CONYERS - After a 1-5 start, the Heritage football team is coming off a benefical bye week as it prepares for Friday's clash with visiting Madison County at Evans Memorial Stadium.
The main benefit for the Patriots was in the health department.
"We tried to get healthy, rested and caught up on things. We covered a lot of fundamentals and did a good bit of scrimmage with our younger kids," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. "Yes, it was beneficial in getting a few players back on the field who we've missed over the last few weeks due to injury."
At 1-5, Heritage's playoffs hopes are gone for this season, but the Patriots could play the role of spoiler starting this week against Madison County (5-2).
"Our goal is to win the next game," Frazier said. "We just take one at a time."
The Red Raiders had been one of the hottest teams in Region 8-AAAA until last week's 37-22 loss to Loganville. Prior to that, Madison County had won five straight games after losing its opener to Rockdale 28-6.
"Madison has had their success by making plays in crucial situations.They have had a knack this year for stepping up their game in critical moments to get a defensive stop or an offensive score," Frazier said. "They have also had a lot of success in their kicking game. They have scored a lot of points returning kicks this year. That's always a part of the game that doesn't get enough credit, but Madison is 5-2 in large part due to special teams."
The Red Raiders, who are tied for second in 8-AAAA with Clarke Central, are one of the region's highest scoring teams at 27 points per game, so they should offer a strong test for Heritage's defense, which is the fourth stingiest in the region, surrendering 16 points a game.
"Defensively, we'll need to contain their skill guys, tackle well and not give up the big play," Frazier said.
Two weeks ago, Heritage recorded its highest offensive output of the season in a 35-24 loss at Loganville. In its first five games, the Patriots scored only 39 points and are averaging 10.3 points a game.
Madison County's defense is surrendering 22 points a game and could offer Heritage another opportunity for a big offensive output.
"Offensively against Madison County, we need to be solid in our reads and execution," Frazier said. "We feel we have a sound game plan to attack their defense, we'll just need to go out and execute."
Even though the Patriots have dropped three games in a row, they've lost those games by just a combined 21 points, which has been a common theme this season for the Patriots.
"Losing close games has taught me two things. One, we are very competitive, so we know we're headed in the right direction. Two, we're still missing that extra something that will help us get over the hump," Frazier said. "It always comes back to doing the little things right and paying attention to detail. We're trying some different strategies in some areas of our program to help us get over that hump that has kept us from winning the close ones."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If you go
· Who: Madison County Red Raiders (5-2) at Heritage Patriots (1-5)
· Where: Evans Memorial Stadium, Conyers
· When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
· Last week: Madison County lost to Loganville 37-22; Heritage had a bye
· Series: Heritage leads 2-0
· Last meeting: Heritage won 28-22 in 2005