There won't be a mythical middle-school championship game for Columbia County's football squads this year, but one team is poised to claim local bragging rights when the campaign concludes.
Evans Middle School brings a perfect 5-0 record into its homecoming battle Tuesday against Riverside Middle School. With a win over the Eagles, the Knights would wrap up their first unbeaten season since 1996.
"Our goal from the beginning of the season was to go undefeated," Evans Middle coach Carter Morris said. "Fortunately we have an opportunity to finish 6-0 if we play well in our last game - but we haven't done it yet."
Over the past few seasons, Columbia County's middle-school football schedule was arranged so the two top squads would square off in the final game.
But with Grovetown Middle School's inaugural team joining the mix this year, giving the county seven middle-school football programs, the six-game schedule prevented an unofficial championship matchup.
Evans Middle's Nathan Kratz dives for a fumble in the game against Harlem Middle School.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The upstart Patriots nearly spoiled Evans' quest for perfection last week at Grovetown Middle School.
"Grovetown gave us a real test," Morris said. "They have a couple of kids that can run with our boys, and they had more size."
Evans surged to a 22-0 lead, but at that point the Knights relaxed and let Grovetown back in the game. The Knights sealed the 22-16 victory with a late interception, as Scott Turner tipped a pass and Chris Marshall recorded the pick.
Last week's game was the only real scare for Evans this season. The next-closest game was a 28-6 win over Greenbrier Middle School.
"We've just got a lot of talent, and we've gotten better as a team from game to game," Morris said. "We have so many weapons on offense, it's hard for defenses to stop us."
A perfect example occurred earlier this season at Evans Middle. On the first offensive play from scrimmage against Harlem Middle, Knights' running back Zach Boulineau raced for an 89-yard touchdown.
Later in that victory last month, quarterback Kevin Millward connected with Boulineau on a 28-yard scoring pass. When Harlem managed to score, Chris Marshall took the ensuing kickoff 67 yards for another TD. Boulineau capped the easy win with a 55-yard touchdown run.
Millward and Boulineau also have led the Knights on defense at their linebacker positions, Millward handles the kicking chores for Evans, while Jonathan Nicely has been dangerous at wide receiver.
Evans has taken advantage of its superior speed this season, but Riverside Middle might be able to match up physically with the Knights, according to Morris.
"Riverside is big up front, and we're not very big, so they'll probably give us a little trouble," he said. "We'll have to be on top of our games and not make mistakes."
Tuesday's other middle-school football finales are Greenbrier at Columbia and Grovetown at Lakeside. All games kickoff at 5 p.m., with fifth-quarter action preceding the official contests.
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