Photo by Mike Adams/Augusta Good News
Photo by Mike Adams/Augusta Good News

Column: High school football matchups to watch in the 2023 season

(Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed in this column are those of its author.)

Ten exciting high school football matchups to look forward to in the Augusta Area

July is filled with fireworks and celebrations, but now has come to end. August is here and the fireworks will continue in just a couple of weeks with the start of the high school football on Friday nights.

We saw many great high school football games in the Augusta area last season and 2023-2024 season looks to be no different as the schedule is filled with a lot of exciting matchups. Here are 10 games I think you should look forward to this high school football season.

Friday Aug. 18 — Thomson at Burke County

For the second straight year, the Thomson Bulldogs will matchup against one of their biggest rivals in the Burke County Bears to start the high school football season.

This game never disappoints and definitely didn’t last year as Burke County defeated Thomson at the Brickyard 24-21 with a late defensive stop in the red zone.

Thomson won its first state title since 2002, winning AA Georgia Highschool State Football Championship last season. It will be a challenge to repeat for the Bulldogs as they lost one of their best offensive players in running back Jontavis Curry, but both senior quarterbacks, Jahkiaus Jones and Noah Story, will be returning for their senior year. Thomson also has seen potential in some of the younger returning running backs that will keep the rushing attack alive in 2023-24.

Burke County finished 9-3 last season, losing in the second round of the playoffs. Like Thomson, Burke County also had their top rusher graduate in running back Charlie Dorsey. Junior A’meere Williams rushed for 430 yards and 8 touchdowns last season and should thrive in the starting role this upcoming year.

The Bears will host the Bulldogs at Burke County this season to kick off the year.

Friday, Aug. 18 —  Evans at North Augusta

The Evans Knights will also have the same opener as last year, but will travel to North Augusta to play Yellow Jackets on Friday, Aug. 18.

Despite finishing 4-7 last season, Evans defeated North Augusta 16-7 to open the year. The Knights are led by a strong offensive line with Alabama commit Mason Short returning for his junior year and senior offensive lineman Stephen Heard. Rayshaun King, senior, will also be a returning talent for the Knights as he finished with 575 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns last season.

Evans defeated North Augusta 16-7 in 2022. The two teams will meet Aug. 18. Mike Adams/Augusta Good News

North Augusta finished 6-6 last year, losing in the second round of the playoffs. The Yellow Jackets are going into 2023 with many talented seniors, two notables being running and defensive back Beans Hunt and offensive and defensive lineman Roderick Collins. Hunt rushed for an impressive 1,223 yards and 16 touchdowns last season at Thomas Jefferson Academy.

Friday, Aug. 25 — Hephzibah at Laney

Two of the top Richmond County football schools will face off when the Hephzibah Rebels travel to Laney to play the Wildcats on Friday, Aug. 25.

The Wildcats defeated the Rebels last season 26-17. Laney had their best season since 2015 last year, finishing 8-3 and making it to the first round of the state playoffs. The Wildcats look to improve even more this season with notable new and returning talent such as senior wide receiver CJ Holmes, junior running back James Pride and others.

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Hephzibah had its best season since 2019 last year, finishing 6-5 and making it to the first round of the playoffs. Despite losing one their best players in a Jalen Patrick, the Wildcats still have some talent seniors going into 2023. Senior Telly Johnson rushed for 1,205 yards last season and led the region with 23 rushing touchdowns.

Friday, Sept. 8 — Burke County at Evans

The Bears have dominated this matchup when the two teams have faced off, winning all three games by at least 20 points since 2018. Both teams open the season with tough opponents and this could be a needed win. Evans has more talent than their record showed last season and the upset is possible early in the year at home against Burke County.

Friday, Sept. 15 – Aquinas at Harlem

The Harlem Bulldogs will host the Aquinas Fightin’ Irish on Friday, Sept. 15.

Harlem beat Aquinas last year 27-20 . Mike Adams/Augusta Good News

Harlem edged out Aquinas last season 27-20. The Bulldogs had their best football season in school history last year, finishing with a 10-2 record and making the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history. Last season, Harlem was led by many talented seniors in defensive back Holden Rippe, running back Jason Williams, wide receiver Jon Jon Howard and others. It remains to be seen if Harlem can continue its winning ways.

Aquinas finished their season with a 7-4 record, losing in the first round of the playoffs. Clark Jackson, senior, has been an elite talent on the offensive and defensive end for the last three years at Aquinas. Offensively, Jackson had 591 rushing yards, 433 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He also led the team on defense with 96 total tackles and 5 sacks.

Friday, Sept. 15 — Laney at Thomson

selective focus close up photo of brown wilson pigskin football on green grass
Lot of exciting games are on the schedules this high school football season. Photo by Jean-Daniel Francoeur on Pexels.com

Thomson will host Laney at the Brickyard on Friday, Sept. 15.

This game was cut short last season due a shooting that occurred in the second half, but resumed play at the start of the first quarter a month later, where Thomson defeated Laney 15-14. We can all hope nothing like last year happens again, so we can see this game from start to finish. Laney Football is on the rise, and I can see this being one of the great games of the year.

Friday, Sept. 22 — Richmond Academy at Lincoln County

The Academy of Richmond County Musketeers will travel to play Lincoln County on Friday, Sept. 22.

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Lincoln County outscored ARC 41-20 last season, finishing with a 10-3 record and making it to the semifinals of the state playoffs. Quarterback and Lincoln County football captain Trey Huff graduated last year, but the Red Devils still have talented players such as safety Justin Simmons, running back Semaj Jenkins, wide receiver and linebacker Christian Crite and others.

The Musketeers finished with a 4-6 record last season and fell short of the playoffs. I am not sure what to expect from ARC, but the last time they finished 4-6, they followed it up with a 10-2 record the next year.

Friday, Sept. 29 — Lakeside at Evans

I remember when Lakeside played Evans last year like it was yesterday. It was an intense game.  Lakeside was down 20-2 but fought back to win after a recovered onside kick and a converted 27-yard field goal late in the third quarter. Nineteen unanswered points for the Panthers.

Lakeside did lose a few players, one being now Georgia Bulldogs kicker Will Hattaway. The Panthers have not had much success in the last couple of seasons, but you can always look forward to when they play one of their region rivals.

Friday, Sept. 29 — Lincoln County vs. Aquinas

Lincoln County and Aquinas will battle at Greenbrier’s Wolf Den on Friday, Sept. 29. Aquinas recently announced a $12 million dollar project to renovate the school’s athletic facilities, which includes updating the football stadium. The Fightin’ Irish will play their final game at Aquinas against Jefferson County on Aug.18.

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This game will still pretty much be a home game for Aquinas since it is at Greenbrier. Lincoln County and Aquinas have had very close games recently as all five times they have played since 2016, the game has been decided by one score. I believe both these teams will be good this year and the game should be close as well.

Friday, Oct. 20 — Grovetown at Lakeside  

 The Grovetown Warriors will travel to play a region rival in the Lakeside Panthers on Friday, Oct. 20.

Grovetown defeated Lakeside 21-7 last season, defeating the Panthers for the first time since 2018. Grovetown quarterback Amare Clark, senior, led the Warriors with 1,116 passing yards, 520 rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns. He will try and help the Warriors get there second win in a row against the Panthers this upcoming season.

Christopher Rickerson, an Augusta University graduate, has covered area sports for Augusta University, The Augusta Press and Augusta Good News. Subscribe to the Augusta Good News newsletter here.

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Support Local Journalism

Local stories on local people, organizations and events. That's the focus of Augusta Good News, a member of the Georgia Press Association. And you don't have to go through a paywall to find these stories. An independent voice in Augusta, Ga., Augusta Good News is not funded by a billionaire or a large corporation; it doesn't have celebrity reporters who have agents. It's local people who are invested in the community and want to tell its stories. You can support local journalism and help us expand our coverage by becoming a supporter. Through Ko-Fi, you can give once or set up a monthly gift.

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