Columbia County's high school football fans should finish their trick-or-treating early Friday night, because the gridiron is the place to be this Halloween.
The prep slate features some of the best matchups of the season, and one of the biggest battles will be at the Brierpatch, where Thomson visits Greenbrier.
Thomson's followers would travel anywhere to watch the Bulldogs play, and there's good reason to be there for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Greenbrier - the winner will take control in Region 3-AAAA.
The Augusta Christian Lions also will try to contain some vicious canines this Friday night.
AC travels to Monroe, Ga., to face George Walton Academy at 7:30 p.m. The Bulldogs stand atop the Class AAA rankings in the Georgia Independent School Association, while the Lions enter with an 8-1 record and are intent on defending their Region 1-AAA crown.
Lakeside and Evans aren't gunning for region supremacy this Friday night at 7:30, but the two squads will attempt to scare their opponents on Halloween. Lakeside takes on Hephzibah in the homecoming game at Panther Stadium, while Evans squares off with Region 7-AAAAA power Stephenson at Blanchard Stadium.
Harlem has a bye this week, and after the horror show in last Friday's game at Jefferson County, the Dogs need some time to recover.
Titles at stake
Greenbrier easily handled Burke County last week, and that 21-0 Region 3-AAAA win in Waynesboro sets the stage for the showdown with Thomson. "If you can't get excited about this one, you can't get excited," Pack coach Mickey Derrick said.
The Pack enters with a 7-1 record, and is 5-1 in region play. The Bulldogs (7-1, 6-0) needs a win this week to stay on pace to defend the region title.
Greenbrier has title dreams of its own. The Pack could clinch the crown by closing the season with wins over Thomson and Statesboro, which is akin to scaling Mount Everest and K2 on successive weeks.
Derrick says the Pack is readying to make a summit attempt.
"Thomson is stronger than us, and we realize that," Derrick said. "We have to come up with a good game plan, try to stay in the ball game with them and hope for the best."
Greenbrier has a balanced offense, but Thomson is so sound fundamentally that the Pack will need to play a great game to pull off an upset.
The downside is that if the Pack loses to Thomson, and then drops its final game at Statesboro, Greenbrier might get bumped out of the playoffs.
Still, Derrick believes his players won't be intimidated. "It's going to be a rough road, but I think we're up for it," he said.
While Greenbrier has surprised some folks by making a title run, Augusta Christian is on an expected course heading into the regular season finale.
"From day one a lot of people were saying Augusta Christian and George Walton would play for the region championship," AC coach Bruce Lane said. "As we got closer to that game, I'm sure we peeked ahead a little bit. We don't have to look ahead anymore. It's here."
AC improved to 8-1 by blanking Riverside Military Academy 13-0 last week at Pride Valley. George Walton has rolled to a 9-0 record.
The Lions and Bulldogs are evenly matched, and that was the case last season, when AC beat George Walton 21-20 to take the Region 1-AAA championship.
George Walton has the home-field advantage this time, but AC has the weapons to survive on the road. "If we execute and not have a lot of penalties, we have a good chance to win," Lane said.
Playing for pride
With region losses last Friday night, Harlem and Lakeside were both eliminated from the state playoff race.
Harlem was missing six starters in last week's game, including seniors Tim Camp and Donny DeMore, and that spelled disaster at Jefferson County, where the Warriors pounded the Bulldogs 47-0.
"I've never gone into a game more beat up," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "Our guys didn't quit, but we were just outmanned."
The Dogs (2-6, 0-4 in Region 3-AAA) travel to play Westside at ARC Stadium next week. Harlem closes the season at home against Laney on Nov. 14.
"We're disappointed to not have a chance at the playoffs, but I've got to give our guys credit," Lewis said. "I fully expect them to go out and do the best they can in the last two games. We're playing for pride, and want to end the season on a positive note."
Lakeside blew some assignments on offense and defense last week against Butler. The Bulldogs seized every opportunity and surged to a 29-14 win in the Region 3-AAAA contest at Panther Stadium.
"Butler has a big team, and we got pushed around quite a bit," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said. "We just don't match up physically sometimes, which means we can't make mistakes."
The Panthers (3-4, 1-4 in Region 3-AAA) play host to region foe Hephzibah this Friday night, and Hill says there is still plenty to play for in 2003.
"We've got to finish strong the rest of the season," he said. "We're pretty much out of the playoffs, but we could end up 3-7 or 6-4. The players are shooting for 6-4. The underclassmen want to win, and the seniors want to finish up a good season."
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