It’s that time of year again.
Friday night lights will shine across Floyd County as the players take to the gridiron and leave all the blood, sweat and tears on the field.
Welcome to Week 1 of the 2021 high school football season.
As the high school football season returns to its normal scheduling, here are the teams preparing for battle Friday night. All games kick off at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
Sonoraville at Model
The Model Blue Devils welcome the Sonoraville Phoenix of Region 6-AAA to Woodard-Tuggle Stadium. Last year, the teams dueled into overtime where the Phoenix came away with a 20-14 win.
This year, Model will feature plenty of youth on both sides of the ball, as the Blue Devils graduated 18 seniors last year, of which many were two-way starters.
Senior running back Sean Montgomery and sophomore Riley Chapman will likely split the majority of carries, but Model head coach Jeff Hunnicutt said there is a good group of backs on the team who could be inserted in various situations.
Model does have key returners in other areas, including senior linebacker Anthone Williams and senior offensive/defensive lineman Bassel Khateeb.
Sonoraville, meanwhile, is returning numerous starters, including four of five along the offensive line. One key name the Phoenix will be missing this season is quarterback Brady Lackey, who graduated and signed with Cumberlands. According to the Calhoun Times’ Alex Farrer, the likely successor to Lackey’s role will be sophomore Jaxon Pate, son of fifth-year head coach Denver Pate.
Haralson County at Pepperell
Rick Hurst’s Pepperell Dragons prepare to welcome Scott Peavey’s Haralson County Rebels of Region 5-AA to Lindale in what has been a highly-anticipated early-season test for both teams.
Pepperell is highlighted by junior all-state running back DJ Rogers. As a sophomore, Rogers saw majority of the touches, collecting nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Matthew Waddell, the starter for the majority of 2020, will likely be the starter under center once more.
Senior linebacker Kolby Davis and senior defensive lineman Brennan Tillery will likely anchor the defense.
The offensive line lost two talented starters in Clay Crawford and Dawson Duncan due to graduation, but senior Lem Azlin, who was named second team all-region last season will be one of main returners to protect Pepperell’s QB under center.
Haralson County, meanwhile, brings its high-powered rushing attack to Floyd County with senior quarterback Clay Hyatt under center. Hyatt, a multi-year starter, will look to make the most of his last year with the Rebels, but he’ll have to do so this time without talented tailback Marc Harris, who graduated this past spring.
This early test will give Dragon Nation a look at how productive Pepperell could be in 2021 as the Dragons will be in the race for the top spot in Region 7-AA.
Rome at Rockmart
Perhaps the most anticipated matchup in the area features a showdown between two talent-laden and high-profile programs.
John Reid, entering his seventh season with the Wolves, will face Biff Parson’s Yellow Jackets in Polk County Friday. Last season, Rome defeated Rockmart in a close battle 28-21 in the 2020 season opener at Barron Stadium.
Rome returns many of its starters from last season, including junior wide receiver Martel Hight, sophomore running back Shaun Nelson and sophomore quarterback Reece Fountain.
Fountain, who threw for over 1,000 yards in seven starts after senior quarterback Caleb Ellard’s injury, has yet to throw an interception in a game. He will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including Hight, senior Bryson Hill and sophomore Martavious Collins and DeKaylon Daniel.
Defensively, Rome will be anchored by four-star junior defensive lineman Stephiylon Green. Green, who has picked up an offer from the University of Georgia, finished 2020 with 43 tackles, including nine tackles-for-a-loss. Senior linebacker Jyrine Griffin will be another big name on what should be a stout defense. Hight and Hill, who are both solid two-way players, will strengthen Rome’s defensive back core.
Rockmart’s biggest question mark is at the quarterback position after dynamic dual-threat quarterback Javin Whatley graduated and signed with the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Sophomore JD Davis saw some time at quarterback last season for the Yellow Jackets, so he could be a solid candidate to full-time succeed Whatley at the quarterback position.
Seniors Daquan Banks and Deidric Gibson will lead a Rockmart defense that only allowed more than 14 points against during the regular season once. The only time they gave up more than 14 during the regular season was to Rome.
Victory Baptist at Unity Christian
Coming off an undefeated and state championship 2020 season, the Unity Christian Lions enter 2021 with a target plastered on their backs.
The Lions play 8-man football in the Georgia Association of Private and Parochial Schools (GAPPS) organization and after much roster turnover during the offseason, will feature plenty of new faces stepping up.
Last month, Unity Christian brought in former Rome High School head football coach David Humphreys as the new head coach. Nick Jones will move into a co-head coaching position while Jeff Giddens will be the assistant coach.
The Lions will be tasked with replacing electrifying quarterback Drew King, who graduated the program last year. King picked up 1,760 yards of total offense with 26 touchdowns.
In his place, John Nance will most likely succeed the role as starter under center. Senior Bailey Mohler will anchor a defense that only surrendered more than 10 points three times all of last year.
The Victory Baptist Warriors finished 6-5 last season. The Lions and Warriors square off at Barron Stadium at 7:30 p.m.