By Rory Sharrock
Last year they were a neat story, a pleasant surprise of an otherwise dormant program that historically has failed to produce victories.
This year they are well known from Georgia to Oregon and perhaps the only thing that's surprising is that they're not undefeated.
Henry County (9-1, 8-0 Region 4-AA) followed up its historic first-ever playoff run in 2007 by repeating as region champions and hosting a first-round game versus Laney (7-3, 7-3 Region 3-AA) tonight at 7:30 p.m. in McDonough.
The Warhawks turned Friday nights into a fantasy football player's utopia as they scored at a record pace. Henry County's offensive firepower made players like quarterback Drew Little, tailback Quan Jones as well as wide receivers Jamal Patterson and Markeith Ambles habitual end zone visitors as the Warhawks averaged 32 points per game.
These rock steady seniors, combined with a solid group of playoff-tested underclassman, makes Henry County a serious threat to be the last team standing in Class AA at the Georgia Dome.
"We're not pumping Kool-Aid that's for sure. We've been here before, so we know what to expect," said Henry County head coach Mike Rozier. "The hay's in the barn. We've got 24 seniors back. They put this program on the map. The experience is big for our guys. Before last year this program had never been to the state playoffs. They reacted pretty good last year. Now we'll take that experience and hopefully it will be a positive thing for us."
Henry County ran away with the league crown and have a No. 1 seed in Region 4-AA, however, its not looking at the No. 4-seeded Laney Wildcats as an inferior club.
Laney lost three games by a total of seven points to Jefferson County, Toombs County and Swainsboro, with Jefferson and Toombs clinching playoff berths. The Wildcats also knocked off Dublin, who wound up winning the Region 3-AA title.
"Laney is unbelievable. I can't believe they're a No. 4 seed and they beat Dublin. They're big and by far the fastest team that we've played in three years," said Rozier. "The last team we saw like that was Peach County. They come out of the second toughest region in Georgia with Dublin, Jefferson County and Toombs. There's teams like Screven County and Swainsboro sitting at home and they could win a couple of rounds in the playoffs."
The Wildcats have a talented core of offensive players featuring quarterback Leonardo Myers, running back Eugene Moore, wide receviers Courtney Roundtree, James Bing and Cameron Stallings, who has alternated at quarterback and receiver, however, their calling card is their defense. Laney is giving 10 points a game and should present Little and company with their toughest test of the season.
Because of its convincing wins and rapid point production, all eyes are on Henry County to excel in only its second postseason appearence since opening its doors in 1954. However, these players have been ready for this moment since spring practice and they're ready to exceed all expectations by creating a new legacy of Henry County High School football.
"We've been waiting on this for a while. We went to Oregon (Nike 7 on 7 National Passing Tournament in Beaverton) and to Hoover (7-on-7 National Championship in Alabama). We've worked hard in practice and in the weight room. We can't lose this time. We have to win and make it to the (Georgia) Dome. I think about it (Georgia Dome) day and night. At school, at home, when I'm sleep -- I wake up thinking about it. Everybody's real excited. We're trying to make it to the Dome and make school history," said Jones.
If the Warhawks win, they'll face the victor of No. 2 seed Charlton County (9-1, 8-1) at No. 3 seed Fitzgerald (8-2, 5-2) next week at Henry County.