After one half of football last Friday it looked as if Heritage was headed for unfamiliar territory: a losing record after three games. The Patriots had collected just 54 total yards and trailed rival Salem 6-3 as the teams left the locker room for half number two. Fortunately for the Patriots, order was restored rather quickly.
Heritage scored a touchdown on its first possession of the second half to take the lead for good and held off Salem to win for the fourth consecutive time in the series.
The Patriots, who are 2-1 overall and 1-0 in Region 8-AAAAA heading into this weekend’s game at Cedar Shoals, avoided losing two of their first three games, which hasn’t happened since 2009. Instead, the Patriots can look at the positives in a second half in which they didn’t give up points until Salem scored a touchdown with 48 seconds left in the game, and an offense that not only scored on that initial drive, but had a tremendous drive that effectively put an end to the host Seminoles’ upset bid.
Leading 10-6 early in the fourth, Heritage embarked on a 16-play, 91-yard drive that ate up more than eight minutes on the clock, and when C.J. Stone scored on a two-yard run on fourth-and-goal, the Patriots had an 11-point lead and Salem only one minute 38 seconds remaining to score twice.
Blade Reid, who scored the Patriots’ touchdown on the first possession, carried seven times for 49 yards on the long drive. Heritage picked up 98 total yards on their two second half touchdown drives after the paltry first half total. It was one of those defining moments for a team hoping to return to the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
“Ninety-yard drive that we had was critical. I think the biggest thing was we finally figured out…we came out in the second half and did what we were supposed to do. I’m real proud of them,” said first-year Patriots’ coach Mike Parris. “Mentally we needed (the victory).”
Now that Heritage has its two rivalry games out of the way (they won at least one of the two games for the sixth straight year), in can look forward to seven consecutive weeks in rugged Region 8.
The stretch starts with Friday’s game in Athens. Cedar Shoals is off to an 0-3 start, including last week’s 39-25 loss to Flowery Branch. Despite the second half scores against Salem, the Heritage offense has struggled for much of 2013 (averaging less than 13 points per game), but the Cedar defense (allowing an average of 35 points) could be just what Heritage needs.
“We got a lot of getting better to do,” said Parris. “We’re going to keep getting better.”
Cedar Shoals is 11-9 all-time against Heritage, but hasn’t won since a 17-0 shut out in Conyers in November, 2008.
IF YOU GO
Who: Heritage Patriots (2-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA) at Cedar Shoals Jaguars (0-3, 0-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Waters-Wilkins Stadium, Athens
Last week: Heritage defeated Salem 17-12; Cedar Shoals lost to Flowery Branch 39-25
Series: Cedar Shoals leads 11-9
Last season: Heritage won 21-0