. Coach Lee Chomskis is having to throw more than he would like, but the Knights certainly have a good young quarterback in Travis Clark.
Don't let Clark's numbers fool you - his completion percentage is low, but he is gaining valuable experience.
This sophomore is holding his own in rugged Region 4-AAAAA and has a bright career ahead of him. By the time he's a senior, Clark will be a special player.
Here are this week's prep predictions:
North Clayton at Evans: Both squads are struggling through tough seasons. North Clayton has played better over the last month, but a gut feeling tells me Evans will play inspired ball Friday night. Evans 24, North Clayton 21.
Greenbrier at Statesboro: The Pack looked very good in last week's win over Lakeside, but Statesboro is a different animal. Greenbrier will keep it close, but Statesboro will win. Statesboro 31, Greenbrier 10.
Hephzibah at Lakeside: The Panthers are in a must-win mode. The winner Friday night will gain an inside track to the postseason. I hope I'm wrong, but Lakeside might be out of luck. Hephzibah 20, Lakeside 17.
Washington County at Harlem: The biggest game at Harlem in my lifetime. WACO is solid, if not spectacular, but after Friday night, everyone will know that the Bulldogs are for real. Harlem 19, Washington County 16.
Augusta Christian at George Walton Academy: The Bulldogs have won six of seven, while the Lions have won six of eight. This is truly a toss-up, so take the home-field advantage. George Walton 34, Augusta Christian 30.
Ashley Brown's radio program can be heard from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on News-Talk Sports 1630 AM. His e-mail address is AB@WRDWAM.com.
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