Here is a look at the featured high school football matchups of the week.
Houston County vs Warner Robins
7:30 p.m. Friday at Freedom Field
Story of the game: The two teams come into this game with identical 4-1 records and have both scored exactly 157 points in those five games. On paper, this game is evenly matched and should come down to the wire.
The Demons are coming off their best performance of the season with a win over rival Northside by a score of 39-0. The offense looked relatively balanced but leaned heavy on the run game. The defense on the other hand never let Northside establish its running game as it allowed under 30 yards for the game.
Houston County returns to action this week after a bye week and taking its first loss of the season to Veterans in a 7-2 defensive battle. The Bears have done a good job this season of limiting turnovers and capitalizing on the ones they create.
Keys to the game for Houston County: Through the first five games of the season, Houston County’s Max Rigby has thrown just one interception. His ability to protect the football this season has been the biggest reason for this team going from 4-16 over the last two years to 4-1 this season.
Outside of a pair of blowout wins over Rutland and Perry, the Houston County offense has failed to run the ball effectively.
Rigby for the most has been able to make up for that with passing the football. The Bears must find a way to establish a run game to try and take the pressure of Rigby. It won’t be easy as the Demons run defense seems to be getting better as the season wears on.
Keys to the game for Warner Robins: The Demons have relied on the run game through most of the first five games. The Bears present a challenge because the run defense is stout and each yard is earned. Warner Robins will need quarterback Jalen Addie to be at his best against Houston County.
Addie has all the natural gifts to be a special talent at the quarterback position but is still getting used to the job. Against Northside he looked comfortable making throws from the pocket.
He has a group of talented wide receivers who are dangerous both after the catch and on the deep passes. The biggest factor in the outcome of this game will be Addie’s ability to get the ball to his playmakers while withstanding the pass rush from Houston County.
Staff pick: Warner Robins
Howard vs West Laurens
7:30 p.m. Friday at West Laurens
Story of the game: The Howard Huskies knocked of West Laurens last season for just the second time in the school’s history in a 16-10 defensive battle. The Huskies come into this game off a bye week and are on a four-game win streak. Howard is averaging 36 points per game on offense and hasn’t given up more than 21 points in a game since the season opener against Jones County.
The Raiders are 4-1 on the season and bounced back from the first loss of the season with a 21-7 win over Statesboro last week. This is a team that averages nearly two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. This has allowed them to come from behind for wins and extend their leads to avoid late-game rallies by opposing teams.
Keys to the game for Howard: This offense goes through running back Jeremiah Kelly. He is a quick back with the ability to change the entire outcome of the game on any given touch. His ability to jump cut while moving forward with a burst is like watching poetry in motion.
Kelly is one of the best players in Middle Georgia and has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in every game but one this season. He has also scored at least one touchdown in every game this season. Kelly must set the tone for the Huskies early.
Kelly can take the home crowd factor out of the game early on if he can string together some big runs to get Howard on top early. West Laurens isn’t a team that you want to have hanging around in the fourth quarter in front of their home fans.
Keys to the game for West Laurens: Senior quarterback AJ Mathis has been one of the biggest factors in the Raiders hot start to the season. In every win this season, Mathis has tossed a pair of touchdown scores. If he is able to find passing lanes and can exploit something in the Howard pass defense then they will have a good shot at winning this game. The Huskies defense is stingy and routinely turns even the smallest mistake into a turnover. Mathis will not only have to find a way to make the big plays for his offense but also avoid costly turnovers.
Staff pick: Howard
Northeast vs Dodge County
7:30 p.m. Friday at Thompson Stadium
Story of the game: The teams come in with identical 2-3 records. Dodge County ended a three-game losing streak last week by beating Southwest 45-8, while Northeast had its two-game winning streak snapped last week 35-20 to Bleckley County.
Last year, the Dodge County Indians prevailed over the Raiders 37-15. This helped propel them to a second place finish in the region. Both teams did make the playoffs a year ago with Dodge County advancing to the second round while Northeast fell to a number one seeded Swainsboro. With region implications on the line, this game could set the tone for each team for the rest of the year.
Keys to the game for Northeast: Running back Deondre Duehart is the heart and soul of this team on both sides. He has returned interceptions for touchdowns, made game-changing tackles all while being the driving force behind an offense averaging nearly 30 points per game.
Duehart currently has almost 500 yards on 49 carries and has found the end zone 11 times. Duehart’s ability to break the big gain has defenses stacking boxes in order to stop him.
This has allowed Travion Solomon to settle into his role at the quarterback position. If Solomon can grow a bit more in the position by the end of the year, then this team could be dangerous come playoff time.
Keys to the game for Dodge County: This game is a battle of running backs as Daylon Gordon leads as the Indians number one offensive threat. He has over 750 yards on 93 carries and rushed for over six touchdowns on the year.
He has been the key cog for Dodge County but will continue to face a stacked team as Kade Harpe grows at the quarterback position. Gordon’s biggest obstacle in this game might be Duehart who has been a big part of Northeast’s ability to limited yards on the ground.
This game could come down to which running back has the better or which team has someone aside from these two step up.
Staff pick: Dodge County