This season's high school football promises lots of excitement. A look at the players' statistics and the challenges they face will give you an idea of what to watch for as the season progresses:
Evans' Cheng Ho plows through the Greenbrier line for a gain in the first half during last season's action. Ho led the county in rushing and was a leader for the Evans team. The Knights will use a combination of backs to replace Ho.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Worth the price of a ticket
The following players are some of the best in the state and will visit Columbia County:
1. QB David Cone, Statesboro, Sr. - Giant quarterback has committed to Michigan. In town: At Evans on Sept. 30.
2. OL Maurice Hurt, Baldwin, Sr. - Monster tackle holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and Georgia Tech. In town: At Greenbrier on Oct. 7 and Evans on Oct. 21.
3. DT Alex Dekle, Statesboro, Sr. - One of the best defense linesmen in Georgia and has offers from Ohio State, Tennessee and Mississippi. In town: At Evans on Sept. 30.
4. RB Charles Rock, Statesboro, Sr. - Might be the best running back in Class AAAA. In town: At Evans on Sept. 30.
5. RB Antwan Wright, Effingham County, Jr. - His speed makes him a nightmare to tackle. In town: At Lakeside on Sept. 2 and Greenbrier on Oct. 14.
6. QB Brandon Barden, Lincoln County, Jr. - An All-State tight end last year, Barden will move to quarterback for the Red Devils. In town: At Greenbrier on Sept. 9.
Gabe Greer listens to his coach during practice at Harlem High School. Greer rushed for 256 yards last season.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
7. CB Carson Hill, Baldwin, Sr. - Georgia Tech has been recruiting this speedster. In town: At Greenbrier on Oct. 7 and Evans on Oct. 21.
8. DL A.J. Harmon, Jefferson County, Soph. - Going to be a force in the CSRA for years to come. In town: At Harlem on Sept. 2.
9. RB Darius Marshall, Baldwin, Jr. - Interest from Tennessee, Miami, Georgia, Auburn and Florida State. The Braves won five straight after they started handing the ball off to Marshall. In town: At Greenbrier on Oct. 7 and Evans on Oct. 21.
10. FB Damien Bell, Butler, Sr. - Bell resembles a bowling ball when he carries the ball. In town: At Harlem on Oct. 7.
Everybody knows when the county schools play each other. Here are some other games to watch this year.
1. Washington-Wilkes at Lakeside, Aug. 19 - The two teams tied last season and will settle the score in Week 1.
2. Laney at Evans, Sept. 2 - Evans hopes to prove last year's win wasn't an upset.
3. Lincoln County at Greenbrier, Sept. 9 - One of the state's best programs travels to the Brierpatch.
Lakeside's Kyle Hill breaks loose for a long gain late in the first half against Jefferson County High School at Panther Stadium last year. He is the Panthers' leading returning receiver and rusher.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
4. Thomson at Harlem, Sept. 23 - They share county borders and a nickname, but the rivalry has been one-sided recently.
5. Augusta Christian at Heathwood Hall, Sept. 23 - ACS travels to play the defending state champions in Columbia.
These are the returning statistical leaders from the 2004 season:
1. Lee Banks, ACS, 753
2. Dillon Quick, ACS, 540
3. Jay Harmon, ACS, 528
4. Gabe Greer, Harlem, 526
5. Reggie Rice, Greenbrier, 456
1. Lee Banks, ACS, 802-11
2. Sean Gray, Greenbrier, 686-6
3. Brendan Gray, Harlem, 159-2
1. Kyle Hill, Lakeside, 305
2. Nolan Belcher, ACS, 285
3. Austin Greene, ACS, 268
4. Reggie Rice, Greenbrier, 203
5. Trey Dove, Lakeside, 160
1. Jay Harmon, ACS, 119
2. Josh Whitaker, ACS, 117
3. Austin Greene, ACS, 102
4. Reggie Rice, Green-brier, 94
5. Chris Drayton, Lakeside, 84
Who's gone and who is ready to step up:
QB Brad Freeman, Evans
Former national Punt, Pass and Kick champion Kevin Millward has the inside track for the job. He has the size and the arm needed. But junior southpaw Josh McDaniel has speed, and coach Marty Jackson will give him a shot.
WR Eugene Rogers, Greenbrier
The Wolfpack will use a combination of players - including leading returning receiver Cal Morris - to fill in at receiver, but it will be hard to replace Rogers' big-play ability.
QB Jimmy Johnson, Lakeside
The Panthers will have a tough time replacing Johnson's intangibles, but Chris Drayton has the speed and the arm to fill in.
RB Cheng Ho, Evans
Ho led the county in rushing and had the heart of a lion. Junior Coley will get the first shot of replacing Ho, but he is probably not big enough to handle the number of carries his predecessor did.
WR Ryan Crislip, Shawn Ward, Tim Steflik, Evans
The Knights' three-headed monster made up the best receiving corps in the county last season. Evans will mix in some talented, but young, receivers but will be hard-pressed to replicate the production of the departed trio.
You will know these names by the end of the season.
1. Kyle Hill, Lakeside - Hill is the Panthers' leading returning receiver and rusher. He was the only county player to have a 100-yard rushing game and 100-yard receiving game last season.
2. Lashawn Butler, Greenbrier - Butler took a year off to concentrate on basketball, but now he is back at cornerback and tailback.
3. Jermel Bennett, Lakeside - Bennett finished second to Paul Miller with three sacks last season. He had three more in scrimmage games before the season.
4. Josh McDaniel, Evans - McDaniel will get a shot at quarterback but will make an impact at tailback and receiver.
5. Maurice Dorsey, Harlem - Williams is an absolute beast, and coach Jimmie Lewis calls him a Division I prospect.
The best iron men in Columbia County
1. Chris Drayton, Lakeside, QB/S - Drayton's future is at safety or linebacker, and he has received offers from Kentucky and Louisville.
2. Austin Greene, ACS, TE/DE - Greene, an All-Region pick, finished with 103 tackles and caught four touchdowns.
3. Reggie Rice, Greenbrier, RB/LB - Rice will carry more of the load this season, and the tailback could get close to carrying 1,000 yards if he stays healthy.
4. Erik Smith, Greenbrier, FB/LB - Getting hit by Smith is like getting hit by a truck.
5. B.J. Savoy, Evans, DB/WR - Savoy is a tireless worker and excels on both sides of the ball.
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