A season which is shaping up to be one to remember became a little more memorable this week when Bryan County found itself ranked for the first time in 48 years of football.
When the AJC released its weekly football rankings on Sunday the Redskins were slotted at the No. 10 spot in Class A-DI going into Friday night’s game at Portal (2-1).
Coach Cherard Freeman, who spends Sundays hunkered down with his staff putting together the weekly game plan, was surprised to hear the news when contacted Sunday evening.
“I didn’t know,” Freeman said. “That’s awesome. I think it’s an acknowledgment of the work the kids and coaches have put in for four years to get us to where we are,” Freeman said. “But to me it’s where we are going to be at the end of the season that’s most important.
“My thought now is do we stay hungry and continue to work hard to move up in the rankings.”
The Redskins (3-0) are coming off a bye week to take on a Panthers team coming off its first loss of the season. Portal opened by pitching shut outs over Hawkinsville (26-0) and Twiggs County (44-0) before losing at Screven County, 22-21, last Friday.
Portal carried a 21-15 lead into the fourth quarter. However, with four minutes remaining the Gamecocks (1-2) scored off a fumble return and added a two-point conversion to pull out the win.
The ranking is just another highlight for the Redskins in the early stages of the season.
Bryan County opened with a 28-16 win at then No. 4 Lincoln County marking the first time it had ever beaten a ranked opponent. The Redskins have scored shut out wins in their last two games marking only the second time in school history that’s happened.
There are boxes to still be checked off on the list of goals: winning a region championship for the first time, posting back-to-back winning seasons for the first time, hosting a GHSA state playoff game for the first time and winning a playoff game for the first time.
“It’s not a pipe dream,” Freeman said of the goal of winning the region. “We’ve got to keep our focus each day. We’ve got to play this week’s game this week. We can’t go to Portal thinking about next week’s game.
“We’ve got to stay humble,” Freeman said. “It’s a great compliment (to be ranked) but we’ve got to keep pushing on and maintain our mindset.”
The contest with Portal, which is a Class A-DII school, brings together teams with similar styles and approaches.
“We both have good offenses and we both have good defenses,” Freeman said. “Portal is a good team and it should be a good game.”
Both are ranked among the top 10 in their respective classes in scoring and defense. The Redskins are averaging 33.0 points per game while giving up 5.3. Portal is scoring 30.3 while allowing 7.3.
While Portal leads the overall series, 17-11, Freeman is 5-0 in games between the two schools.
Freeman is 4-0 against Portal as Bryan County’s coach. His first head coaching job was at Portal where in his lone season in 2010 he beat the Redskins, 48-27, before going to Claxton for two years as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator.
The open date came at a good time for the Redskins who came out of the Wheeler County game with several players nursing nagging injuries.
“We’re still banged up,” Freeman said. “Jacari (Carney) is out with a hamstring. Trevor (Lanier) is about 80 percent and Carson Nunn is still out. We’re relying on Erin Greene and some of the younger guys to help out.”
Carney is a senior running back with outstanding speed and a starting cornerback. Lanier is the backup quarterback and Nunn is a starting cornerback and running back who hasn’t played since the opener.
“Our defensive line is playing really well,” Freeman said. “Luke Holcombe is playing really well as is John Good and Matthew Huff.”
Austin Clemons has 463 yards rushing with six touchdowns and 32 tackles while Tanner Ennis leads the team in tackles with 35. Holcombe has 26 stops while the idled Carney has 176 yards on 23 carries.