Habersham Central’s nail-biting win on Friday night in Week 1 at Madison County was more than meets the eye, although even on the surface it proves pretty special.
PHOTO SLIDESHOW by DANIEL PURCELL / NOW HABERSHAM
For one, the Raiders got in the win column for the first time in 2018. That’s a morale builder, confidence booster and sets the tone for the season all in one. For another, it got the proverbial monkey off the back for the team in terms of finally being the ones to break another team’s heart.
Lastly, it shows that this team is not set on repeating last year – losses like the ones they suffered in Week 0 this season and seven times last year fed off each other. The Raiders have a new, short-term memory, which means they don’t focus on the negatives or the bad breaks. They simply look to what’s next.
Anyone who watched the Raiders last season – and I mean really watch them and saw the talent they had on the roster, the passion and determination they had on the field, and the heartbreak they suffered week in and week out, knows that this team can win.
Nothing has changed in that regard. This year’s group is not last year’s group, as key playmakers like AJ Curry (now at Western Carolina), Garrett Kinsey (Berry College), Zach Ferguson and Andrew Lovell (both transferred to Rabun County), Jim Barnett, Baylor Hinshaw, Karl Fail, Bryce Tanner, Trey Wetherton, etc. are all gone.
But back this season is Donovan Curry, a legit D-I recruit, DonDon Bailey (sat out last year after coming from Buford), Luke Wilson, Daniel Matkovic, Tarin Westbrook, and newcomers Tre Luttrell (Gainesville transfer), Tracey Lowery (Stephens transfer) and sophomore early standout Jackson Clouatre. Our point is this – the Raiders locked and re-loaded for 2018. But a 2-8 team last year that fell on the wrong side of the heartbreaks in seven of those losses (by a combined 25 points) is not the same as this group.
The season did start out with much the same, a Dawson County win at Habersham in the final 53 seconds on a 4th & 2 touchdown that was a do-or-die in a 28-25 Raiders lead. The touchdown run and ensuing surprise onside kick gave Habersham no chance with 50ish seconds to go, and left feeling much like last year – “What else do we have to do to win?”
The answer is nothing. The Raiders won 42-35 in a game that again earned them the nickname “Cardiac Kids” as they’ve been called unofficially for quite some time. Fans have been left on the edge of their seat. That’s not such a bad thing, as coach Benji Harrison has brought excitement back into this program since his arrival a few years ago.
With just about two minutes left in the first half, Madison County went up 21-13. The Habersham Raiders then went on a tear, tying the game at 21 apiece just before the break. It was the beginning of a 22-7 run for Habersham, giving them a sizeable advantage late.
The Red Raiders (Madison) stormed back late, but this time Habersham wasn’t letting a win get away. Luttrell burned the Red Raider defense with 272 yards passing on 14-of-25 passing with four touchdowns.
Donovan Curry showcased his talent with seven catches for 175 yards and a TD. Bailey added a pair of touchdown catches, and Lowery led in the ground game with close to 100 yards and a score. All said, Habersham put up 490 yards of offense.
Habersham looks to carry the momentum into Week 2’s matchup at White County. The teams are both coming off big wins in Week 1, and this proves the rubber match in the series in very recent memory. Habersham won a thriller last time at Cleveland in 2016, and the Warriors got revenge with a late win last year on the Raiders’ turf.
The 42 points for the Raiders is the most since the 49-46 loss last season to rivals Stephens County.