Peach County will look to derail the momentum of a North Murray team having its best season in program history when the Trojans host the Mountaineers in a GHSA Class 3A second-round playoff matchup at 8 p.m. on Friday.
The Trojans rolled to an easy 42-13 victory over Tattnall County in their playoff opener, but despite the lopsided margin, it wasn’t the performance head coach Chad Campbell had envisioned.
“We weren’t in the right frame of mind,” Campbell said. “We had our minds elsewhere, and when that happens, you might have a poor performance. We had some kids who weren’t focused like they needed to be and prepared like they needed to be. It’s my job to correct it and get it better.”
While Peach County has focused on its own mental preparation this week, it has prepared for a North Murray team that is looking to make the most of its first postseason appearance.
Since opening in 2009, the Mountaineers had never owned a winning record, much less earned a trip to the state playoffs. First-year head coach Preston Poag has engineered the emergence since moving over from Christian Heritage in the offseason, leading North Murray to eight wins, including a 28-14 triumph over Jackson County in the first round.
A late season quarterback change to his son, Preston Poag Jr., has spurred a four-game winning streak entering Friday night’s contest, the longest mark in program history.
Poag Jr. finished 11-of-15 for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week. The play of the sophomore has complimented senior tailback Brady Harper, who has accounted for 31 scores.
“They’ve got a good back who has scored a bunch of touchdowns for them, and they have a big offensive line,” Campbell said. “They changed the quarterback a few games ago, and they seem to be clicking a little bit better for whatever reason. We’re going to have to stop them running the football, and they’ll drop back and do some stuff, too, but I’m just wanting us to play better.”
One player who has performed well for the Trojans is quarterback Antonio Gilbert. The junior was locked in from the opening whistle against Tattnall County, executing a short passing game that looks to be peaking at the right time of the year on his way to tallying 277 yards on 21-of-29 passing.
Peach County (10-1) is blessed with dynamic playmaking ability on the edge in players like Devontae Howard and freshman Justin Harris, but highly sought after junior prospect Kearis Jackson gives the Trojans a weapon outside few teams possess. Last week was a breakout game for Jackson as the four-star talent hauled in 10 catches and looked dangerous every time the ball was in his hands.
“(Gilbert) has done a good job all year, and it seems like he’s throwing the ball better every week,” Campbell said. “He’s still learning, but he’s grown a lot this year. He’s understanding the game a lot better, and he’s taking what the defense is giving him. Sometimes those little short passes can turn into big ones, so we’ll just take what they give us.”