Habersham Central’s football team had a great opening night, and now it’s time to see if that show will draw rave reviews when they take it on the road.
The Raiders take on Apalachee at 7:30 p.m. tonight in what used to be a regional game, but now is a non-league showdown.
The team is healthy both in reference to the pandemic and football injuries, and the Raiders have a shot at going 2-0 for the first time since 2016.
Raiders coach Benji Harrison actually got to watch film this week of Apalachee’s close 34-27 loss to rival Winder-Barrow last Friday, unlike going in with nothing for the opener against Madison.
“It’s been nice to watch a little film and prepare, to see what you’re going up against,” Harrison said. “They led most of the game and maybe should have won that game last week.”
The Wildcats bring another tough offensive attack to Friday’s contest, which is their second-straight home game to start the season.
“Coach (Tony) Lotti does a real good job, they are well coached,” Harrison said of Apalachee. “Offensively, they run the Wing-T and they are really good it. Our job on defense is to execute well and move our eyes, make sure we are reading keys and doing our jobs, not trying to do more than we need to.”
Raiders middle linebacker Sutton Dover helped lead an aggressive defense last week that created three turnovers and had three sacks on the way to what amounted to a shutout before both teams emptied the benches.
Dover transitioned well from the defensive line to play standing up at the second level this season.
“You’ve got to be able to read the offense better and make calls and adjustments, make sure everyone is doing their job,” Dover said. “Then you’ve got to be able to do your job.”
The Raiders were on their assignments well against Madison and will need to play more assignment football this week defending the Wildcats.
“We have been studying Madison ever since we starting putting on pads this year,” Dover said. “This is a little different with more pulling guards. You’ve got to know what you’re doing because they can take one play and turn it into something big.”
On offense, the Raiders ran well Friday, but the passing game was restricted to a few big plays, but nothing consistent. Quarterback Josh Pickett was 4-of-11 for 82 yards and a touchdown in his debut at the position.
“Offensively, we have to control the line of scrimmage, and once we get our run game established, that will free us up to throw the ball a little bit,” Harrison said.
The Raiders had success running right at Madison’s front seven last week behind new center Ethan Tomlin, who missed last year with a knee injury.
“We are more of a run and pound team,” Tomlin said. “We’ve had a good line over the last few years and I think this group will keep that going.”
Tomlin switched over from playing right tackle his sophomore year.
“I was nervous at first about the snapping, but once I got used to it, I felt good,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin helped the line plow the road for 272 rushing yards at 6.5 yards per rush.
“We’ve got good backs and the offensive line played really well, and with our backs if you give them a little bit of a seam they usually see it,” Harrison said. “Any time you can run right at people, that’s the way you want to play.”
The Raiders are heading into game two with an optimistic feeling about where they are as a team. “I think we can build on this momentum and carry it through the season,” Dover said.