Former champions to meet Friday

Published 10:20 pm Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MEADVILLE – Class 3A powers Franklin County and Hazlehurst have never met before September, come Friday night they will.

A battle between the last two Class 3A State Champions will take place in Hazlehurst against the defending 3A champion Bulldogs and the 2005 champion Indians.

FC beat Hazlehurst 24-6 for the 3A South State title last year in Meadville.

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“This is the first game of the year and it’s big,” said Bulldog head coach Grady McCluskey. “We know that they will be fast and strong, so we have to come ready to play.”

Franklin County’s game plan is to stop the Indians speedy attack, led by quick and elusive junior running backs Kynshun Reese and Fred Fuller.

Former district rivals, Hazlehurst and Franklin County have a lot of history on the gridiron. Both schools battled for Region 7-3A supremacy for nearly 20 seasons until 2005, when the Indians moved out of 7-3A and into 6-3A.

The Bulldogs and Indians last met at Hazlehurst in 2004, where the Indians won 12-0. Franklin County hasn’t won at Hazlehurst since 2000.

“It’s going to be a game between two of the best teams in South 3A,” says McCluskey. “The kids are excited, and it’s an early test for us both.”

Franklin County went 14-1 last year, capturing the 3A title along the way to skid to their best season in school history. Several players return on a team that is ranked first in the 3A standings, and 5th overall in the state.

“The rankings are good on paper,” said McCluskey. “They don’t win us ball games.”

“We’re going to be ready,” said the 6-4, 210-pound quarterback Jamie Collins. “Come Friday night the games start to count, and we know what we’ve got to do.”

Collins ran for a touchdown and threw for a score last week in the Taylorsville Jamboree. He also made three tackles from his safety position, and deflected a pass.

The Indians are coached by Vernon Perry, and typically run a Spread offense. They finished 11-3 last season.

A sellout crowd of nearly 2,000-plus is expected for this early season showdown between the two 3A powers.

“It’s always a hostile environment up there,” said McCluskey. “We can’t afford to make any mistakes or give up the ball, especially on there turf. It’s going to be a battle.”