The clock is ticking on the 2003 high-school football season, and for Columbia County's squads, that means it's time to get serious on the gridiron.
For Harlem, it may be too late to salvage season goals, and at Lakeside, the Panthers need to win this week to keep the clock from striking midnight.
Lakeside was biding its time last week, but after an open date in the schedule, the playoff push resumes with a Region 3-AAAA contest against Butler this Friday at Panther Stadium.
Greenbrier and Evans each earned region victories last week. The Knights won on the road, and could be on a path to the Class AAAA state playoffs, and the Wolfpack ruled on home turf against an outmatched region foe.
Augusta Christian, meanwhile, kicked off its region slate with a show of force Friday night, and the Lions will try to take another step toward defending their region crown this week at Pride Valley.
When Evans started the season with four straight losses, skeptics wondered why first-year head coach Marty Jackson was so optimistic.
Wonder no more - Jackson's Knights have rolled to three straight wins, and a playoff berth is within reach after a 33-18 win at Lakeside-DeKalb.
With the win last week, Evans improved to 3-2 in Region 7-AAAAA with three region games remaining.
Evans exploded for 20 points in the second quarter, then extended the lead to 27-6 with another touchdown in the third. Lakeside-DeKalb staged a mini-rally in the final period, but the Knights slammed the door when Cheng Ho busted a 44-yard scoring run to seal the victory.
Ho was a workhorse, scoring three times and rushing for 144 yards against the Vikings. Quarterback Brad Freeman added a touchdown pass to Allen Ligon, and on defense Jay Acree notched a 90-yard fumble return for a third-quarter score.
Evans has a bye this week, and will play host to Stephenson on Oct. 31. The Jaguars are contending for the Region 7-AAAAA title, but even if Evans can't pull off an upset, the Knights will close the season against Redan and Douglass, two beatable region teams.
In this case, two out of three won't be bad for Evans - knocking off Redan and Douglass might put the Knights into the state playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Evans isn't the only county team on a win streak.
Greenbrier has now posted four straight wins to improve to 6-1 on the season. The Wolfpack ran past Jones County 30-7 last Friday night at the Brierpatch, and the Region 3-AAAA rout sets the stage for an interesting finish.
The Pack takes a 4-1 region record to Burke County this Friday at 7:30 p.m. With a solid showing in Waynesboro, the Pack will be primed for the 2003 stretch run.
Greenbrier is in position to seize its first region football title, but that prospect might fall into the long-shot category. To have a chance to claim the championship, the Pack has to sweep their final three games against Burke County, Thomson and Statesboro.
Last week's homecoming game at Harlem was memorable, but the Bulldogs may want to forget their region meltdown against the Academy of Richmond County.
Harlem senior Foster Moore picked off a pass and sped down the sidelines for a 50-yard touchdown return which put the Dogs ahead 21-10 with only 14 seconds remaining in the first half.
Those 14 seconds may have sunk Harlem's playoff hopes in 2003.
Richmond Academy took possession, and the Dogs fell asleep on defense, allowing Antwan Hawthorne loose on a 57-yard touchdown run as time expired.
Instead of taking a comfortable lead into the locker room, Harlem held a tenuous 21-17 edge, and everything went downhill for the Bulldogs in the second half.
The Musketeers had the momentum, and took it to Harlem by tacking on 25 points after halftime.
With the 42-21 loss, the Dogs fell to 0-3 in Region 3-AAA (2-5 overall) heading into this week's region game at Jefferson County (7:30 p.m. kickoff).
To have a shot at qualifying for the Class AAA state playoffs, Harlem probably needs to sweep its final three region games against Jefferson County, Laney and Westside.
Georgia Independent School Association
Eagle's Landing Christian Academy didn't look bad, but Augusta Christian looked even better during the region opener last Friday in McDonough.
The Lions didn't commit a turnover and didn't need to punt en route to a 45-24 win.
Augusta Christian's defense gave up more points than usual, but the Lions made up for that with a balanced offensive attack. Tailback Cole Rabun rushed for 136 yards, and AC piled up 280 yards on the ground.
The passing game was sparked by the return of Adam McKinney. The senior quarterback had knee surgery earlier this month, but he appeared to be good as new last week. McKinney completed 8 of 12 throws for 143 yards and a touchdown.
AC improved to 7-1 heading into this week's homecoming game against Riverside Military Academy. If the Lions can post a win Friday night at Pride Valley, AC would set up a region championship battle Oct. 31 at George Walton Academy.
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