Sports

Pair of Middle Georgia powerhouses, a ‘Backyard Brawl’ lead the way in our featured games

Peach County head coach hopes tough non-region schedule springboards his team

Peach County head coach Chad Campbell discusses the teams outlook and expectations for the 2019 football season at summer practice in Fort Valley, Georgia.
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Peach County head coach Chad Campbell discusses the teams outlook and expectations for the 2019 football season at summer practice in Fort Valley, Georgia.

It’s time for high school football in Middle Georgia.

After an exciting opening week around the area, week two offers up some exciting games, and the Telegraph has selected three feature match-ups to watch.

Unsure which game you want to attend? Here are the details and our staff picks.

Peach County vs Northside

7:30 p.m. Saturday at Northside

Story of the game: This will be a clash between two of the best programs in the Middle Georgia area. Both teams are coming off of seasons in which their final destinations were the same, as each reached the state title. The result was also the same for each as they fell in closely contested football games.

Last year, the two teams played at Mercer as part of the Macon Touchdown Club Kick-off Classic, where Peach County pulled out a 27-24 win. Peach County quarterback, Jaydon Gibson, was the star of the game with over 175 yards passing and 90 yards rushing with a pair of touchdowns. He also was incredibly efficient with only four incompletions. These are two very talented teams and could be evenly matched again this year.

Keys to the game for Peach County: For the Trojans, this will be their first game of the season which could lead to them coming out looking a little rusty. However, this is a veteran squad led by Gibson who will be instrumental in setting the tone on offense and getting them acclimated quickly.

Sergio Allen, the Clemson commit, will have to be at the top of his game to slow down Northside quarterback Mason Ford who is coming off a game where he rushed for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns. The Trojans might want to have Allen shadow Ford’s movements in the backfield to try to limit his ability to take off on the scramble and force him to beat the defense with his arm.

Keys to the game for Northside: The Eagles have had a week to work out the kinks after their dominating win over Centennial. There wasn’t a lot that went wrong in that game but Peach County should prove to be a much tougher test. Peach County forced Jadin Daniels into a pair of interceptions last season and while Ford has replaced Daniels at the quarterback spot, the two have a lot in common. Ford could see a similar gameplan used against him.

Ford’s game (much like Daniels) is predicated on using his legs to get the upper hand on the defense. If Ford is forced to use his arm more in this game, he must limit his mistakes. If the Eagles can avoid turning the football over then they will have a chance to grind this game.

Staff pick: Peach County

Northside High School head coach Kevin Kinsler discusses the teams outlook and expectations for the 2019 football season at summer practice in Warner Robins, Georgia.

Mary Persons vs Jackson

7:30 p.m. Friday at Mary Persons

Story of the game: It is time for the latest edition of one of the best rivalries in the Middle Georgia area. The “Backyard Brawl” should live up to its name as these two teams are looking for a key win early on in the season. Mary Persons has dominated this rivalry of late as it hasn’t lost to Jackson since 2012 during Brian Nelson’s first season at the school when Jackson won 24-23.

Mary Persons will be looking to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2016. On the other side, Jackson hasn’t started a season 2-0 since 2009. This year the tide could turn as the Bulldogs stumbled out of the gate with a 27-21 loss to Gainesville while the Red Devils notched a 34-13 win over Locust Grove.

Keys to the game for Mary Persons: The Bulldogs absolutely dominated in every facet of the game last season. But this is a very different team: Mary Persons is replacing 17 of its 22 starters. The team is still searching for an answer at the quarterback position after losing their star J.T Hartage to graduation. In the opening game against Gainesville, the team didn’t even crack 100 yards through the air.

If the passing offense is once again struggling, then the pressure will rest on the shoulders of Enrico Harden at the running back spot. He was a bright spot in the opening game as he rushed for 133 yards on 14 carries. Last season, Quen Wilson, another star lost to graduation, rushed for 158 on 15 carries for three touchdowns. Harden might need a similar performance to carry the Bulldogs to a win.

Keys to the game for Jackson: The Red Devils will need to play with a sense of urgency and fire from the opening kickoff. If they are able to get Mary Persons on the ropes early on, then this could be the year that they are able to pull off a win.

One of the big things will be limiting Harden and making someone else on that offense beat them. The Bulldogs don’t have the playmakers this season that they have in the past. The Red Devils must find a way to at least slow Harden down to give themselves the best chance to win.

Staff pick: Mary Persons

Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson discusses the teams outlook and expectations for the 2019 football season. The Bulldogs went undefeated in the regular season in 2018 before losing to Marist in the quarterfinals.

Howard vs FPD

7:30 p.m. Friday at FPD

Story of the game: In this game a year ago, Howard running back Jeremiah Kelly put the Middle Georgia area on notice. He piled up 172 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries. The Huskies ran over the Vikings by a score of 50-14. The Vikings were a young team last year and will be searching for a win in game one of the season. Howard is also coming off of a loss in an abnormal Friday night game against Jones County as weather delays caused the game to end well after midnight.

Keys to the game for FPD: It might seem obvious but slowing down the Howard run game is probably the best chance FPD has in this game. It won’t be easy as Kelly seems to be able to get 100 yards at will these days. On offense, the biggest thing will be keeping pace with the Huskies scoring. The Vikings can’t afford to get down early like it did last year. After the first quarter, the game was actually a pretty closely contested game but giving up 29 points so quickly put them in a hole that was too big.

First Presbyterian Day head coach Greg Moore discusses the teams outlook and expectations for the 2019 football season at summer practice in Macon, Georgia.

Keys to the game for Howard: For the Huskies, they will need to put Friday’s opening loss in the rearview mirror. Barring a hangover from that game, Howard should be able to come out and dictate the overall pace of the game. If the Huskies allow the Vikings to hang around til the fourth quarter then they could be looking at an 0-2 start, something that hasn’t happened since 2016.

Staff pick: Howard

Howard head coach Paul Carroll discusses the team's outlook and expectations for the 2019 football season at a media event in Macon, Georgia.

Justin Baxley is the fan life reporter at The Telegraph and writes stories centered around entertainment, food and sports in the Macon community. Justin joined the Telegraph staff after graduating from Mercer University in May 2017 with a degree in criminal justice and journalism. During his time at Mercer he served as the sports editor for The Cluster.
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