CONYERS -- Last Friday's game for Heritage against Salem was about as up and down as season openers get. Sure, the Patriots' ground game looked in mid-season form and the defense was able to hold its crosstown rival to just a pair of touchdowns -- one with the game already out of reach -- but there were plenty of things the Patriots and coach Chad Frazier can work on.
One was the penalties. Heritage, which is trying to return to the state playoffs for the second consecutive season after finishing 7-3 in 2010, accumulated 11 of them for 105 yards, though most came in a sloppy first half.
"We got called for a few chop blocks and we just have to improve on our technique," Frazier said. "We got called on a helmet-to-helmet contact between two linemen; you could call that every play. We need to improve on our technique (and) we'll work on addressing penalties in practice everyday to limit them in the future."
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots' rushing attack was dominant. Senior tailback Quami Stanley had just 18 yards after two quarters of play, but the second half was a different story. Stanley took the second snap of the third quarter and ran for a 64-yard touchdown to put Heritage up 17-0. Just as Salem looked poised to get to within six points early in the fourth quarter, the Heritage defense stuffed a fourth-and-seven from deep in its own territory. Then Stanley made a miraculous run, heading down the sideline, breaking through a sea of Salem defenders to complete an 86-yard touchdown run that all but clinched the Heritage win. Fellow senior Dominic Craft also collected 82 yards on the ground, many coming on a tremendous, change-of-direction, 47-yard touchdown run late in the game, helping the Patriots rush for 350 yards as a team. Not a bad start to the new season.
"Our rushing attack was strong Friday. We made some adjustments in the second half that gave us the opportunity to have a big rushing attack," Frazier said. "Quami Stanley and Dominic Craft are dynamic high school running backs; (they) have strength, vision and speed. Those guys have the ability to break open big plays at anytime. The offensive line I feel has improved week to week as well, led by three seniors: Harrison Baize, Brenton Wilson, and Trey Calcinore. This unit is going to allow those skill guys to thrive."
Things don't get any easier for Heritage as perennial Region 8-AAAA power Clarke Central invades Charles Evans Memorial Stadium for the home opener Friday. The Gladiators, who reached the state quarterfinals a year after playing in the state championship game, are led by senior tailback Quenshaun Watson, who rushed for 153 yards and three scores in a week 1 win over Cedar Shoals. Clarke can also beat you in the air, as sophomore quarterback Cameron Johnson showed with a four-touchdown performance against the Jaguars.
"We would love to get this win at home for the hometown fans. I know they'll be there Friday cheering for the Patriots and our kids will give them their best. And it would be great to go to 2-0," Frazier said. "Clarke is a formidable opponent and we have always played them tough."