Gridiron Preview 2020: Habersham Central

The Raiders have long been in a tough region. That’s truly gotten worse with the re-alignment in 6A that now features BUFORD! However, Habersham Central will feature a pair of extremely talented offensive weapons to whatever success they have in 2020.

Head Coach: Benji Harrison, 6th season
2019 Record:

Benji Harrison enters his sixth season with the Raiders, and will look to guide the program to its second playoff appearance in three years if they can make it in 2020.

“This is  a group that gets me very excited,” says Harrison. “We have a great group of seniors that have played a bunch since their sophomore year. They love playing and doing a great job leading this team. I feel really good about our depth going into this year. I think this is hopefully going to be one of our biggest strengths heading into 2020.”

2020 Schedule

AUG 21 – vs Hart County *Scrimmage
AUG 28 – @ North Oconee *Scrimmage
SEP 4 – vs Madison County
SEP 11 – @ Apalachee
SEP 18 – BYE
SEP 25 – vs White County
OCT 2 – @ Stephens County
OCT 9 – @ Winder-Barrow*
OCT 16 – vs Buford*
OCT 23 – @ Dacula*
OCT 30 – vs Lanier*
NOV 6 – vs Central Gwinett*
NOV 13 – BYE
NOV 20 – @ Shiloh*

*8-AAAAAA region game ^schedule edited to reflect recent GHSA decision to delay season 2 weeks

Personnel & Schemes

Key Departures: Ryte Woodruff, Arian Curry, Joshua Wade, Lincoln Wright, Greg Wiley

Key Returning Players: Jackson Clouatre, Joshua Pickett, Patrick Tedder, Tanner Wade, Garrett Heaton, Grayson Taylor, Austin Wood

There is a lot to like about this roster for the Raiders. Some talent on the offensive side for sure.

Up & Coming Players: Garrett Heaton, Caleb Wade

Offense: The Raiders will need to find someone to take the reins from Ryte Woodruff, who showed so much grace in waiting for his one opportunity to shine. That he did. According to Harrison, that race is wide open among a few guys right now. There’s a chance that Joshua Pickett, who had a monster All-State year, will get some reps under center. Wherever he is on the field, he is elusive. Clouatre is primed for a sensational senior year as well, and standout receivers Tedder and Taylor among others gives Habersham a lot of talent at the skill positions.

“We feel like we’ve been pretty solid and able to score points over the last few years,” adds Harrison. “I expect this group to be able to keep that rolling. We do have to replace some guys up front from last year’s offensive line. But, we do have Pierce Vickery at tackle back along with Butch Cassidy at Guard. Also, returning from a season ending injury is Ethan Tomlin. I feel like we have some weapons on offense coming back with Jackson Clouatre, Joshua Pickett, Austin Wood, and Grayson Taylor. I think we can be an explosive offense once we get rolling.”

Defense: The defensive will rely heavily on Heaton, Wade, Wood, and Taylor. It isn’t clear if Pickett (who was so impressive last year on defense) will play two ways if indeed he takes over at QB.

“We have to be more aggressive,” says Harrison. “Defensively, we should have more speed on the field this year. We have guys that are faster and stronger than last year. We have guys that have played extremely well back leading the way such as Patrick Tedder, Tanner Wade, Sutton Dover, Garrett Heaton. Gage Hurt. We have some other guys that will be getting their first shot on Friday nights that we expect a lot out of as well.”

Strengths & Areas of Focus

Strengths: As Harrison mentioned, depth is a strength. Skill positions. See above. Pickett and Clouatre are so dangerous and elusive. Pickett just needs a little space, and he’ll make plenty of guys look ridiculous. Clouatre is shifty and quick to explode to that next gear. His only concern will be staying healthy, as he has taken some hits over the last couple of years that have sidelined him.

Focusing On: A couple of things come to mind here. Discipline. The Raiders got in their own way multiple times over the last few years. Playing “not to lose” after getting up early has been a problem. Protecting the football has been a problem. Defending onside kicks, a problem. Penalties, a problem. That said, the defense is the more tangible item to be looking at. There are some good players there for sure, but since 2011, the Raiders have allowed 30 or more points per game on average in all but one season. That includes 34.9 last season.

On expectations, Harrison closes with this: “Our expectations are high. We want to get better each week and come region time, to play be at our best. Our guys are determined to get back to the playoffs this year after coming so close to going back to back last season.”

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