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Heritage hosts defending state champ Friday

The Heritage football team has been living dangerously through the first month of the season. While the Patriots are off to a 3-1 start overall, including two victories in Region 8-AAAAA play, all three of those wins came in the closing seconds of regulation or in an extra session.

In week one, the Patriots got a late touchdown run by Ryan Sutton to hold off Northgate; after a two-point loss to Rockdale in week two, Heritage held off another rival, Salem 17-12, then last weekend an Austin Kulp field goal in overtime was the difference in a 17-14 victory over Cedar Shoals.

Three wins by a combined 15 points.

Now comes the hard part.

Heritage will try to stay unbeaten and tied atop the region standings when it hosts defending Class AAAAA state champion Gainesville on Friday. The Red Elephants are led by Clemson commitment and rivals.com’s No. 23 prospect in the Class of 2014 Deshaun Watson. The quarterback, who threw for 372 yards in last week’s 49-6 win over Apalachee, according to Georgia High School Football Daily, leads an offense that is averaging over 47 points, including 117 in two region victories.

Heritage’s struggling offense, which has scored just 55 points in four games, is hoping a huge night from Anthony Stanley against Cedar Shoals carries over into Friday’s game. Stanley, just a sophomore, had 195 rushing yards, including two long touchdown runs of 71 and 51 yards in the victory.

While the offense has slumped, the Patriots’ defense, a staple of three consecutive state playoff teams from 2010-2012, appears to be just as strong in 2013.

Heritage has allowed an average of less than 11 points, though it hasn’t faced a team as capable offensively as Gainesville.

Last year’s meeting in Hall County, which Gainesville won 42-14, was the first time the schools met on the football field.

Friday, Heritage is hoping to even things up.