Lee County head coach Dean Fabrizio, who is in his fourth season, has already had one team start 5-0 two years ago, but if The Herald No. 5 Trojans win tonight, they’ll be the first in school history to begin 6-0. (Herald file photo)
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WHO: Hardaway (2-3) at Lee County (5-0).
WHAT: Region 1-AAAAA opener.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.
LIVE SCORING UPDATES: twitter.com/AlbHeraldsports.
LEESBURG — It’s hard to forget about Hardaway.
Make that impossible.
At least that’s the way the kids at Lee County feel after losing to Hardaway a year ago on a bizarre last-second play that covered 70 yards. It wasn’t exactly a Hail Mary. It was more like a what-just-happened? play when Hardaway completed a pass over the middle and the receiver ran across the width of the field and then flipped the ball back to a teammate with a lateral that ended up in a touchdown and a 45-43 victory for Hardaway.
It still stings a year later.
“I won’t forget Hardaway,” said Lee County tailback Kenneth Hurley, a senior who was on defense last year during that play. “We thought we had won the game. Then they had that play. We were in shock. Everybody was shocked. We couldn’t believe it happened. That really hurt me. I want to make up for that. I definitely want to make up for it.”
So guess who Lee County opens its Region 1-AAAAA season with tonight in Leesburg?
That’s right, good old “they-went-that-away” Hardaway. How else do you even try to describe the play that beat Lee last year?
“We were down 26-0 and then we came back to get the lead (43-38) with 40 seconds left and then lose on that play,’’ Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said Thursday. “It was pretty disheartening to lose on a play like that. If one of 1,000 things doesn’t happen, we make the tackle. That was a pretty tough loss.
“But that was last year. We haven’t talked about it this week.’’
Everybody is too busy talking about Lee County, which is scoring points every which way — the hard way, the easy way, the Lee County way.
The Trojans are not only 5-0, but they are averaging 47.2 points a game and have been ranked among the top five offensive teams in Georgia for most of the year. Hurley, The Herald’s two-time Player of the Week, has run for almost 800 yards in five games, and quarterback Stephen Collier has thrown for more than 700 yards.
“We have weapons everywhere in this offense,” said Collier, who shares time at the QB spot with Matt Mears. “Everyone is excited that the region is starting. This is what it’s all about. These are the games that count.”
They’re counting at Lee County because the Trojans have never started a season at 6-0. There have been some 5-0 starts, including one just two years ago, but no Lee County team has reeled off six in a row to begin a season.
The Trojans, ranked No. 2 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll and No. 9 in at least one of the Class AAAAA state polls, have won only one region title in the school’s history. But this could be the year, and that’s one reason tonight’s (kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.) region opener looms so big.
“We haven’t talked about being 6-0,’’ Fabrizio said. “But they’re aware of it. We were 5-0 two years ago, and we didn’t get it.”
But that‘s when Lee County played in the most brutal region in all of Georgia — a region that featured three of the top teams in their class in the state in Warner Robins, Thomas County Central and Northside, Warner Robins, which is one of the top programs in Georgia regardless of classification.
It was Northside, Warner Robins that stopped Lee’s 5-0 start two years ago. But Northside, Warner Robins and Warner Robins are now in a different region, and many feel the Region 1-AAAAA race will come down to Thomas County Central, ranked No. 5 in The AP’s state poll, Bainbridge, The Herald’s top-ranked team, and Lee County.
Bainbridge beat TCC last year and opens region play there tonight. Lee plays TCC in two weeks and meets Bainbridge on the final night of the season. The race starts tonight against Hardaway (2-3), which won its first two games and then lost three in a row, including losses to two Class AAAAAA teams. Lowndes beat Hardaway, 57-0, and AAAAAA Newnan beat the Golden Hawks, 38-7.
Still, Fabrizio is worried.
“They’ve got a real athletic team, and they’ve got good team speed,” he said. “I’m sure they’re coming in here wanting to be 1-0 just like everybody else in the first region game. They’ve got a real good tailback and a real good receiver, and they have a lot of speed on defense. They have two real good linebackers.
“We’re excited about beginning region play. These are the games that count toward getting to the playoffs.’’
And a 6-0 start would be music to the ears of the kids in Leesburg.
“That means more to me than anything else in my life right now,” said Da’Quan Jamison, a junior safety who came to Lee from Camilla this season. “Going 6-0 would be great for Lee County. It would be great for the community. We really want to win this game. It’s the first game in the region, and we need to get it.’’
The 5-0 start and being at home should give the Trojans some added confidence, along with the fact all the kids believe this is their year.
“Being 5-0 does give us confidence,’’ said Jamison, who has been a terror on defense; he leads the team with 13 tackles for losses in five games, including three sacks from his safety position.
Jamison then added: “I’m really excited, very excited to play in the region. I think we are starting to come together right now. There’s so much energy at practice. There’s not a sense of arrogance. But there is a sense that we are getting better as a team.’’