LEESBURG — Friday night lights don’t get much bigger than this in South Georgia.
The Lowndes Vikings are headed to Leesburg for a high school football showdown between two of Georgia’s premier high school football programs. While no region standings or titles are on the line, it lines up as one of the top games in the state this week.
Lowndes (2-1) is currently ranked No. 7 in Class AAAAAAA while the Trojans of Lee County (3-0) are No. 2 in AAAAAA. Both teams are ranked in national polls as well with Lowndes at No. 77 in the High School Football America poll and Lee County at No. 86. The Trojans are also ranked in the CalPreps poll at No. 78 but Lowndes is not included in that poll. Nevertheless, Friday night’s game will be a big one. Last year the Trojans traveled to Valdosta to play Lowndes and lost 38-13, one of only two losses all season. The other loss came in the state championship game to Buford.
“Our kids, our fans and our community love big games like this,” Lee head coach Dean Fabrizio said Wednesday. “It’s a big game for us, but we play in a lot of big games, especially in our region. We play a tough schedule and this kind of competition helps us prepare for our region games.”
Fabrizio is expecting a large hometown crowd and also expecting big fan numbers coming from Valdosta for the game. The coach also said Florida State University head coach Mike Norvell is expected to be in attendance. Norvell and his staff will be on the recruiting trail hoping to find more talent for the Seminoles. Lee County senior lineman QaeShon Sapp has already committed to play college football in Tallahassee.
The Trojans opened the season with a hard-fought win over Carver-Columbus (25-22), and then followed that with blowout wins over Jackson of Atlanta (64-0) and East Ridge of Clermont, Fla. (60-0). Lowndes opened the season with an overtime loss to Walton (34-28) and then beat Griffin (44-34) and Lake Gibson of Lakeland, Fla. (58-47).
After two blowout wins, Lee County senior linebacker Wiley Greer doesn’t see any issues with focus on this game.
“I know I am ready,” Greer said Wednesday afternoon. “I think all of my teammates are focused and ready. We know this game is going to be a real challenge for us so we are getting prepared.”
One of the biggest challenges Greer and the Lee County defense will face is Lowndes senior quarterback Jacurri Brown. Brown has college offers from Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Arkansas and many others, but has committed to the University of Miami.
Brown is a dual-threat player that can hurt defenses with either the passing game or by running the ball. However, Greer and the Trojans think they can stop him.
“We have been working hard on a total game plan,” Greer said, “and yes that includes stopping the quarterback. He is not the only one, but he is one thing we’ve been working on. We have been focused on the total game plan to win this game.”
The Trojans won’t stop Brown without all of the defense working together, according to Fabrizio.
“We have to play team defense to stop Brown and stop Lowndes,” Fabrizio said. “This is a good football team. Coach (Jamey) Dubose and his staff do a phenomenal job and they have some incredible athletes. So it is going to be a total team effort to win this game.”
Fabrizio is confident his defense will be ready and able. Led by Georgia Tech commit Jaron Willis and Virginia Tech commit Malcom Jones, the Trojan defense has kept its opponents scoreless for the last nine quarters, all while the Trojan offense has racked up 134 points.
While big games like this can create problems for some teams, Lee County senior tight end Tyrus Washington (committed to Arkansas) is working to make sure his team is focused.
“We have a lot of younger players who haven’t been in games like this. We’ve been saying you have to stay focused and don’t let the lights and fans and all that goes with a game like this make you lose your focus,” Washington said. “We just have to stay focused on the game and play football. And I will be ready to be everywhere if its catching a ball or running the ball or whatever we need.”
One of those younger guys that will be pivotal in Friday night’s game will be sophomore quarterback Christopher Martin.
“In my 13 years here, he is the first sophomore to start at quarterback,” Fabrizio said. “He is very capable and is doing a fantastic job. He has thrown six touchdown passes in the last two games so he is on the right track. We expect a lot out of Chris and we will need him to play well Friday night.”
But it is not just Martin and the passing game, which includes Washington and several other talented receivers, that will concern the Lowndes defense, which will need to shut down the running game. Fabrizio and the Trojans have been pleased with the rushing attack led by Julius McClennen and Ousmane Kromah. Eight Trojans scored touchdowns last week in the rout over East Ridge.
“The offensive line has done an excellent job so far and the backs have been effective in getting through the holes the line has created,” Fabrizio said. “We are going to need our running game to be effective to set up the rest of the game.”
Fabrizio laughed and said “I wouldn’t go that far” when asked if this game would determine who was the king of football in South Georgia, but since the Trojans have already knocked off Colquitt County in the scrimmage this season, if the Trojans can now handle Lowndes, one could definitely make that argument.
Tickets for Friday went on sale earlier this week for $8 at this link — https://gofan.co/app/events/332730?schoolId=GA13729 — and will be available at the gate for $10.