Patriots travel to unbeaten Tucker in first round

The Heritage football team has seen some of the best teams in Class AAAAA during the 2013 season. Friday’s opener of the state playoffs is no different.

The Patriots will travel to Adams Stadium in Atlanta Friday to open the state playoffs against unbeaten Region 6-AAAAA champion Tucker. The Tigers, who had to hold off Mays 16-11 last weekend in what was the region 6 championship game, had been blistering opponents coming into that game. In winning its first 10 games of the season, Tucker has averaged over 50 points, including at least 55 points six times. It’ll be the toughest test to date for Heritage, but it shouldn’t be too big of a shock for the Conyers school to look across the field and see a dynamic offensive team.

The Patriots, who finished the regular season 6-4 and 5-3 in Region 8-AAAAA to grab the league’s No. 4 seed, have already seen Deshaun Watson and defending state champion Gainesville, who go into the state playoffs as a No. 1 seed, and high-powered No. 2 seed Flowery Branch, who lost to Gainesville 55-45 in the Region 8 championship game last Friday and average over 35 points themselves. Heritage has also played Clarke Central, a state playoff team that averages 26 points.

Tucker, which won its eight region crown in 13 years, relies on a powerful rushing attack that is led by the quartet of leading rusher Elijah Sullivan, Dominick Sanders, Joseph Farrar and Devin Towns.

For Heritage to pull the upset and get back to the second round for the second time in three years - the Patriots dropped a tight game to Allatoona in last year’s first round after reaching the round of 32 in 2011 - a continued improvement offensively is a key.

The Patriots, who are in the postseason for a school-record fourth consecutive season, were able to clinch the league’s final playoff spot thanks to wins, and 64 points scored, in its final two games, including a blowout win over Apalachee in the finale in which quarterback Ryan Sutton had his finest game of the year with three touchdown passes. That followed an eight-game stretch to start the season that saw the offense score just 88 points in 28 quarters and one short overtime session.

Tucker’s defense might not be very accommodating. The Tigers allowed an average of less than 14 points and held seven opponents to 12 or fewer points. The DeKalb County school, which will be playing Heritage for the first time, reached the state quarterfinals a year ago and the semifinals in 2010, which is sandwiched around an undefeated state championship in 2011.