The 2002 prep football season is off and running, as Columbia County's public high school squads hit the gridiron for season-opening action last Friday night.
With intermittent rain pelting the turf, it wasn't perfect football weather, but the players and fans didn't mind, because the waiting game was finally over.
Evans at Greenbrier
In the season opener at the Brierpatch, Greenbrier flexed its muscles during a 43-26 victory over Evans.
Along with earning bragging rights by beating a county rival, the Pack's new-look offense proved to be potent.
Last season, it took Greenbrier five games to total 47 points, so Friday's offensive fireworks display was a pleasant surprise for Pack coach Mickey Derrick.
"That's a lot of points, and I wasn't expecting that at all," Derrick said.
Both squads displayed opening-game nerves, as Evans and Greenbrier combined to commit nine turnovers.
The Knights capitalized on an early Pack miscue. Greenbrier muffed a punt at its own 10 yard line, and after the Knights recovered the fumble, Evans tailback Ki-Chang Ho rushed for a 3-yard score to put Evans up 7-0.
Later, Steven Rogers returned a kickoff 90 yards to give the Knights a 13-7 lead, and Ho finished a solid first half with a 15-yard touchdown run on a fourth-down play.
"They showed us some stuff in the first half that we had a hard time adjusting to," Pack linebacker David Barrett said.
In the second half, the Pack fired on all cylinders to turn a close game into a rout, and the turning point came on the fourth play of the third quarter.
Evans quarterback Brad Freeman dropped back to pass, but Greenbrier defensive end Brent Edwards applied a fierce rush. Freeman attempted a screen, but Pack sophomore Daniel Landon intercepted and ran for a 36-yard touchdown to give Greenbrier a 22-19 lead.
"The littlest guy can knock off the big guys, just because of how much adrenalin you have going. No one could stop us at that point," Barrett said of the momentum swing after the interception return.
On Evans' next offensive series, Edwards recovered a fumble to set up another short scoring drive, which was capped by Tyler Dent's three-yard run.
The Knights cut the margin to 29-26 after Abdul Walters picked off a pass and raced to the Pack 2 yard line. Walters then moved to running back and powered into the end zone.
The rest of the night belonged to Greenbrier. The Pack's offensive line took over and cleared a path for fourth-quarter scoring runs by Orlando Pollard and Brooks Robinson.
Sophomore running backs Dent and Pollard each rushed for more than 100 yards, and junior quarterback Robinson scored two rushing touchdowns and added 107 yards of passing.
Next: Greenbrier at Westside (ARC Stadium), 7:30 p.m. Friday; Evans has a bye this week, and will play Lakeside on Sept. 13 at Blanchard Stadium.
Westside at Lakeside
First-year Lakeside head coach Randy Hill figured his team would have a tough time winning its season-opener with Westside, and the Patriots proved Hill right Friday night at Panther Stadium.
Westside's Austin Ducey returned the opening kickoff for an 84-yard touchdown, and that was plenty of points for the Pats defense, which starred in the 20-0 shutout of the Panthers.
Lakeside managed only four first downs in the game, and the Panthers committed six turnovers.
"We have to get used to weather like this. We're green," Hill said. "We don't have those kind of power fullbacks and power tailbacks. Westside does. They're a seasoned team. Seasoned teams can play in the rain."
And they can kick - Westside's Obi Egekeze booted a career-high 54-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 20-0 lead as time expired in the first half.
The Lakeside defense blanked Westside the rest of the way, and limited the Pats to nine first downs in the game.
Next: Lakeside has a bye this week, and will play at Evans on Sept. 13.
Harlem at Aquinas
The last time a Harlem football team opened the season with a win, the current Bulldogs were just puppies.
They're big Dogs now, though, as Harlem won a season opener for the first time since 1989 with a 24-0 victory at Aquinas on Friday night.
Senior Kelvin Sturgis got things rolling with a four-yard scoring run in the first quarter. Tim Camp added touchdowns in the second and third quarters, while place kicker Matt Dobbs was 3 -for-3 on extra-point attempts and capped the scoring with a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Harlem can improve its record to 2-0 this week, but Bulldogs coach Jimmie Lewis says Friday's home opener against Elbert County will be a test.
"The Elbert County game is going to be a war," he said. "They have a real good team this year."
Next: Harlem's home opener is at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Elbert County.
Augusta Christian at Tattnall Square Academy
Playing the defending Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA champion on its own turf is a tough task, but Augusta Christian was up to the challenge Friday night at Tattnall Square Academy in Macon.
The Lions had lost five previous meetings with the Trojans, and despite dropping to 0-6 all-time with last week's 23-21 defeat to Tattnall, AC appears ready to join the GISA elite this season.
Augusta Christian held a 21-12 fourth-quarter lead, thanks to strong play from tailback Cole Rabun (134 yards rushing) and quarterback Adam McKinney (two TD passes and a scoring run).
Tattnall Square avoided the upset with an 11-point rally in the fourth quarter. With the loss, Augusta Christian's record fell to 1-1.
Next: Augusta Christian plays Stratford Academy at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pride Valley.
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