The first full week of the high school football season is in the books.
And for several performers and teams throughout the Southern Crescent, it was one for the books.
Although there was a smattering of games two weeks ago, last Friday provided the first opportunity for most schools to get a look at someone other than their teammates on the football field.
And as is the case with most first games, there were some jitters, some penalty flags and some overall rough-around-the-edges action.
But also, fresh faces who showed up large and new reasons for teams to hope that this year will be different — greater even — than the last.
After covering Union Grove’s opening win against Locust Grove, and surveying the landscape of the first week, I can say that few, if any, teams offered up any shock and awe. Most of the good teams did what good teams do — take care of business against perceived weaker squads.
But in the realm of individual performances, there were some head-turners.
None perhaps bigger than Union Grove freshman running back Trevor Gear’s coming out party.
Anytime you have a freshman thrust into a starting roll, whether on the high school or college level — or a rookie in professional circles — you are always intrigued by what they could possibly do, while being equally tame in your expectations.
Which sets you up for what I experienced watching Gear run — surprise.
Gear is a hard-nosed, tough, between the tackles slasher of a back who already possesses some breakaway speed. When his first carry went for four yards, obviously you didn’t think much. But later on in the second quarter when those four-yard plunges began to turn into 11, 12 and 13 yard gashes, you began to think you might be witnessing the beginning of something special.
Of course, it’s just week one for Gear and Union Grove, and Locust Grove, despite having one of the best individual defenders in Cortez McDowell, will probably not be the most stout team defense Gear will see this year.
But still, 106 yards on 17 carries and a pair of touchdowns for a 15-year old freshman in big time high school football is nothing to sneeze at.
Over at Stockbridge, Malik Bryan and Maetron Thomas showed more reasons to believe that Stockbridge may possess one of the best tailback tandoms in the area. Bryan scored all for of Stockbridge’s touchdowns in its 32-7 win over Tri-Cities Saturday, and Thomas, a Charlotte commitment, had a long scoring burst called back.
The defense seems just as salty, if not more experienced, than last year. What remains to be seen is how a pair of young quarterbacks can help the offense keep pace when the likes of offensive powerhouses Griffin and Eagle’s Landing come calling in the meat of the Region 4-AAAA, Div. A schedule.
Same can be said for back-to-back state runners up, Lovejoy and its sophomore signal caller Quintarius Neely. Neely got off to a good start by leading the fourth-ranked Wildcats to a 41-12 win over rival Mundy’s Mill. But the game was a little closer than what the final score indicated.
Neely’s next tasks? Try at the hostile environment that is Moultrie to take on top-ranked Colquitt, and then on to Alpharetta the next week before coming home to East Coweta. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a largely untested sophomore. But we’ll know more about Lovejoy after this three-game stint.
Riverdale blasted North Clayton 47-0 in former Dutchtown defensive coordinator Terry Herrod’s head coaching debut. Meanwhile, Dutchtown and new coach Kevin Jones gave up 59 points in a loss to Griffin, but scored 35. The Sept. 20 matchup between those two schools should be fun.
Eagle’s Landing Christian is, well, Eagle’s Landing Christian. ELCA had no trouble in a 27-7 win over Briarwood Christian of Alabama. Up next is, perhaps, a revenge-minded Clinch County team, at Clinch County.
Meanwhile, Eagle’s Landing’s 41-10 route of Ola was the largest margin of victory for the school in nine years — a huge confidence booster for the high-flying Golden Eagles.
Oh, and remember what I said about Woodland being sneaky good? The Wolfpack won its fourth straight opener, defeating Walnut Grove 40-16. The Pack was up 33-0 at one point. But will get a true test Friday when it travels to Union Grove in the fourth annual Shane’s Rib Shack BBQ Bowl.
Buckle up folks. Somehow I don’t believe this season’s going to follow the script.
Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GabrielStovall1.