MOULTRIE – When you start discussing an upcoming football opponent for Colquitt County High and rattle off some Division I Power 5 college names, it must be Grayson.
The Packers already took care of the Grayson Rams almost two weeks ago at home.
This time, the talk is about Trinity Christian Academy of Jacksonville. The Conquerors are up next this Friday on Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium, and on both sides of the football there are players who already made up their minds about the next level.
For Colquitt County, however, it is the final test before games start taking on double meaning. Under first-year head coach Justin Rogers, the 5-1 Packers are halfway through a stretch of nine games on nine straight Friday nights. When his team handled Alcovy High for Homecoming last Friday 52-0, Rogers made the decision to sit some players out for resting purposes, and when they met on Monday to prepare for Trinity Christian, he felt they looked in as good a shape as possible.
“We’re about as healthy as a team can be this late in the season,” said Rogers. “You are going to be banged up. There are going to be a lot of guys playing at 85 to 90 percent at this point, especially with the schedule we have. We have guys we’ve lost for the season, but other than that we pretty much have everybody back in the lineup.”
The changes for the Alcovy game were most noticeable along the offensive line. Kharullah Blount and Tyler Meads started on the right side with Thomas Barry at center, so Trey McCoy and Devene Jamerson took the night off.
“If we needed them, they could have played,” said Rogers. “We just felt it was smarter. They had some banged up ankles, so we wanted to let them have a chance to get a little further along for this final stretch.”
Trinity Christian is a football program used to competing at a high level. Last year the Conquerors reached one of Florida’s state semifinals (5A) with a 13-1 final record. The wins have not come as easy in 2019, with some names on their schedule familiar to Colquitt County followers. It all started with a 38-7 loss to the Columbia High squad the Packers scrimmaged in Lake City.
The Conquerors then played back-to-back double overtime affairs, splitting the two. They defeated Godby High of Tallahassee 45-42 but fell to Venice High 50-49. The slate also includes Miami’s Booker T. Washington High (lost 20-7 last weekend to drop to 3-4) and American Heritage (a 2016 visitor to Moultrie that’s 5-1 with a 31-17 win over Trinity Christian).
But who are the D-1 prospects? The first one to stand out on the stat list is Kyjuan Herndon, a transfer running back committed to Ole Miss. He’s at 144 carries for 1,205 yards (average of 173 per game) with 12 touchdowns. He was limited, however, to a season-low 73 yards by Booker T. Washington.
Conqueror cornerback Fred Davis, who will also play quarterback, committed to Clemson while his teammate in the secondary, Miles Brooks, committed to Georgia Tech.
Rogers described Herndon as that hard-nosed downhill runner who is dangerous in their gap schemes.
“They have a good quarterback, too,” said Rogers of Jacory Jordan. “They have two who have been playing. They are not scared to do some designed runs. They will give you some eye candy in the backfield. We just have to make sure we are on our keys.
“They are an extremely talented team, a big, long team.”
Well, the Packers themselves saw how one team, Warner Robins, stuck to a plan of loading the box and making sure another pretty good running back, Daijun Edwards, didn’t run roughshod on them (it worked, though Colquitt County won the game). So if that’s what you do scheming against Trinity Christian – take away that main rushing threat – no problem?
Not so fast, says Rogers.
“They have (6-3 junior Marcus Burke) who is extremely good,” he said about the receiver with 20 catches and six touchdowns. “He will go get a deep ball. He reminds you of a young Randy Moss. They put a lot of stress on you vertically and with the run game.”
Around a 200-pound center up front are guards both weighing in at 290 pounds and a tackle at 315.
“They are massive guys who can cover you up,” said Rogers.
The Conqueror defense, with those corners plus 295-pound nose guard William Tippins, will be tasked with slowing down the Packer offense that hasn’t slowed down since a 17-point season opener. Jaycee Harden threw his second five-touchdown game of the season against Alcovy and moved into third place on Colquitt County’s all-time list for touchdown passes (45). His 22 touchdowns this season already match his total for all of 2018.
“Jaycee’s understanding our system,” said Rogers. “You can see each week it feels like he’s getting more comfortable within the system.
“The receivers are doing a phenomenal job. One thing about the receivers that I really like – all of them, we have about seven or eight really good players – is they are so unselfish. They love each other. They celebrate with each other. They encourage each other. In this society, that’s rare. Usually it’s about ‘me,’ and they are totally not like that. That’s what’s made things go. We are able to throw to the open guy, and you don’t have anybody getting mad about it. They are happy for each other.”
On special teams, Rogers said he’s been looking for improvement all season, and he felt last Friday was the best all-around performance.
“We still have to do a better job understanding what we’re doing as far as staying in our lanes, definitely on our punts,” said Rogers. “Protecting the punter. A couple of weeks ago we had a problem with that. This past week was the most consistent we had in all areas.
“Tucker (Pitts) is a good kicker. We have good specialists. Max (Parker) is a good long snapper. We have to make sure we’re doing the little things within it.”