Ball-handling key as Pats host Raiders

Heritage coach Chad Frazier didn't hesitate when asked what his team needed to work on from last weekend's season-opening loss to Salem.

"Ball-handling, securing the football," the coach said. "Just to make sure we put a priority on that, we went back in some of our drills that we did back in the summer."

Frazier wasn't exaggerating the need for the Patriots (0-1) to hang on to the ball when they host Habersham Central (0-1) on Friday. Heritage lost three fumbles against Salem, the second of which came on a muffed punt return by Jermonte Lowe that led to the Seminoles' first touchdown.

"(Lowe) got the ball ... and he tried to make a move, and when he did, the Salem defender got his arm in and stripped it away," Frazier said.

Frazier said the turnovers hurt, but he also thought Salem was a lot tougher than his players expected and that his own play-calling could have been better.

"I just think Salem just hit us like we weren't expecting," he said. "(Friday's game will have) a little bit different approach to the play-calling. I could've called a much better game."

It wasn't all bad in last week's 21-3 loss. The running game was effective, especially during Heritage's first offensive possession. Quarterback Andre Wilson rushed twice for 29 yards and Devon Holmes had an eight-yard scamper before Tyrone Brown coughed up the first of the fumbles.

Though the passing game was non-existent (12 yards), the rushing attack averaged 4.3 yards per carry.

"We were running the ball effectively; I got away from it at times," Frazier said. "What's the answer? Coach Frazier's got to do a better job of calling the plays."

The offense will get a boost with the return of Clemson commitment Garry Peters. The wide receiver/defensive back was suspended for the Salem game for a violation of team rules. Frazier expects the 6-foot, 173-pounder, ranked as Rivals.com's No. 15 prospect in the state, to have a big impact against Habersham.

"He'll see some action, mostly at wide receiver and at quarterback; he'll be returning kicks and playing defense," Frazier said. "As long as he doesn't make any mistakes, he won't come off the field."

The head coach is also hoping his defense, which only allowed 204 total yards to Salem, will continue to play well against Habersham's Power I, which features quarterback Austin Brown.

"Offensively, we didn't help (the defense) by not getting many first downs, (and) the defense got stuck on the field," Frazier said. "A couple of third-and-long situations that we didn't get off the field, that was disappointing. Other than that I thought the defense played really well; I was pleased. Last year, we did an excellent job of shutting (Habersham) down; they scored 12 points, and one of the touchdowns was on a busted play. I look for the same this year."

Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at kurt.aschermann@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

· Who: Habersham Central (0-1) at Heritage (0-1)

· When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

· Where: Evans Memorial Stadium

· Last week: Habersham Central lost to Cedar Shoals 16-13; Heritage lost to Salem 21-3