Zach Goins Heritage football

Heritage defensive lineman Zach Goins tries to pull down Southeast quarterback Porter Johnson during a game earlier this season. The 9-1 Generals will host 8-2 Troup at Jeff Sims Field on Friday in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. It will be the first-ever home playoff game for the 10-year-old program. (Photo by Danielle Pickett)

Heritage High School will roll out the red carpet for the school's first-ever home football playoff game this Friday night as the Generals will welcome the Troup Tigers to Jeff Sims Field.

Kick-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Head coach E.K. Slaughter said his team was excited to get the state playoffs going.

"I feel like everything we've been doing this entire season has been pointing toward this week," he said. "I'm anxious to see how they respond."

The Navy-and-Red defeated Pickens, 49-21, this past Friday night to earn the Region 6-AAAA No. 2 seed and set a new program-record with their ninth win of the season. Heritage's only loss in 2017 was a 35-14 defeat at the hands of region champion Ridgeland.

But they will have their work cut out for the them to prevent loss No. 2.

The Tigers from LaGrange enter the game having collected win against Hardaway (31-28), Kendrick (36-8), Bowdon (35-6), Lamar County (62-10), Chapel Hill (48-12), Sandy Creek (71-16), LaGrange (38-0) and Central-Carroll (35-14).

However, Troup will come to Boynton having dropped two of their last three games against Region 5 stalwarts Cedartown (21-18) and Cartersville (52-13).

The Tigers are enjoying their second straight 8-2 regular season. Last year, they were the No. 2 seed from Region 5, but lost a 24-21 home decision to West Hall in the opening round. They haven't won in the opening round of the state tournament since 2011 when they beat Cedar Grove in the Class AAA tournament.

This is head coach Tanner Glisson's third year at the helm. He went 1-9 in this first season, matching the second-worst single season record in school history, but the Tigers have gone 16-5 in their last 21 games.

Troup will bring an offense loaded with big-play ability, an aggressive defense and a team loaded with speed on both sides of the ball.

The Tigers will look to the air first behind senior quarterback Montez Crowe, one of the state's top passers. Crowe has completed 165 of his 256 attempts this season, accounting for 3,215 yards and 35 passing touchdowns, although he has been picked off 15 times, including four times last week against the top-ranked Purple Hurricanes.

Back-up Sydney Lawson has played in just two games this season, completing 5-of-8 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.

Crowe's top targets are junior Jamari Thrash (45 rec., 1,015 yards, 11 TD's) and sophomore Kobe Hudson (35 rec., 742 yards, 12 TD's), while senior Kenly Bridwell, sophomore Mark Anthony Dixon and sophomore Jarell Smith have combined for 58 catches, 1,109 yards and seven additional scores.

When the Tigers take to the ground, they will rely on junior Tyree Carlisle (70 rushes, 385 yards, 6 TD's) and sophomore Trey Williams (38 rushes, 240 yards, 3 TD's), while Crowe has carried 46 times himself for 180 yards.

Up front, Troup is anchored by offensive linemen Gabe Hubbard (6-2, 225), Seth Adams (5-11, 185) and Keshawn Cameron (6-1, 305).

Slaughter said his defense will have to up its game even more to try and slow down the athletic Tigers.

"They are really talented," he began. "Their quarterback is about 6-foot-5 and he's thrown for a ton of yards. They have two dynamic receivers and a couple of good backs, although they usually run just one-back sets. They will run a lot of short passes, but they also like to go vertical. We'll have to get pressure on their quarterback without giving up screens. If we can keep from giving up big plays, we'll have a chance."

On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers are loaded with athleticism and speed off the edge. Names to watch for include linebackers King Mwikuta, Jatavian Smith, Tionne Battle, Detrick Tucker and Joco Willis. Hudson and Kevin Martin will lead the charge from the secondary.

"They're pretty multiple," Slaughter said. "We're not exactly sure what we're going to get because we've seen about five different formations from them on film. They are pretty conservative in their coverage and they don't do a lot of blitzing, but they have so much speed that they usually just sit back and run to the ball. Their speed usually gets the job done for them."

Heritage (9-1) will counter on offense with quarterback Blake Bryan, who has thrown for 1,778 yards (115-of-172) and 27 TD passes against just eight interceptions. The senior also has a team-best 310 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

Jeffery Curtis has rushed 49 times for 298 yards and four scores, while C.J. Shackleford has picked up 210 yards on 24 carries with one TD.

Luke Grant is the team's leading receiver with 53 catches for 960 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Ryan Carter has 488 yards on 31 catches with eight scores. Noah Boaz has picked up 203 yards on 17 receptions with two touchdowns.

Senior Zaine Burton has 30 tackles for loss in 10 games and 89 total stops, which leads the Generals. Zach Goins has 19 tackles for loss, while linebacker Hank Weldon has been credited with 13.5 tackles for loss. Goins leads the squad with 12 sacks, while Burton has 11. Grant and Carter have three interceptions each and kicker Ryan Craft is 44-of-47 on PAT's.

Troup has three region titles - 1972, 1986 and 1987 - to its credit, The Tigers' best season came under then-head coach Tommy Walburn in 2001 when they went 11-3, but lost 17-0 to Statesboro in the Class AAAA state semifinals in the Georgia Dome.

Heritage earned its first post-season berth last season, going on the road to upset Stephens County, 37-30, before a 38-21 loss to Mary Persons.

A win for the Generals on Friday would mean either a trip to Region 8 champion St. Pius X or another home date against Region 7 No. 4 seed West Hall next Friday.