The Raiders are happy to put 2017 in the rearview mirror. The offense was one of the best that Habersham has ever had. That’s no typo. The 346 points marked the fourth biggest output and the second best per game average (34.6) in school history.
A large reason for that success was the trio of QB AJ Curry (2,495 pass yds, 15 TD; 800 rush yds, 13 TD), WR Jim Barnett (66 rec, 1,087 yds, 7 TD) and RB Baylor Hinshaw (936 yds, 11 TD). Unfortunately, those three were seniors and left huge holes to fill.
Fortunately, however, rising senior Donovan Curry returns to highlight the receiving corp, fresh off a 598-yd, 8 TD season in 2017. Curry also added nearly 400 yards in kick and punt returns, and had an interception for a TD last year.
At the running back position, the Raiders will lean on Daniel Matkovic, a senior who shined at times in 2017, posting 274 yards and 6 TD. Senior Tarin Westbrook (108 rec yds) and junior Arian Curry are sure to get some carries as well.
And then there’s QB. While AJ’s athleticism can’t be replaced easily, it’s a great situation for transferring senior Tre’ Luttrell to step in and continue what the Raiders did last season on offense. He tallied some 2,000 offensive yards in a similar manner as AJ did, collecting over 1,300 passing yards and over 500 rushing yards, scoring more than 23 TD.
Luttrell, some will remember, played first at Buford before going to Gainesville. He displayed his talent at City Park in 2017 against Habersham, heaving a Hail Mary 81-yd TD to tie the game in the closing minutes, and then lifted the Red Elephants to a win that was as great for Gainesville as it was heartbreaking for the Raiders. Now, he’s on the other team.
“When I first got here it was a little awkward” says Luttrell, whose dad and former Chestatee head coach and Gainesville coordinator Stan Luttrell now takes on the DC role at Habersham. “Once I got relationships established, it was just a joke. Last year’s last year. Donnie picked me off in that game, AJ ran me over, it was one of the best games I’ve ever played in. From both sides we can learn a lot from it.”
The Achilles Heel for the Raiders last season was their defense. While the group consisted of great athletes and individuals, the scheme yielded 357 points, or 37 per game. That ranks as the sixth worst in team history in terms of per game average. It was quite shocking, as the 2016 unit allowed just 211 pts (21 per game).
“Coach Luttrell has brought a great mindset to our defense,” says Harrison about the new-look defense. I think the big thing is staying simple. Being fundamentally sound in what we do, don’t try to get too fancy and outcoach ourselves.”
This isn’t the “unlucky Raiders” of 2017, who dropped six of their games by a combined 18 points, losing games on Hail Mary plays, last second field goals or late bad breaks, as well as ferocious comebacks by opponents. This 2018 group is stronger because of that, and are ready to pen a new chapter in Habersham Raiders football.
“What you’re going to see at the end of the season…we’re going to make the playoffs,” says Curry. “We’re going to go deep in the playoffs…and for anybody out there that’s watching, we may beat ya’ll in the state championship.”
[Curry holds multiple NCAA offers, as does Luttrell]