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Bryan County opens on road with eye on history

Bryan County has its best collection of football players in several years but its most valuable people could be the team doctor and the trainer. The Redskins, who will looking to put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in school history, open their season Friday night at Lincoln County which is ranked No. 4 in Class A-DII in the pre-season rankings.

The Redskins were 6-5 last year, losing to Heard County in the first round of the GHSA Class A-D1 state playoffs. It was the school’s first playoff appearance since 2015 and first winning season since 2013. Bryan County started football in 1976 and its other winning seasons came in 1986, 1991 and 2011.

“I think we can have a good year,” Coach Cherard Freeman said. “But we’ve got to stay healthy. We can’t afford getting people hurt.”

Freeman saw last year the impact an injury to a key player can have when Austin “Smush” Clemons went down with a knee injury in the fourth game of the season against Portal.

Clemons is back and healthy after a solid year of rehab and strength and conditioning in the weight room.

“He’s bigger and stronger than ever,” Freeman said. “Overall, we’re a bigger and stronger team than we were last year. The kids have really put in the time in the weight room. They look like football players.”

Clemons was leading the team in rushing and tackles when he got hurt. He is looking for a big season but he is also surrounded by a bevy of talented players.

Heading that list is fellow senior Tanner Ennis who made honorable mention all-state last year as a defensive back. Ennis returns at safety and will also play wide receiver where he teams with tight end Kris Martin to give the Redskins two solid receivers.

Sean Kelly Hill, who started at quarterback as a freshman and for the first half of his sophomore season, is back under center and he has had an excellent pre-season throwing the football as Freeman looks to open up what has been a run heavy offense.

Erin Greene and Jacari Carney add speed and depth to the running game which is led by a veteran offensive line headed by seniors Jet Lewis and John Good.

“I think we could have won a couple of more games if we hadn’t lost Smush,” Freeman said. “We would have had a better shot at beating Heard County, too, in the playoffs. I thought we had a lot of guys who played well, though, under the circumstances.”

This is a veteran team four years in the making as Freeman has not hesitated in playing young players knowing there would be some long nights.

“We’re not everybody’s homecoming game this year,” Freeman said. “I feel like we have a shot at competing for a region championship.”

With the top four teams in the five-team Region 3A-DI making the playoffs the Redskins are all but assured of a post-season berth. Metter and Screven County are givens while Bryan and Claxton should finish ahead of Savannah This game has special meaning for Freeman who played on two state championship teams at Lincoln County before going on to Georgia Southern where he was a starting slotback on the Eagles’ 1999 national championship team.

Freeman was 1-6 against the Red Devils while he was at Warren County and his 0-2 against them at Bryan County. On the other side Lincoln County coach Lee Chomkis is 10-0 against Bryan County. Prior to coaching the Red Devils he was at Vidalia where he was 8-0 versus the Redskins.

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