The first quarter of the high school football season in Middle Georgia has provided plenty of excitement, but Week 5 offers up some big competitions.
The Telegraph has selected three feature matchups to watch.
Here are the details and our staff picks:
Houston County vs Veterans
7:30 p.m. Friday at Freedom Field
Story of the game: The Houston County Bears won four games combined over the previous two seasons. But this year’s team is different. They have already won four games including an overtime thriller last week against Peach County, one of the top teams in the state. The Bears now head into a rivalry game against the school that they share a field with, the Veterans Warhawks.
The Warhawks suffered their first defeat of the season last week against Statesboro by a score of 29-19. Veterans will be looking to bounce back against Houston County to start gaining some momentum heading into region play in a couple of weeks.
Keys to the game for Houston County: This team is coming off an emotional game last week after taking down Peach County on a two-point conversion in overtime. It will be important for the team to start fast. Expect to see quarterback Max Rigby try to get the ball in the hands of the team’s playmakers like Kyah Plummer and Jaylen Mills. These two speedsters can turn a short screen pass into a touchdown in a hurry.
Keys to the game for Veterans: Houston County’s Wesley Steiner is one of the top players in the country, and for good reason. The linebacker is rangy and can hunt down opponents from sideline to sideline. The Warhawks will need its offensive line, wide receivers and maybe the whole city to help block this kid and open up lines for a pair of dynamic ball carriers. Lebron Fields and Julian Barnes have been a force so far this season with finding the end zone on multiple occasions. It will be important for the pair to be given the chance to make something happen against a stout defense headline by a future Auburn Tiger in Steiner.
Staff pick: Houston County
Peach County vs Mary Persons
7:30 p.m. Friday at Mary Persons
Story of the game: A season ago, these two teams battled it out the entire game until a Daniel Lavelle scoop-and-score touchdown off of a fumble put the game away for Mary Persons. The Bulldogs blew out most teams on its schedule a season ago. This year each game has been decided by one score or less, something that didn’t happen once last season in the regular season for Mary Persons. The team is coming off a 29-27 loss to Lovett last week.
Peach County is coming off a similar heartbreaking loss at the hands of Houston County in overtime. The Trojans have endured a tough stretch of games against some of the state’s top teams.
Keys to the game for Mary Persons: The Bulldogs need to control this game in terms of possession time. The Peach County team has a dynamic offense known for quick-strike scores. Running back William Stewart is coming off a performance of over 200 yards rushing and will once again be counted on to put together a good game.
Keys to the game for Peach County: The Trojans can’t let the loss from last week carry over. Expect this to be a team coming out with something to prove after suffering its first loss this season. Look for Noah Whittington to have a big game. He is a guy who can line up at running back or wide receiver and make a big impact at either. Quarterback Jaydon Gibson has great chemistry with both Whittington and fellow wide receiver Justin Harris. This could be a chance for the Trojans to take advantage of an inexperienced defense.
Staff pick: Peach County
Northeast vs Central
7:30 p.m. Friday at Thompson Stadium
Story of the game: This is a rivalry game that should provide good action as the Central Chargers have bragging rights from last season’s 27-2 victory over the Raiders.
The two teams come into the game with a single win between them through the first three games on their schedule.
Northeast grabbed its first win in last week’s game, a 56-6 win over Manchester. The Raiders have been competitive in all three games this season and will look to build off of that performance.
Central is coming off a 34-33 loss to Southwest and came up just short in the final minutes of the game.
Keys to the game for Central: Quarterback Jalik Thomas and running back Maurice Elder are one of the best duos in Middle Georgia. Each are tremendous athletes who are dangerous once they get into space. In the game against Southwest, both rushed for over 100 yards in the game and Thomas nearly reached 200 yards passing in the game as well. If Thomas and Elder are able to put together big games then the Chargers could finally break through with a win this season.
Keys to the game for Northeast: Running back Deondre Duehart is capable of being an every-down workhorse that can turn a game on a single play. He finished with 150 yards in the team’s last game and had three touchdowns in the performance on just six carries. Expect the Raiders to feed him the ball when he is on the field. If the Raiders can have Duehart rush over 100 yards and a couple of scores, they should be able to pull out a victory in this one.
Staff pick: Northeast