December 8, 2021

Wittner preview of Sweet 16 match-up between the Braves and Astros

Courtesy of Mason Wittner and the Times-Georgian

(Franklin, GA) — Standing on the field at Staples Stadium after last Friday night’s 63-22 blowout of Monticello in the opening round of the Class AA state playoffs, Tim Barron expressed his dissatisfaction with his team’s mindset.

The Heard County High School head football coach thought his players executed well, but weren’t able to maintain their energy and focus throughout all four quarters of the victory.

This week the top-seeded Braves (9-2) turned their attention to their second-round bout with second-seeded Douglass. On Thursday, Barron pointed out a stark contrast in his team this week as it’s prepared for tonight’s 7:30 game against the Astros (10-1).

“It’s been a totally different mindset this week,” Barron said. “With social media and everything that’s gong on, and with Hudl, they know that Douglass is a really good football team. They know they’re about to be in for a war.”

Heard County senior running back/free safety Aaron Beasley, a University of Tennessee commit, added that the Braves are well-versed in renewing their focus and honing in on a new opponent.

“We’ve had plenty of games like that where we’ve had to bounce back the next week and play a tough game,” Beasley said. “It’s not new to us. We just know that we’ve got to come in and focus. Especially this week, because Douglass is a good team. They can beat us if our energy is down and our focus is down.”

Douglass enters tonight’s game with a five-game winning streak after cruising past third-seeded Pepperell, 34-0, at home last week.

The Astros rely on a run-heavy offensive attack behind senior Juan Powell, who serves as their dual-threat quarterback. He’s thrown for just 250 yards and five touchdowns this season, but has been lethal on the ground by running for 1,432 yards and racking up 19 rushing touchdowns.

“Powell is very, very explosive. A lot of what they do revolves around him and the run game,” Barron said. “I think the coaches do a really good job over there. They’re going to formation you, but they’re kind of like us. We may formation you, but we believe in running the football. We want to throw when we want to rather than because we have to. They’re the same way.”

Senior wide receiver/cornerback Quincy Shepherd noted the threat the Astro offense poses with the ability to lull opposing defenses into a daze before going for a strike through the air.

“We’re focused on stopping the run. We know they’re run-heavy,” Shepherd said. “For us cornerbacks, we’re focused on not going to sleep because they will pass the ball sometimes, too.”

The Astros are stout defensively, holding opponents to just 10.1 points per game this season. They’ve only allowed 15 points over the course of their current five-game win streak while recording three shutouts during that span.

“They play really good defensive, obviously,” Barron said. “They don’t give up a lot of points. I think they’re very, very similar to us in their mindset. They want to be physical, they want to play good defense. They execute extremely well.”

Douglass’ lone blemish is a 24-0 loss to Hapeville Charter in its sixth game of the season on Sept. 28. The Braves also faced the Hornets early on in the season and didn’t fare any better, losing 33-3 in their second game of the year.

Since suffering back-to-back losses to Hapeville Charter and Rockmart, Heard County has ripped off eight consecutive victories. With a renewed mindset and determination to extend their season, the Braves will look to record their ninth win a row in the second-round match tonight.

“Totally different energy level this week,” Barron said. “Hopefully, we will have a good crowd. We didn’t have much of a crowd last week. Hopefully, the rain’s gone and those folks from Heard County come out (tonight).”

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