High School Sports

Macon County visits big stage at McConnell-Talbert, big opponent in Northside

Northside's Tae Daley set for Bulldogs

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Dexter Copeland regularly has to do some convincing of his young troops.

“They look at me like an old man,” the second-year Macon County head coach said. “They think I never played football in my life.”

He did, at one of the state’s top programs and in one of the state’s top venues, Northside and McConnell-Talbert Stadium.

Friday night, he’ll take his Class 1A Bulldogs back to his alma mater and its football shrine when Northside hosts Macon County in what is unlikely to be a normal 6A vs. 1A game.

Macon County is ranked sixth in the latest Georgia Sports Writers Association poll, dropping after a 70-42 loss to Class 2A’s No. 1, Fitzgerald.

The Bulldogs are on a roll again, going 19-6 the past two seasons and reaching the Class 2A quarterfinals last year.

Thanks goes to the GHSA for yet again adding a classification and forcing teams throughout the state to scramble for opponents.

That, the Northside connection and the amount of talent at Macon County led to the meeting. Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler sought a good opponent, regardless of classification.

“They’re a good offense at any level, regardless of what size school they are,” he said. “You can kind of throw that out the window when it comes to certain football programs.

“Some of your schools, like a Fitzgerald or Macon County, those schools are extremely competitive.”

And they may be more competitive than larger schools.

The Bulldogs bring two-time third-team All-Middle Georgia quarterback K’Hari Lane to town. He passed for nearly 3,200 yards last year and has 1,272 yards in four games this season, completing 61 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Receiver Trey Brown is a 6-foot-3,170-pounder who combines height and speed. He had 1,033 yards and 11 touchdowns on 49 catches as a sophomore, and has 20 catches, 405 yards and 11 scores.

Tra Mathis had 32 catches for 559 yards last year, and three teammates caught at least 13 passes in 2015.

Mathis has 10 receptions for 263 yards, and three teammates have at least 100 yards in receptions. Six Bulldogs have touchdown catches this season.

Kinsler thinks what the Eagles know and have seen on tape will be of more focus than the difference in enrollments.

“They’re athletic and explosive,” Kinsler said They have a quarterback who obviously is very, very talented; he can throw the deep ball, and he’s got a great touch on the short balls.”

A matchup that will draw attention from college coaches and recruiting geeks will be Brown against Northside’s Tae Daley, who has committed to Vanderbilt.

They’ll be fairly busy.

“They just want to make big plays, like one-play, two-play drives, get the ball down the field in a hurry,” Daley said. “It’s a challenge, This is what we’ve been working for since last December, for challenges like this.”

The Bulldogs also have a highly recruited offensive lineman in Christian Meadows, a 6-3, 330-pound junior who is currently a 3-star recruit, according to 247sports.com, who has committed to Florida State.

Running back/linebacker Curt McDonald, running back Jared Daniels and linebacker Kentarius Felton are among the other players to watch.

The Eagles are ranked second in Class 6A and had the week off after impressively dispatching Ware County 48-7 two weeks ago.

Quarterback Tobias Oliver has improved his passing game to go with his game management and ability to reel off big plays. The Eagles have some backfield depth and side on the perimeter.

While the talent among starters doesn’t have the normal gap of a big school and small school, depth and special teams are likely to make a difference.

Copeland said he doesn’t think his team will be overly dazzled by the night, in part because he had the track team compete several times last spring at McConnell-Talbert.

Copeland graduated from Northside in 1988, rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a senior. Since then, he’s only been back once, as a JV coach at Baldwin in the mid-1990s.

And he remembers watching players like Kevin Porter and James Brooks at the stadium when he was younger.

For the Bulldogs, however, it’s about the here and now.

“Lane, he’s heard about all these quarterbacks, and it’s his chance to play against a bigger school,” Copeland said. “Brown, he’s ready to go.

“It’s going to be exciting. They don’t get to play on the big stage often like that.”