And now we get to see how the 2011 Heritage football team bounces back from its first bit of adversity.
After last week's 21-13 loss to Class AAAA No. 5 Flowery Branch, the Patriots were bounced from the ranks of the unbeatens.
There were positives to the eight-point loss to the Falcons, who in just their second season in Region 8-AAAA are in position to win the 10-year program's first league title. Heritage rallied from a 21-0 deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and had the ball on the Flowery Branch 11-yard line with less than a minute to play before the potential tying drive was stalled. Plus, the defense registered four sacks -- three by Ryan Watson -- and held a team that had been averaging 53 points per game coming in to just 21, and only seven after halftime.
"We struggled (but) just a testament to our kids, they never give up," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said after a festive crowd and Georgia Public Broadcasting's television cameras were packing up to leave Evans Memorial Stadium last Friday. "They have a good football team, we played with these guys. We belong on the field with anybody (and) I'm so impressed with our defense."
Despite the disheartening loss, Heritage is still off to its best start in the program's 36-year history at 7-1. But a big test awaits this weekend in Mt. Airy as the Patriots travel to upstart Habersham Central.
The Raiders, who were idle last week but sit at 4-3 and with a grasp on one of the region's four playoff spots, have been one of the league's highest-scoring teams. In seven games, Habersham has averaged more than 37 points per game and it's no secret how the Raiders are getting it done offensively. Quarterback Kevin Ellison has put his name of a short list of region player of the year candidates with his ability to beat you with his legs and through the air. After an emotional loss to Flowery Branch in what was probably the biggest regular season game in Heritage history, the Patriots will have the unenviable task of traveling a long way to try and stop one of the most exciting players in the state.
"He's going to be my vote for player of the year," Frazier said of Ellison, who also stars on the basketball team. "He has made them better. They're explosive and he makes them go. This will be our first test coming back a week after a loss (but) I'm sure our kids will respond."
A year ago, Heritage won a thriller, getting an overtime field goal, then stopping a faked field goal attempt by the Raiders to win 13-10. That loss snapped a four-game losing streak in a series Habersham has dominated (10-4 since the teams played for the first time in 1988).
"We got to go there, it'll be tough," Frazier said.