Well, we have reached the halfway point in the 2004 high school football season, and only one county team has a winning record.
The Evans Knights stand at 4-1 and appear to be prepared to battle for a playoff spot this year. Greenbrier has faced a barrage of injuries, but might have gotten healthy at the right time. Lakeside has shown that it is capable of beating anyone at anytime. Harlem has been a little better than expected, and Augusta Christian has found the going tough in the Palmetto State. So here's a look at the top performers thus far:
Top Offensive players:
Cheng Ho (Evans). Ho has been one of the premier players in the area this season. His performance against Greenbrier (276 yards rushing) is easily this season's top single-game performance in the area. He is on pace to rush for 1,300 yards in the regular season. At this time Ho would be my choice for player of the year in the county.
Jimmy Johnson (Lakeside). Johnson is known as a gritty team leader who runs the Panthers offense and runs well, but not exactly a drop-back passer. However, his four first-half touchdown passes against Greenbrier might have dispelled that notion. I have a feeling he could do just about anything the Lakeside coaches ask of him.
Reggie Rice (Greenbrier). Rice caught my eye last season as a sophomore. His play at linebacker was solid and he had an obvious love for the game. This season Rice has learned to corral his emotions a bit and his play has gotten better. He has become a terrific running back as well. He raced for three second-half touchdowns in Greenbrier's win over Lakeside on Friday.
Lee Banks (Augusta Christian). Banks had some huge shoes to fill in three-year starter Adam McKinney. So far he has passed the test. He is equally effective as a passer or runner. The Lions have dropped three games in a row, but Banks has played well in his first year as a starter.
Brad Freeman and Ryan Crislip (Evans). This duo has been the most prolific passing combo in the area this season. Freeman also has proved to be a pretty good runner, while Crislip handles the punting and most of the return duties for the Knights.
Top Defensive Players:
Evans team. I still have not figured out how this team got trampled by Jeffrey Walker and Jefferson County. Other than that game, the Knights have been terrific on defense. Against Greenbrier they bent but they did not break, pitching a shutout in the second half. They completely shut down an athletic Laney team. They do not really have any superstars on defense, but they are a solid unit.
Reggie Porter, Blake Goolsby and Paul Miller (Lakeside). This trio has played some terrific football for the Panthers The players seem to take turns dominating quarters. We expected this from Porter, but Goolsby and Miller have really stepped it up this season.
Reggie Rice (Greenbrier). Rice is the only player to make both lists. He has a motor that never stops, and if he puts on some weight by next season he will definitely be a college player. He is averaging 13 tackles per game.
Chris Drayton (Lakeside). With apologies to Eugene Rogers, Drayton might have become the best college prospect in the county. He is only a junior and he has the tools to be a great college safety one day. His instincts and athleticism are big-time.
Jermel Bennett (Lakeside). When Bennett can control his emotions, he is the best pass rusher in the county. He has had big games against Westside and Jefferson County and is only a sophomore.
Team Rankings and Grades
Evans - The bottom line is that the Knights are 4-1 and sport the only winning record in the county, which made this choice easy. Evans has been one of the biggest surprises in the area and Marty Jackson would have to be the County Coach of the Year. With Cheng Ho running and Ryan Crislip getting open for Brad Freeman, the Knights have great balance on offense.
Greenbrier - It's hard to put a team that has only one victory in second place, but I'm going with Greenbrier in a tie with Lakeside.
The Pack beat Lakeside head to head. Also, three of their losses came to good opponents. They lost to Morgan County (who was 10-2 last season), Lincoln County who was 14-1 last year, and Evans who stands at 4-1. Plus, Greenbrier was without Eugene Rogers for three games and QB Sean Gray and LB Eric Smith also have missed time because of injury. High expectations hurt their grade.
Lakeside - The Panthers' season really turned with the loss to Greenbrier last week. It is a game they can get over, but a win would have put them in great position heading into the second half of the season. They also have been without a key player with injuries, as Carl Burrow suffered a broken hand in week one. They do have a huge win over Jefferson Co., and do not be shocked if they knock off Evans.
Harlem - The Bulldogs picked up two early wins and nearly won a third. Part of this grade is based on expectations, and Harlem was not expected to do much this season. However, Jimmie Lewis has done a terrific job making this group extremely competitive this season.
Augusta Christian - The Lions got off to a great start at 2-0, but since then they have found SCISA to be very tough. The Lions had to replace great players such as Cole Rabun and Adam McKinney, but I think most people still liked their chances playing a South Carolina schedule. Well, I must have underestimated SCISA, because the Lions could be 2-4 after this weekend.
This Week's Picks
Greenbrier (1-4) vs. Wayne Co. (2-3)
Greenbrier 27 Wayne Co. 20
Evans (4-1) at Statesboro (5-0)
Statesboro 26 Evans 17
Lakeside (2-2-1) at Jones County (1-4)
Lakeside 24 Jones Co. 13
Harlem (2-4) vs. Glenn Hills (5-1)
Glenn Hills 27 Harlem 10
Augusta Christian (2-3) vs. Porter Gaud School (3-2)
Porter Gaud School 20 Augusta Christian 16
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