It hasn’t been an easy last four weeks for the Heritage football team. The Patriots, trying to reach the state playoffs for a school-record fourth consecutive season, began the year 3-1, though the three wins came by a total of just 15 points. Things began to unravel after that.
It started with a blowout loss to defending state champion Gainesville, and though the Patriots rebounded the following week with a victory over Winder-Barrow, Clarke Central and Flowery Branch spent the previous two weeks beating Heritage by a combined score of 56-3.
That included last weekend’s 33-0 loss to Flowery Branch, Heritage’s first defeat by shut out since September, 2009. The Patriots lost a fumble inside the Flowery Branch 5, which led to a long Falcons’ touchdown drive, a bad snap on a punt allowed the Hall County school to score another touchdown, and the receiving core dropped a pair of potential touchdowns.
“It’s very frustrating because…we’re not doing anything on offense,” said first-year Patriots’ coach Mike Parris.
Heritage can erase a lot of the recent misfortune and get back to the state playoffs with wins in its final two games, starting Friday in Walton County. Loganville, which is going in the opposite direction as Heritage (three consecutive victories after a 1-3 start), is 3-2 in league play and a half game ahead of 3-3 Heritage. But if the Red Devils don’t win on their home turf this weekend, to get to the state tournament for the first time since 2010 it will have to win both of its final two games, one of which is against powerful Gainesville, and hope Heritage loses its regular season finale November against Apalachee, which comes into this weekend winless.
After two months of growing pains for a youthful team that had to replace 10 starters on defense and several on the offensive side of the ball, Parris’ new group still has a shot at playing at least one extra game.
“We’re a young football team and it shows. (But) like our told our kids, this is it. It’s either if you want to play more and you what to make the playoffs, you better win, if you don’t you’ll go home,” Parris said. “That’s the bottom line.”