FORT VALLEY Over the past few years, my signpost for the start of the season has been the preseason matchup between Northside and Peach County.
The scrimmage between the two Middle Georgia public schools with the longest playoff streaks signals the start of the football season, at least for me.
The programs met Tuesday night at Peach County to make up the scrimmage that was canceled Friday for rain. This is at least the third straight season the schools have scrimmaged each other.
I left with Northside leading 17-0 at the half, and it appeared to be a good decision with lightning flashing off in the distance.
Here are a few of my takeaways.
- Northside wont be short on playmakers. The Eagles must replace All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year Keshun Hill, who is now at Georgia Southern. Glenn Smith, who started at quarterback last year, appears well suited to fill Hills hybrid role. Smith scored both of Northsides touchdowns Tuesday night. He scored on a 17-yard read option, taking the handoff from quarterback Marcus Ivory. He scored on another run later in the first half. Northside offensive coordinator Chad Alligood has integrated Smith into multiple aspects of the offense, as a tailback and as a receiver. He will also line up at quarterback, getting maybe around a quarter of his teams snaps under center. I expected Smith to be a lethal threat after watching him last year, and I thought hed fill Hills role well. What I didnt expect: how sharp running back Willie Jordan looked. First, the junior running back is huge. He has a similar build to former All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year Tijuan Green. Northside has had plenty of standout backs over the past 20 years, and Jordan should continue that legacy assuming he stays healthy. There will be moments when Smith and Jordan will be in the backfield running the read option, and I would hate to be the opposing defensive coordinator.
- The Eagles are massive on the line of scrimmage. Surprise, surprise. Northside has reloaded up front. The Eagles measure 6-foot-2, 290 pounds on average on the offensive line and 270 pounds on the defensive front. Perhaps no team will be able to match the Eagles size up front, and few will be able to handle that size. The Trojans held their own at times Tuesday, but the Eagles were also able to pick up large chunks of yardage on the ground as well.
- Peach County is going to be just fine. The score Tuesday didnt really represent how the Trojans competed. Senior quarterback Greg Williams missed open receivers on two of Peach Countys first three offensive plays. Both likely went for touchdowns with an inexperienced Eagles secondary looking into the Peach County backfield on play fakes. Williams missed another receiver on a deep ball later in the scrimmage as well. Excitement and adrenaline may have played a factor; all three throws were long. He also doesnt have Demarcus Robinson going up to catch balls any more, but Tyler Gibson and Saire Davis are capable replacements. Gibson looked very sharp at times. The Trojans struggled to run the ball, but they wont see any defensive lines like they faced Tuesday. The Trojans are extremely young on defense they expect to start six guys on defense either freshmen or sophomores. I was impressed with the team speed on defense, and I thought the Trojans cornerbacks played very well in pass coverage.
These are two of the top programs in Middle Georgia for a reason, and I saw nothing on Tuesday night that would stop either of these teams from making deep playoff runs into December.