CONYERS - As if things weren't hard enough for slumping Heritage, now defending Region 8-AAAA champion Loganville awaits.
The Patriots, who have lost four games by an average of less than eight points per game, will attempt to slow down one of the region's top offenses. The Red Devils are averaging 31 points per game and boast one of the top college prospects in the state, running back Storm Johnson, to go along with a passing attack that can be lethal and an offensive line that's among the region's best.
"They are very talented on offense; very explosive," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said of Loganville, which snapped a three-game losing streak in the series with a 26-7 victory in Conyers last season. "The Johnson kid, he's the best running back we'll see this year; he's big, he's fast and he's strong and he's definitely a Division I talent. You compliment that with a big strong quarterback with a great arm and a big lineman that's already committed to Georgia Tech (Morgan Bailey). They're solid, fun to watch the other nine games, not this one."
While Loganville (2-2) has the potential for fireworks on offense, the Heritage defense is certainly capable of limiting the damage. In five games, the unit has allowed just 65 points (13 per game) and the rush defense has been particularly solid. It'll need to be again to contain Johnson, who ran for three touchdowns last weekend against Cedar Shoals.
"We have some things defensively that we think are going to be successful against them," Frazier said. "Coach (Eric) Godfree and them, they do a very good job; that's a well-coached team. They make very few mistakes as far as turnovers or penalties. It's going to be a challenge, but we're certainly up for it."
On the other side of the ball, Frazier and his staff are still trying to figure things out. An offense that returned Division I prospect Garry Peters, among other playmakers, has yet to take off. The offense has been held to 14 points or fewer in all five games, including three or fewer in losses to Salem and Winder-Barrow.
Frazier will attempt to reverse the old axiom of "the best offense is a good defense," hoping a good Heritage offense will be the best defense against high-powered Loganville.
"Well, to slow down their offense we're going to try and play keepaway; we're going to try and keep the ball as long as we can," Frazier said. "(Tuesday) was one of our best practices all year (and) we're just a few clicks away from maybe being a 4-1 (team). I don't know about 5-0 because Salem really put it on us, (but) we're just a few clicks away from being a very good team. I still believe in our kids, and they believe in us and themselves. They've come out this week working as hard as they did in the first week."
While the Patriots' playoff hopes grow slimmer by the week in one of the most competitive regions in Class AAAA, Frazier is still optimistic his team can turn it around.
"This region is almost even all the way across," he said. "In this region, anybody can win a game against any other team. It's just about a win-them-all scenario for us now. As long as we got a shot at the postseason, we're going to work hard."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: If you go
· Who: Heritage Patriots (1-4) at Loganville Red Devils (2-2)
· Where: Red Devil Stadium
· When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
· Last week: Heritage lost to Clarke Central 14-10; Loganville defeated Cedar Shoals 35-7
· Series: Loganville leads 4-3
· Last year: Loganville won 26-7