Franklin County travels to Hart County tonight to face a very good Bulldogs squad. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Hart's Herndon Stadium.
Coach Paul Sutherland’s analogy for the start of his Franklin County Lions’ region schedule harkened to Saturday football instead of Friday nights.
“The ACC part of our schedule is over, and we’re going to the SEC,” Sutherland said of the quality of teams his Lions are about to face with the beginning of Region 8AAA play.
And 5-0 Franklin will face one of the very best in the region right out of the gate: the archrival Hart County Bulldogs.
“They’ve got athletes at every position,” Sutherland said of the Bulldogs. “By far the biggest challenge we’ve seen this year.”
Hart comes into the game 1-3 but that is no indication of just how good the team is this season.
The Bulldogs have faced the second-toughest schedule among the Top 20 teams in Class AAA, as ranked and determined by MaxPreps.com.
Hart’s three losses came to Wayne County (29-13) in Jesup, White County (50-47) in Hartwell and Jefferson (26-19), also in Hartwell.
All three of those opponents have been ranked at one time this season.
The Wayne County game was a last-minute pickup after Hart’s season-opener against Elbert County was canceled when the Blue Devils had to quarantine due to the coronavirus.
The Bulldogs feature two Division I college football prospects.
Tight end Cane Berrong – a 6’4”, 225-pound senior – is committed to play for Notre Dame.
Running back Malachi Thomas, another senior, has committed to play at Virginia Tech.
Thomas’ backup would start on most teams, Sutherland said.
Those offensive weapons operate behind a big, physical offensive line, Sutherland said.
The Hart defense is a 4-3 and is very active, Franklin’s coach said, that gives opponents multiple looks and changes.
To be successful, Sutherland said the Lions must not make mistakes.
“You cannot make a mistake,” he said. “If you make a mistake, it is going to cost you dearly.”
The Hart County game is a big one for Franklin County’s players and fans each year, but Sutherland said it won’t be enough simply to want to beat the Bulldogs.
The Lions will have to play better and coach better to improve to 6-0, he said.
“You’ve got to want to play better,” he said. “I’ll be surprised if we don’t compete, every snap, every down.”
Hart County is not limiting attendance at the game Friday.
The school has the following coronavirus guidelines that pertain to visiting fans:
• Fans should be prepared for temperature checks before entry;
• Fans should social distance at all times;
• No one under age 12 will be admitted without an adult;
• Students will not be permitted to walk around and congregate;
• Masks are “strongly” encouraged;
• No fans will be allowed on the field after the game; and
• No one will be allowed to stand along the fence at the sidelines.
Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.