Monday, August 20, 2018

The best get put to the test... plus more reactions from the opening weekend of the 2018 high school football season

Juanya Dove (left) and Leon Mcgee (right) stepped into leading roles for Burke County.

The opening weekend's most exciting football game from our area finished after midnight on Sunday morning when Benedictine, which GPB Sports ranked #5 in its class 3A preseason poll, stopped Burke County (class 4A's #3 ranked team) on an attempted 2 point conversion with 47 seconds remaining to preserve a 1 point win for the Cadets.

This 20 minute long full highlight reel from the game shows a clash of styles and provides a fascinating contrast between Benedictine's balanced and dynamic offensive machine and Burke County's bruising, straight forward ground attack:

No objective observer could have watched the Bears in Saturday's season opener at Paulson Stadium on Georgia Southern's campus and decided that they will take a step backward this season despite the fact that many key members were lost from last season's 12-1 region championship squad.

Quarterback Juanya Dove and running back Leon Mcgee (168 rushing yards and 2 TDs), both juniors, were not featured in leading roles last season. But they wasted no time letting us know they intend to pick up where playmakers like Damari Kelly and Jaylen Odom left off by the end of last season's quarterfinal run in the class 4A state playoffs. And despite the changes in the names of the players in the backfield, the push from the offensive line looked every bit as strong as that of last year's group as the Bears ran for 366 yards.

Safety/RB Chadd Crumbley covered tons of ground for the Bears. Photo credit: Larry Smith

On the other side of the ball, senior strong safety Chadd Crumbley, who on Saturday was the Bears' most dynamic playmaker, led a stingy defense that held the Cadets to their lowest scoring total in the program's last 27 games. Crumbley stuffed the stat sheet with an interception, a solo sack as well as another with the help of teammate Eric Laforce, and two tackles for a loss.

The Bears return to Waynesboro Friday to host Ware County in the first of 4 consecutive home games. The loyal fans who made the trip to Statesboro Saturday know that the home town has a lot to look forward to in the 2018 Burke County Bears.

North Augusta made a statement with a win a long time in the making

I can't imagine a more high profile matchup between two area teams in the opening week of the season than one featuring North Augusta and Thomson shown live on WJBF's airwaves. (The two football powerhouses last met in 1924!) And these post game highlights show that North Augusta's offense may not be nearly as affected as many of us expected by the loss of last season's quarterback Landon Washington (now at Edward Waters), receiver Dejuan Bell (Furman) and running back Derius Gibson (South Carolina).

Sophomore running back Jacari Buckson rushed for 165 yards, and senior quarterback Tanner White, a transfer from Midland Valley, made some nice throws before leaving the game with an injury. But in my cursory viewing of WJBF's Sunday replay of the game it was senior linebacker Caree Collier who stole the show. You can tell by the tone of his voice in this post game interview with the Augusta Chronicle that Collier relished the opportunity to help North Augusta's defense stop Thomson's heralded backfield of Damekus Taylor and Bubba Murray during the fourth quarter after Thomson threatened a second half comeback.

Aquinas, Richmond, and Lakeside all started fast

Aquinas coach James Leonard has made it clear that last season's 7-4 record did not live up to his standard of excellence. And even though in his conversation with the Augusta Chronicle after the Friday's win he was critical of his offensive line's performance, it feels like his Fighting Irish took the first step towards living up to his expectations with a dominant win over Laney.

When Aquinas visits Harlem Friday, I'll be there for an early season test for the Irish and the season opener for the Bulldogs.

Richmond posted its highest point total since 2016 in its season opening win over former region foe Hephzibah:

As the Augusta Chronicle's David Lee noted in Sunday's edition, Lakeside won its first opener since 2011 Friday, topping Midland Valley 33-22 behind 137 yards and three rushing touchdowns by quarterback Jaden Taylor, who made his first start at the position. The Panthers will try to make it two in a row Friday when they visit South Aiken, which fell 28-14 to Greenwood Friday.

South Aiken is led by quarterback Jesse Sanders, who also made his first start Friday. Sanders, a junior, made an impact as a receiver last season, and he looks like a promising QB in these highlights from Friday's loss:

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