One of the most successful regular seasons in Heritage football history comes to a close tonight in Conyers.
As the Patriots, 8-1, prepare to close the Region 8-AAAA slate against Madison County, one eye is on the field at Charles Evans Memorial Stadium, but another will be focused on the Class AAAA state playoffs, which open next weekend.
Heritage is hoping to simply return to this same stadium for that first round playoff game, though the result in tonight's Flowery Branch-Clarke Central game will have an impact on which of the top three seeds Heritage finishes with.
The Patriots would need to beat Madison, then have Clarke Central win to force a three-way tie for the top spot. A tiebreaker scenario would take place whereas Heritage could get the No. 1 seed, or fall as far as No. 3.
No matter how the games with Madison County and the first round playoff match up turn out, it's already been one of the finest seasons Heritage has had in quite some time. The eight wins are the most the Patriots have collected since 2004 and a win tonight gives the Patriots nine wins for the first time since 1986. Meanwhile, after last season's playoff appearance, the school will play in two straight postseasons for the first time in the program's 36-year history.
"It's exciting to be in the position we're in. This season has definitely been a special one for our program and we look forward to where the future will take us," said Heritage coach Chad Frazier. "We are in the middle of the best season in program history and have a chance to host a home playoff game, at least in the first round. It's such a great feeling knowing all the work everyone has contributed to make this special season possible. It has been a total program effort."
The 2011 Patriots have relied on a defense that has surrendered more than 19 points just twice, and the big-play ability of tailback Quami Stanley, who scored three times in a week nine win over Habersham Central. On the other side, Madison comes in at 2-7, having defeated fellow league bottom feeders Rockdale and Winder-Barrow by a combined eight points. Despite the losing record, Frazier is aware that the Red Raiders are capable of scoring -- they've gotten 20 or more points in four of their nine games.
"Madison County poses a threat in that they have shown to be very multiple in their schemes," Frazier said. "Offensively they have shown two tight ends and run power and option, then they have the ability to spread you out and threaten the field vertically as well as horizontally with their passing game. They make it difficult to prepare for a game with so many different looks."