Thursday, October 10, 2019

Riding a four game winning streak under first year head coach Lafayette Stewart, Fox Creek's players and coaches are making the most of their Fridays... and Saturdays too

Left to right: Nick Williams, Blake Shealy, Ryan Chavous, CJ Tillman and Jadon Johnson (Fox Creek)


After dropping a pair of games to begin the season, Fox Creek has run off four consecutive victories, and last Friday night the Predators earned their first region win since joining in 2018 South Carolina's class 2A, region 2, which first year coach Lafayette Stewart calls "the SEC West" of the Palmetto State.

Fox Creek knocked off Ninety Six 17-7 on the road Friday to improve to 4-2 overall and 1-0 in region play ahead of this Friday's road game against defending state champion Abbeville. Sophomore quarterback Jadon Johnson threw two touchdown passes to senior Jatonious Butler in the victory, and running back Ryan Chavous continued to pile up rushing statistics with 179 yards on 27 carries.

Jatonious Butler (Fox Creek)

In a recent conversation, coach Stewart praised his offensive coordinator, Cam Epting, and his defensive coordinator, Brett Johnson, for steering their units in the right direction during the current winning streak. Chavous's eye popping rushing numbers (11 touchdowns and just under 800 yards in the last 5 games) can be traced back to a move Epting made in the second half of Fox Creek's 21-14 overtime win over McCormick in week 3.

"Early in the season we had a couple fourth-and-inches or third-and-shorts we didn't get, so we implemented a goal line package," Epting explained Monday before the team's practice. "That really propelled us. It led us to a couple victories. It's not a closed book. This thing's open. We're adding to it every week."

Johnson also made adjustments on the defensive side of the ball to help spur the current winning streak. After surrendering 777 total yards and 11 touchdowns in the first two losses combined, Fox Creek has given up only one touchdown and 313 total yards in the last two games combined.

"We had a rough first two games defensively," Johnson said Monday. "We knew we had the right players on the field. What it's come down to in the last four games is getting them in the right position."

Coach Stewart's focus on "the next level"




In addition to the recent success on Friday nights, coach Stewart has brought to Fox Creek a methodical approach to exposing his players to opportunities to play college football. A scroll through the Fox Creek Twitter feed (see above) will reveal a series of Saturday trips to some of the highest profile college football games in the nation.

A small subset of the players who have been making unofficial visits to college games described their trips to me Monday afternoon. Quarterback Jadon Johnson watched from the sidelines as Georgia took on Notre Dame, and Clemson hosted Texas A&M. Johnson has also been to games this fall at South Carolina and Georgia Tech.

"What stood out for me was the environment of just being there, and being around a huge crowd there." Johnson answered when I asked him what it was like to be on the sideline for Georgia's home game against Notre Dame, which set a Sanford Stadium attendance record. "And having everyone looking at you, and noticing you, and the feeling that you get being on a visit at a big time college."

Nick Williams, a 6-4 and 300 pound sophomore tackle, also attended the games at Georgia, Clemson and South Carolina. And seniors Blake Shealy, CJ Tillman and Ryan Chavous have been to games at UNC Charlotte, Mercer and Furman already.



Watching college games up close and talking to the coaches and recruiting coordinators during the visits are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But such trips are part of a much larger process that Coach Stewart describes in the interview above. As he explains, the process begins with awareness on the players' part, which is facilitated by communication between the coaches and families of the players. Then comes the necessary academic achievement of the players, the attending of recruiting camps during the off season, the performance on the field during the actual season and an ongoing shepherding from somebody like Stewart, who has distinguished himself early in his coaching career as somebody who takes a special interest in facilitating his players' goal of graduating with the necessary skills and academic requirements needed to attend and graduate from college, while at the same time playing football on Saturdays!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Spirit Creek knocks off previously unbeaten Glenn Hills to finish regular season 5-0 ahead of next week's semifinals

Spirit Creek's Javaris Harris takes a handoff in Tuesday's win over Glenn Hills.

In Tuesday's battle between unbeaten Richmond County middle school teams, Spirit Creek used a formidable rushing attack to build a lead, and protected it late by forcing Glenn Hills to commit two turnovers in the second half as the Dolphins earned a 14-6 win on the road to secure a 5-0 regular season record and the top seed in the county's four team playoff, which starts next Wednesday.



Javaris Harris rushed for 149 yards on 12 carries, and Antwain Hendrieth logged another 42 yards on 5 carries, including a 14 yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Telly Johnson added an 11 yard touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter after Harris closed out the third with runs of 35, 24, 11 and 11 yards during a 72 yard drive that ate up nearly all of the time in the period following a Glenn Hills fumble.

That turnover was one of three in the second half by Glenn Hills. The fumble was forced by Johnson and Harris, and recovered by Corey Cooper at Spirit Creek's 28 yard line on the second half's third play from scrimmage.

Left to right: Javaris Harris, Antwain Hendrieth and James McDougald (Spirit Creek)


After the game, Spirit Creek coach Michael Collins credited his offensive line for creating the space for the Dolphins to gain 172 rushing yards on their first four possessions. And he commended his running backs for holding onto the ball during that turnover free stretch in which Spirit Creek built a 14-0 lead.

"Tonight was what you saw. It was tremendous. Our offensive linemen. Everything started up front," Collins said as he patted right guard Brian Bailey on his back. "We did what we had to do. Our running backs held on to the ball. The coaches coached well. We played together. Stuck it out. And here we have an undefeated season."

Spirit Creek Guard Brian Bailey

After falling behind 14-0, Glenn Hills benefitted from forcing a fumble themselves when Judd Brown stripped Harris and sixth grader Jarvis Singfield, who recorded 4 tackles during the game, recovered the ball on the Seminoles' 28 yard line. Glenn Hills then took to the air as quarterback Danny Daggett completed a short pass to Lejuan Meyers, who ran 15 yards the Spirit Creek 42 yard line. Then J'Kelyn Carroll took a pitch from Daggett and quickly unloaded a long pass to Jonathan Brown, who caught it and was brought down at the 6 yard line. James Pride, a big, strong and agile Seminole running back who proved throughout the game to be difficult to bring down, rushed for a 6 yard touchdown two plays later to bring Glenn Hills to within one score at 14-6.

James Pride (Glenn Hills) scored on a 6 yard touchdown run in Tuesday's loss.

Glenn Hills would have two more chances to even the score. The Seminoles were first denied when Corey Cooper shot into the Glenn Hills backfield and disrupted a handoff near midfield, allowing Hendrieth to pick the ball up off the ground and run it back to the Glenn Hills 28. After turning the ball over on downs, Spirit Creek got its third takeaway of the half when Willie Taylor intercepted a pass by Daggett near midfield to seal the win with 1:11 remaining.

Evans Middle Claims Columbia County Title


Brenden Reynolds (Evans Middle) rushed for 192 yards and 5 touchdowns Tuesday.

Evans Middle thrashed Lakeside 38-0 to finish its season 7-0 and win the Columbia County middle school championship. Its 14-0 win over Grovetown (see game highlights here) ensured the Knights would be their division's representative in the championship game. Evans got a standout performance by running back Brenden Reynolds, who rushed for 192 yards and 5 touchdowns, in Tuesday's win.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Georgia Soul is back and it has a head start on a successful return because of its record of success, its community ties, and its loyal following

(Standing) Left to Right: Chad Cook, Nesia Wright, Latasha Brown, Adrienne Terry, Reyna Adams, Laron Freeman
(Kneeling) Left to Right: Eboni Fields, Lacoya Terry

The Georgia Soul, a local semi-pro women's basketball team that attracted a significant amount of interest and earned many fans during a two season run in 2016 and 2017 that culminated in a Women's Blue Chip Basketball League national championship, will return for its third season this spring and summer, according to founder Ernesia Wright. Wright, a human resource officer at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, and a former Augusta University and Laney basketball star, spearheaded the team's first successful run. And she plans to use the positive experience of the Soul's players, coaches, support staff and volunteers during the first go around to make the most of the coming seasons.

"We want to get out in the community more," Wright said recently when she explained the organization's plans and described its core members.

The Soul has a head start on its plans to engage the community because of the return of star players who already live and work in the area, like Eboni Fields and Lacoya Terry, who are featured in the video highlights below from the Soul's 2017 national championship game comeback win over the St. Louis Surge.


Fields, who played college basketball at Francis Marion after graduating from Laney, is a first year head coach of Butler High School's girls basketball and volleyball teams. Terry, who starred at East Carolina and Hephzibah High, is an activity therapist at the Augusta State Medical Prison, and she also served as an assistant coach for Augusta University's women's basketball team.

The organization's website lists more than a dozen players and coaches and provides details about their backgrounds, including their hometown, educational achievements and current profession. Most of the names and faces will be familiar to fans of the Soul and of area basketball in general. Also listed is information about the team's tryouts, which will be held January 19 and 26 at Butler High. The season will run from May to August, and there will be a minimum of 8 home games on the schedule.

Players and staff members were present last Thursday at the 5th Annual Glenn Hills Alumni Games, and Reyna Adams, the Soul's director of basketball operations, played for her Lady Spartans against Hephzibah's alumni team, which was victorious due in part to a fine performance from Terry.


In the near future, you can find the Soul "out in the community" on Saturday, October 12, at Thomson High School for the CEO Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region event, and October 19 for the Pink Runway Breast Cancer Survivor Fashion Show at the Golden Artillery Dance & Tumbling Studio on Deans Bridge Road.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Jefferson County flexed its muscles Friday, taking sole possession of first place in the region with a convincing win over previously unbeaten Hephzibah

Kydran Jenkins rushed for 2 touchdowns and forced a fumble in Friday's win.

Jefferson County created and capitalized on three consecutive Hephzibah turnovers to turn a 20-7 halftime advantage into what became an insurmountable 36-7 third quarter lead on the way to its fourth straight win and its twelfth consecutive region victory. Friday's 44-28 result put the Warriors (4-2, 4-0) one game ahead of Hephzibah (4-1, 3-1), Harlem (3-3, 3-1), Screven County (5-1, 3-1) and Westside (3-2, 2-1) at the halfway point of the class 2A, region 4 schedule.



Kydran Jenkins rushed for two touchdowns as well as a 2 point conversion, highlighting an impressive all around performance by the Purdue bound senior linebacker. Jenkins also forced and recovered a fumble, he recorded a sack, and he logged numerous tackles at and behind the line of scrimmage, spearheading a defense that surrendered only 59 rushing yards.

The most important play Jenkins made might have been his strip of Hephzibah quarterback Marshall Chambers inside of Jefferson County's 5 yard line with less than a minute remaining in the first half that preserved a two-score Warrior lead at the break. Fellow linebacker Jacques Lewis then intercepted a pass by Chambers on the second play from scrimmage of the third quarter, which set up a 28 yard rushing touchdown by Jenkins. And on the ensuing possession, Nick Jordan, who also recorded two sacks and a hurry in the game, recovered another Hephzibah fumble and returned it for a touchdown to give the Warriors a 36-7 lead with just under 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Hephzibah responded in the final 18 minutes with three touchdowns, one on a 14 yard pass from Chambers to Jaiden Wofford, another on a 60 yard strike from Chambers to Erick Harris, and the third on a short run by Jalen Gibson. But a 3 yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter by Kydran Jenkins that was set up by a 54 yard gain by Azarell Jenkins put the Warriors ahead 44-15 and ensured that the outcome would not be in doubt during the final quarter.

Jefferson County's Captains: Jacob West (90), Desmond Beale (2), Cincere Whidbee (78)


Jefferson County played a nearly flawless first half, scoring touchdowns on three of its first four series and forcing three consecutive three-and-outs on Hephzibah's opening possessions. The Warriors' highly regarded offensive line cleared the way for a scoring drive on Jefferson County's first series when quarterback Carlton Brown rushed for 40 of the drive's 42 total yards, including a 7 yard score. On the next series it was Jefferson County's other quarterback, sophomore Izaiah Gaines, who accounted for the majority of the yardage, picking up 38 on a run up the middle and finishing the drive with a 3 yard touchdown run.

Jefferson County's final scoring drive of the first half came after Desmond Beale took a short pass from Gaines and ran 48 yards to Hephzibah's 23 yard line. Later on third and 15 Gaines and Jenkins barely missed connecting in the end zone. But on the next play the two tried again and that time Jenkins came up with the catch to put Jefferson County ahead 20-7.

Hephzibah's only score in the first half came on a 6 yard touchdown run by Enoch Howard that was set up when the Warriors muffed a punt on their own 14 yard line right before the end of the first quarter.

Stay tuned for coverage of this Friday's action because this will be the first week when EVERY team in the area will be fully engaged in region play!