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Heritage opens football season at Northgate

A new era of Heritage High School football officially begins tonight in Coweta County. The Patriots, fresh off a school-record third consecutive appearance in the state playoffs, will travel to Northgate at 7:30 p.m. for the season opener with a brand-new head coach.

After Chad Frazier led the program to its finest three-year stretch (25-9 with the first region championship and a trip to the second round of the state tournament in 2011) and accepted the athletic director/head football coaching position at Villa Rica High School, Mike Parris was named the Conyers school’s eighth head coach.

Parris is one of the most successful active coaches in the state, having went 35-11 with Forest Park from 1992-1995, and reaching the state semifinals in his final year at the Clayton County school. He moved over to Jackson from 1996-2012 and went 123-67 in 17 seasons, again reaching the semifinals in 2000. Now he’ll look to keep the county’s finest team on top. “It’s been different,” said Parris.

“When you’re at a place for as long as I was, 17 years, everything you do is going to be a little bit different. It’s been great, we got a lot of things done, got a lot of things accomplished. The kids have worked real hard, been real proud of the way they’ve worked.”

Parris opens his tenure at Heritage with a visit to Northgate in a rematch of a defensive struggle from last season’s opener. In the schools’ first-ever meeting, Heritage hung on for a 9-7 victory, which propelled the Patriots to a 4-0 start and an 8-3 overall record.

Following an 11-win season in 2011 that ended in the second round of the state playoffs, Northgate slipped to 5-6 a year ago, though the Vikings did win three of their last four games to slip into the playoffs. The Northgate defense, which allowed an average of 18 points per game in 2012, lost three stand outs in DeAndre Johnson, now at the University of Georgia, Brandon Facyson (Virginia Tech) and defensive end Sean Spencer.

“I know they’re a good football team. They had a tough game against Heritage last year and lost so I know they’re going to be ready to play,” Parris said of Northgate. “I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes, to see how we’re able to respond against a good football team.”

IF YOU GO

Who: Heritage Patriots at Northgate Vikings

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday

Where: Henry Seldon Field, Newnan

Last season: Heritage went 8-3, Northgate went 5-6

Last meeting: Heritage won 9-7 last season

Series: Heritage leads 1-0