To be considered one of the best in the state, sometimes a team has to win games in a variety of ways.
For Heritage, last Friday's game provided a new challenge, and the Patriots passed the test. Trailing by three points to Apalachee, Heritage took the lead for good before halftime and then hung on for a 22-17 win, moving the Conyers school to 5-0 for the first time since current athletic director Chuck Landy's team in 1998.
Coach Chad Frazier's bunch, which has won twice in come-from-behind fashion (also against Clarke Central in week two) and three times fairly comfortably against Salem, Loganville and Rockdale, recovered two key fumbles against visiting Apalachee to help secure the week five win. No surprise defensive stalwarts Ryan Watson and Chase Alford picked up the two fumbles and helped the underrated defense register a fifth consecutive sub-20 point game.
"I thought we handled it well. It was a close one, (Apalachee is) pretty good," Frazier said of the first half deficit. "They turned it over twice when they were close to our goal line, both fumbles, (and) our kids responded well through the adversity. (Watson and Alford) work so hard to be prepared, they take advantage of opportunities because of their preparedness, they're the leaders of our team. Great players make big plays in big ball games. It was a tight game and we were getting our noses bloodied and they fought back. I'll take 5-0, ugly or pretty. Either way."
Now, after playing two county rivals and having three home games, the unbeaten Patriots head out on their first true road trip of the season as week six brings a battle with Cedar Shoals. The Jaguars, who were off last weekend, are coming off a blowout loss at the hands of Class AAAA No. 4 Flowery Branch, but Frazier knows to expect a battle in Athens as the 2-2 Jaguars look to move back above the .500 mark. Tailback Rodney Willingham had a break out game against Rockdale and the Jaguars also own a victory over Habersham Central where the Athens school erased a 27-point deficit to win in week two.
"We saw them the first game on film against Clarke and then we saw them on film against Rockdale (two weeks later) and they were so much improved," Frazier said of Cedar. "Obviously we're pleased, but we got to revisit some fundamentals, specifically blocking. We got to get all of our guys blocking the way they're capable of doing. We got to get better at that. We have to go (to Athens), you know how that can be, you just never know."
If you go
• Who: Heritage Patriots (5-0) at Cedar Shoals Jaguars (2-2)
• When: 7:30 p.m. today
• Where: Waters-Wilkins Stadium, Athens
• Last week: Heritage defeated Apalachee, 22-17; Cedar Shoals was idle
• Series: Cedar Shoals leads 11-7
• Last season: Heritage won 13-6