Thursday, September 21, 2017

North Augusta's matchup with Strom Thurmond is the AugBball Game of theWeek; plus two key road games on the Georgia side

Follow me Friday night at the @AugBball Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages to get live updates, video highlights, and information from the Game of the Week at North Augusta High between South Carolina's 4th ranked (class 4A) Yellow Jackets and the 7th ranked (class 3A) Strom Thurmond Rebels. It will be my first visit to the South Carolina side of the border this football season.

The Yellow Jackets have won their first four games, including a 42-14 road win last Friday at White Knoll, which beat North Augusta's region rival, 5th ranked South Aiken, earlier this season. The Jackets probably sport the most exciting offense in the area, led by quarterback Landon Washington (8 TD passes and 774 yards through 4 games), running back Derius Gibson (7 rushing TDs and 494 yards), and lightning fast receiver Dejuan Bell (6 TD receptions and 329 yards), who was named player of the week two weeks ago by both WRDW and the Augusta Chronicle after catching three touchdown passes and grabbing two interceptions in a 40-14 win over Lexington.

Strom Thurmond (3-1) will try not to drop a second straight game after losing 26-17 at Emerald last Friday. The Rebels are led by running back Jaquan Edwards, who has already rushed for 8 touchdowns and 645 yards this season. Because of North Augusta's blistering start, few commentators are giving Strom Thurmond a chance. But after last season's 41-38 triple overtime thriller between the two, which the Jackets won, I think both the players and coaches would agree that anything can happen Friday!

Friday's game will not be my last at North Augusta. I plan to return when South Aiken visits on October 13 for a game that, if things play out as expected, could decide the top seed in region 4 of South Carolina's class 4A. That region and Georgia's class 6A, 4A, and 2A regions will be the focus of AugBball's football coverage the next two months. Now let's look at two key non region games on the Georgia side of the border.

Evans (6A) at Baldwin (4A)

The Knights (2-2) visit Milledgeville in a game featuring two promising teams reeling from heart breaking road losses last Friday. Evans came up short (49-48) in overtime at Washington County when the Golden Hawks blocked Evans's extra point after quarterback Damekus Taylor ran for his fourth touchdown of the evening. And Baldwin (3-1) lost 21-16 at Griffin, a top 10 ranked 5A team, when the Braves failed to stop the Bears from scoring a touchdown on their final drive of the game.

The Knights have weapons all over the field. Taylor has accounted for 16 touchdowns, 11 on the ground and 5 through the air, in the season's first four games. The junior has made a huge impact after transferring from Thomson High.

Senior Corey Watkins leads the team in total yardage, gaining 848 yards of total offense as a threat both running from scrimmage and returning kicks and punts. Watkins has found the end zone 7 times, including three times in each of the last two games.

Baldwin has benefitted greatly from the arrival of head coach Jesse Hicks, who returned to the sideline this fall for a second turn at the helm after leaving the same position in 2010. The Braves feature wide receiver Jatavious Harris, a senior who has committed to the University of Tennessee. Baldwin begins region play a week from Friday when Richmond goes to Milledgeville. And the Braves' region schedule really heats up when they face #7 Burke County and #2 Thomson back-to-back on October 20th and 27th.

Burke County (4A) at Effingham County (6A)

Click here to listen to Chris Henry broadcast the game (7:30 kickoff) on 92.9 the Soul Mine

The #7 ranked Burke County Bears will try to improve to 5-0 by doing what their region rival Thomson did during the second week of the season: getting a win at Effingham County. The Rebels overcame a 14-0 first half deficit to hand Burke County a loss in Waynesboro last season, so revenge will be on the minds of the Bears and their loyal fans, who I am certain will make the trip in large numbers.

Photo Credit: Larry Smith

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