Harlem quarterback Michael Hawkinberry follows a blocker downfield in the third quarter Friday on the way to a 12-0 loss to Jefferson County.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
With the finish line of the 2002 season in sight, one Columbia County football team hit its stride last week, while three other county prep squads started a stumble down the home stretch.
Augusta Christian picked up a road win Friday night, and the Lions are now one victory away from claiming a region championship.
On the other side of the coin, Greenbrier, Harlem and Lakeside came up short, and those Friday defeats pushed each squad further down the ladder in their respective regions.
Title at stake
Augusta Christian (7-2, 2-0 in Region 1-AAA) took care of business in Gainesville with a 44-7 rout of Riverside Military Academy. With the win, AC set up a showdown against George Walton Academy this Friday at Pride Valley.
"We've got an opportunity to play for the region championship at home, and feel really confident," AC coach Bruce Lane said. "One of the keys is not only how we play, but how we get the fans and student body involved. That would provide some atmosphere for this ball game, and give us a 12th man."
The Lions have pummeled their last two opponents by a combined score of 100-7, and last week's standouts were tailback Cole Rabun (three touchdowns, 185 yards rushing) and quarterback Adam McKinney (4 for 5 passing, 60 yards and a 54-yard touchdown to Ryan Bates).
Still, AC's drive for its second region title in school history has been a team effort, from the kicking game, to special teams, to the defense, which has been led by Sam Pitts and Lance Tucker.
High School Football
Friday night's games
George Walton Academy at Augusta Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Lakeside at Hephzibah, 7:30 p.m.
Evans at Stephenson, 7:30 p.m.
Greenbrier at Thomson, 7:30 p.m.
"Every Friday it's been a different person who has stepped forward, and that's what the coaching staff has enjoyed about this team," Lane said. "If I started naming names, I'd leave somebody out. Every guy has stepped on the field and done his part."
Down the drain
If the scoreboard didn't tell the story, the stunned silence on the Harlem sideline did - a 12-0 loss to Jefferson County may have ended the Bulldogs hopes of a third straight trip to the Class AAA state playoffs.
"Now we need a miracle if we're going to make the playoffs," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "We've got to win our last two games against two pretty powerful teams, or hope Jefferson County loses to Richmond Academy and Josey. That's a rough thing to hope for."
With games remaining against Region 3-AAA powers Westside and Laney, Harlem (5-3, 1-2) is now a long shot for postseason play.
Lewis admitted he was worried about the Warriors, and having middle linebacker Josh Wilmoth out with a broken foot was only one of the problems - two other Harlem running backs have dropped off the team.
"We caught Harlem at a good time," Jefferson County coach J.B. Arnold said. "Coach Lewis has a lot of injuries, and we feel very fortunate to catch them when we did."
The Dogs were solid defensively, with Mike Waldoch filling in admirably for Wilmoth, but Jefferson County was even better - the Warriors limited Harlem to 77 rushing yards.
"Offensively, we couldn't put anything together," Lewis said. "I kept waiting for us to break one here of there, but it never happened."
Harlem has an open date this week, and will have some time to heal before playing host to Westside on Nov. 8.
But for the Bulldogs, it may be too late to overcome the damage inflicted by Jefferson County.
While the AC Lions are stalking a championship this week at Pride Valley, some Columbia County public school football squads will be struggling for survival Friday night.
Evans (2-5, 1-4 in Region 7-AAAAA) and Greenbrier (4-4, 2-3 in Region 3-AAA) face extremely difficult tests on the road. The Knights travel to play Stephenson, which is unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAA, while the Wolfpack tangles with Thomson, the top-ranked team in Class AAAA.
The Pack is coming off back-to-back defeats, including a 20-13 loss to Burke County last week. That loss at the Brierpatch essentially ended Greenbrier's playoff hopes, unless the Pack performs a miracle at the Brickyard.
The Knights, meanwhile, were idle last week.
Lakeside was in action, and the outcome at Lumpkin Road Stadium was all too familiar - the Panthers (0-7, 0-5) are still searching for a win in 2002 after losing to Butler 36-21.
Coach Randy Hill and his Lakeside squad will try to break the ice Friday night at Hephzibah.
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