With Eugene Rogers, the reigning county Player of the Year, returning at Greenbrier and Carl Burrow expected to get a ton of carries for Lakeside, it appeared there was a two-man race for 2004 Player of the Year honors.
However, from week one, Evans running back Cheng Ho has set the bar high in Columbia County.
His season started with a three-touchdown performance in the opener against Harlem. He saved his biggest performance for his head-to-head match-up with Rogers and Greenbrier, going for more than 200 yards after halftime en route to 278 yards rushing.
Evans has had some terrific running backs, including Lenny Springs, Zack Scott and Tony McCladdie, but few have enjoyed a night like Ho had at Greenbrier.
For the season, he has rushed for 516 yards (129 per game) and seven touchdowns. He also has played a key role in the Knights' surprising 3-1 start. Ho plays behind a big and talented line, and the combination of quarterback Brad Freeman and split end Ryan Crislip also has played a big role in Evans' fast start.
It has not hurt that Rogers and Burrow have been hampered by injuries, but the bottom line is Ho is having a heck of a year. He should easily get more than 1,000 yards, and 1,500 is not out of the question.
Lakeside coach Randy Hill deserves a huge pat on the back. The 2004 Lakeside team was expected to struggle, and its biggest weakness seemed to be an extreme lack of depth.
However, you'd never know by watching the Panthers. With top returnee Carl Burrow nursing a broken hand, a new player seems to step up each week.
Going into Friday night's game against archrival Greenbrier, the Panthers were 2-1-1 thanks to the stellar play of QB Jimmy Johnson, solid defense and an impressive running back-by-committee system.
Burrow, Brian Gross-Bias, Kyle Hill, Arthur Marshall and Reggie Porter each has helped carry the load. Most are surprised simply by Lakeside's record, but their start is more impressive when you take a closer look.
Therefore, at this point I would have to go with Randy Hill as my early front-runner for county Coach of the Year.
Evans jumps in rankings
Thanks to its 3-1 start, Evans has made an incredible jump in the AAAA State Power Rankings. As of Sept. 22, the Knights were ranked 27th of 83 AAAA teams in Georgia.
Who knows whether the Knights can continue their meteoric rise, but it is good to see their early success has not gone unnoticed.
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