Bryan County will be riding a five-game winning streak when it hosts East Laurens at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the GHSA Class A-D1 state playoffs.
It will be the first home state playoff game ever for the Redskins who will be playing as a No. 1 seed after winning the Region 3A-D1 championship. That also marked a first ever for the school and it assures Bryan County of playing a second game at home should it beat East Laurens.
Star running back and linebacker Austin Clemons believes the Redskins, who closed regular season play Friday night with a 50-0 win over Claxton a week after beating Savannah High, 66-8, are playing their best football of the season.
“This is a perfect time for us to peak,” Clemons said. “Coach (Cherard) Freeman was talking to us earlier this week about it.”
“He told us you don’t want to be a team that peaks early in the season then toward the end of the season fall off,” Clemons said. “Then, if you go into the playoffs, you won’t be going in on that high motivation.”
“So, we feel this is a perfect time. Everything is starting to click together now.”
Clemons is the universal joint in an offensive engine that is averaging 34.1 points per game and 307 yards rushing. With 1,305 yards on the season, he is the second leading rusher in the state in Class A-D1 on 155 attempts, an average of 8.4 yards per carry. He has scored 17 touchdowns while missing one game due to injury.
Clemons and fellow senior Tanner Ennis were among the most sought-after players by fans in an on-field post-game celebration which was highlighted by the presentation of the region championship trophy following a brief concert by the Pride of the Tribe band.
Fans were invited to stay after the game and join the players and coaches on the field and most of the standing room only crowd did so.
“For me personally it’s amazing,” Clemons said. “I don’t think I can really find the right words to describe it. I’m happy to go out on this note my senior year as far as the regular season is concerned.”
“Now is the time to really get focused and dialed in for the playoffs. For this community which has really supported us, for the school this is the first in school history. An amazing thing…we have done something no one else has done so this is a very special day.”
Making it an even more special night for Clemons was his grandmother, Annie Clemons, being recognized at halftime as the high school’s staff person of the year.
“She keeps an eye on me at school,” Clemons said. “I’m really proud of her. She works hard and obviously does a good job.”
Ennis, like Clemons and most of the 20 seniors who were recognized on Senior Night, was born and raised in north Bryan County and he also understands the significance of this season In terms of what it means to the school and community.
“This is a great night,” Ennis said. “It (winning the region) means everything. I’m really excited.”
“Winning the first region championship in school history is great,” said the Redskins star defensive back. “Plus, we beat Claxton and that’s a big rivalry game. Coach (Cherard) Freeman is good friends with their coach so it was personal.
“We took care of business tonight. Now we’ve got to take it one game at a time and keep it going as long as we can.”
Freeman, in his fourth year at Bryan County, and Claxton coach Greg Hill were teammates at Georgia Southern for four years. Freeman played slot back and Hill was the quarterback on the Eagles’ 1999 national championship team under Coach Paul Johnson.