October 20, 2021

Times-Georgian preview of quarterfinal clash at Dublin

Courtesy of Mason Wittner and the Times-Georgian

(Franklin, GA) — For the second year in a row, the Heard County High School football team has advanced to the Class AA state quarterfinals and will be playing on Black Friday.

Tonight, the Braves (10-2) will travel southeast to take on Dublin High School for a chance to make their second consecutive state semifinal berth.

Heard County head coach Tim Barron, who has been calling the shots for the Braves since 2002, took a moment to reflect on what it means to be one of only eight Class AA teams still playing and have the opportunity to practice during the week of Thanksgiving.

“I used to think I wouldn’t be as nervous and all those things as I got further along in my career, but what you realize is how special those opportunities are and that you don’t get many of them,” Barron said. “You want to make sure that you take advantage of a great opportunity. For us to get to play, I appreciate it way more now than I did 20 years ago because you just don’t know how often you get those chances.”

On the day after Thanksgiving last year, top-seeded Heard County traveled to Thomasville High School to take on a fellow No. 1 seed. The Braves took care of business with a 28-14 win to punch a ticket to the semifinals, where their season ultimately ended with a 28-21 loss to eventual state champion Hapeville Charter.

Tonight’s third-round bout is once again a battle of top-seeded foes as No. 1 Dublin (11-1) emerged from its quadrant of the bracket with 49-14 drubbing of fourth-seeded Toombs County in the opening round and a 23-7 victory over third-seeded Thomasville last week.

The No. 1 Braves cruised to a 63-22 win over No. 4 Monticello two weeks ago before handing No. 2 Douglass a 27-6 defeat last Friday night.

The Fighting Irish are led by head coach Roger Holmes, who, like Barron, has been at the helm of the program since 2002. They run a high-powered Wing-T offense that has averaged 37.8 points per game this season, edging the Braves’ notable 29 points per game.

“Roger Holmes has been there for a lot of years. He is so good with that offense. Anything we give them, he’s going to have a counter to it,” Barron said. “If we give this certain front, or this alignment, he’s going to have something that counter balances that. He’s just good. He mixes up, he’s hard to get a beat on. That’s because he’s done it for so long. He knows that offense as well as anybody.”

Both Heard County and Dublin have been stout defensively as well this season.

The Fighting Irish enter tonight’s battle allowing 7.7 points per contest and have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 15 points. Meanwhile, the Braves give up an average of 12.75 points per game and have held opposing offenses to single digits six times.

With school being out and practice schedules being altered due to Thanksgiving break, remaining playoff teams across the state are tasked with combating distractions while preparing for their third-round games.

The issue of maintaining focus is one that that Barron would normally emphasize during a week like this. However, he says, it’s an issue he’s already addressed on a weekly basis throughout the year.

“We’ve shown when we’re not focused, we’re not engaged, that we can be really bad,” Barron said. “And we’ve shown when we’re focused, when we’re preparing the right way and we’re taking care of business on and off the field, we can be a pretty good football team. I think that since game two or three that we’ve driven that in them from start to finish.”

Seniors Zaylin Wood and Andrew Leak acknowledged that the threat of distractions is at a high this week, but that the key to overcoming that obstacle is sticking to what has gotten them this far into the postseason.

“You’ve really just got to stay on your Ps and Qs,” Wood said. “You’ve got to get ready and not really about that it’s Thanksgiving week. You just worry about the game that you play on Friday. Just get it done and accomplish everything that you need to.”

“It’s a blessing to be here,” Leak added. “We’re all on the same mission — trying to make it to state. Dublin is going to be a hard game, so we’ve got to work hard for it.”

Tonight’s game will begin at 7:30 p.m. The victor will take on the either Fitzgerald or Rabun County next week to fight for a spot in the Class AA state championship on Dec. 8.

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