Regular-season play is slowly drawing to a close for Columbia County's high school football teams. After a 10-game schedule, the region's top teams will prepare for the state playoffs with a chance to be crowned Georgia's best.
Evans receiver Reuben Faloughi (49) heads for a first down in the Knights' 12-6 loss to Jefferson County on Thursday.
photo by J. Scott Trubey
In the junior varsity ranks, it's a different story.
Used mainly to prepare underclassmen for the varsity ranks, junior varsity teams don't focus on postseason competition. Coaches stress learning positions, schemes and game plans more than wins and losses.
"The most important thing is that they play," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "We don't put a whole lot of emphasis on the wins. We just want them to get experience."
Nevertheless, football coaches in Columbia County have come up with a way to determine the best junior varsity team.
"At the end of the year, after six ball games, the No. 1 team plays the No. 2 team for the championship," Greenbrier coach Mickey Derrick said.
That championship game is called the County Cup. Columbia County's four junior varsity teams - Evans, Greenbrier, Harlem and Lakeside - battle each year for the title and junior varsity bragging rights.
"We started that three years ago," Derrick said. "Everyone seems to like it. "We won the first two years, and last year Evans won it."
This season, Lakeside's squad has already clinched the right to play in the County Cup game. The Panthers are 2-0 with wins over Greenbrier and Harlem. Even if the team loses to Evans when the two meet Oct. 13, Lakeside could only fall as far as No. 2 in the area standings and would still play for the title.
Greenbrier's luck has run out this year after reaching the County Cup game last season. The Wolfpack is already out of the running for the County Cup this season with an 0-3 record against Lakeside, Evans and Harlem.
That leaves Evans and Harlem battling for the one open spot to face Lakeside for the County Cup.
Harlem has a 1-1 record against Columbia County teams so far with a win over Greenbrier and a loss at Lakeside.
Evans (1-0) has only played one game so far against a Columbia County opponent. The Knights knocked off Greenbrier in their home opener on Sept. 1.
On Thursday, Evans and Harlem will meet for a regular season game to decide who will face Lakeside for the County Cup.
Evans has experience on their side as the County Cup defending champs. Head coach Bryce Massey said the team's success comes in its numbers.
"We have 75 to 80 kids playing for JV football who are not even dressing out for the varsity team," Massey said. "This is close to some kind of record for kids coming out. Usually you have a large number come out before camp and they'll weed themselves out as we go through the season. That hasn't happened this year."
At Harlem, the junior varsity team doesn't have quite the numbers but does have plenty of talent.
"We've got some young players that are pretty good," Lewis said. "We've got a good group of linebackers especially."
Harlem will have to deal with an injury to starting quarterback Carlos Beard that may keep him off the field, but Lewis said freshman back up Tykeem Scott is an able replacement.
Evans' showdown with Harlem will take place at Harlem at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
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