You can’t beat Friday night football in North Georgia on Friday night. You can try, but it’s tough to beat. The atmosphere is amazing, with bleachers filled from end zone to end zone. The temperature is perfect, cooling as the sun sets shortly after the National Anthem and coin toss. The attitude of the players is unique, as the eyes of each individual athlete tell a different story from his… or even HER… point of view on the field. There’s only one thing better than playing a football game on Friday night:
Winning a football game on Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Fannin County Rebels, they have been unable to do so since region play began. They beat Andrews, NC 26-0 on September 15th,
but then lost to North Hall (13-0), Greater Atlanta Christian (55-7), Dawson County (43-3) and now Lumpkin County (10-0) this past Friday night.
Make no mistake, they’ve tried. Head Coach Jim Pavao has given his team credit at the end of each game for giving a solid effort in each loss. The players have taken the field each week with a do-or-die mentality, and every coach has actively worked with their skill positions before, during and after the game.
Friday night’s loss against Lumpkin came as a shock to many, but Fannin County defensive coordinator Adam Turner warned BKP on last week’s #Rebel Wrap-up broadcast that the Indians were no push-over. Lumpkin hadn’t won a game all season, but their losses haven’t exactly been blow-outs. In fact, they put up 32 points of offense against Chestatee, a 4A school that runs a very similar offense to the Indians. Chestatee went on to win by 8-points, but that game alone was proof throughout the season that Lumpkin could play the game.
So what happened Friday night at Fannin County High School?
The answer: ridiculously efficient clock-management by the Indians in one of the slowest football games of the year. Early in the first quarter, FCHS head coach Pavao could be heard yelling at his defense from the sidelines: “Huddle up! If they’re going to huddle every play, we’ll huddle, too!”
Most of the AAA Region 7 schools run a fast-paced offense, lining up and looking to the sidelines for their offensive plays so that they can get as many opportunities under center as possible throughout the game.
Lumpkin apparently didn’t get the memo.
The Indians casually strolled to their huddle formation, checked their stocks and banking portfolios on their I-phones, sipped a cup of coffee, caught up on the weather; then strolled back into position for the next play. I think I even saw a trainer using ammonia smelling salts to wake up a left guard from a mid-huddle-nap but I might’ve just been seeing things.
Sportswriter’s note: That last part may or may not be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point. They wanted to use every second of clock possible, keeping the Rebels’ on the field.
The game plan of the Indians? Keep the defense on the field. When the offense took the field: contain the running game.
Each time Cody Jacobs took the hand-off from FCHS senior qb Chandler Smith, he was met by a relatively large, aggressive and hungry defensive front.
Every time the Indians’ qb took a snap, three different people seemed to be carrying the football at the same time and one of them was moving the chains.
As the war-of-attrition unfolded in the first quarter of play, it became clear that this game was going to be a grinder. Fortunately for Lumpkin – their kicker has a leg – and he showed just how well he kicks the football as he split the uprights from 40-yards out to take a 3-0 lead near the end of the quarter.
No one scored again until 4 minutes remaining in the game, when Fannin’s defense finally wore down. It wasn’t an easy touchdown, though. Senior linebacker Austin Brown went up in one-on-one coverage downfield and batted away a would-be touchdown play at the goalline in what was one of the most exciting defensive plays we’ve seen by the Rebels this season. The defense also had a beautiful blocked kick that prevented another score by the Indians.
At the end of the night, however, Fannin fell 10-0 and it was Lumpkin who celebrated midfield.
This Friday, the Rebels travel to Blairsville in the battle of the two winless teams in AAA Region 7: Fannin vs Union. Union has had an extra week to prepare. The Panthers are hosting in their house. It’s senior night. Coach Brian Allison and his staff have undoubtedly spent the extra time memorizing the offensive scheme of the Rebels and his young defense will hope to pull off the win.
Don’t count the Rebels out just yet, though. With the playoff picture eliminiated, they have nothing to lose. It should be a great game. Come out and support your Fannin Rebels as they face Rival Union County Friday night; kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm.