By DOUG GORMAN
The Heritage Hawks will spend part of their Thanksgiving holiday getting ready to play a Final Four home football game.
Heritage advanced to the third-round of the GISA Class AAA playoffs Friday night with a 34-16 victory over Southland.
The Hawks will take on Frederica at home next Friday.
Fredrica set up its game with Heritage after rolling past defending state champion Valwood 60-27.
For Heritage, Friday night’s victory over Southland was a tail of two halves.
After falling behind 13-6 at the end of the first half, the Heritage Hawks dominated the final two quarters en route to the victory on a cold and windy night.
It was the Hawks’ second win this year over Southland and sets up the showdown with Frederica next week at home for the right to play in the state title game the following week at Mercer University in Macon.
“I am so proud of the way we came out and played in that second half,” Heritage coach Micah Alba said. “It was a great team effort.”
The Hawks’ turned in a dominating performance by the defense getting two interceptions from Brandon Scruggs, and one from Peter Nell to help stop Southland drives.
Scruggs was one of the catalyst for the Hawks on both sides of the ball and on special teams.
The Hawks’ junior gave Heritage a 6-0 lead a little less than five minutes into the game.
After Heritage stopped the Raiders on their first drive of the game, Scruggs caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from Henry Arnall on the Hawks’ first play from scrimmage.
After the missed extra point, the Hawks led 6-0.
Southland scored the next two touchdowns to take a 13-6 lead at the half.
The Hawks wasted little time regaining the momentum at the start of the third quarter, marching 76 yards in six plays.
Scruggs 62-yard acrobatic catch from Arnall pushed the ball down inside the 5.
Vinny Carnazzo capped the drive with a short run on third down.
“This means so much to us and the school community,” said Scruggs. “To be playing in the final four is big. I think it has been awhile.”
The extra point failed allowing Southland to maintain a 13-12 lead, but Heritage wouldn’t stay behind on the scoreboard very long.
After another interception by Scruggs, the Hawks set up shop at the Raiders’ 35.
Arnall called his own number on the first play from scrimmage and got stopped just short of the Raiders’ goalline.
One play later, he ran a quarterback sneak and put the Hawks up for good, 18-13.
Scruggs added the 2-point conversion to increase the lead to 20-13.
Zane Hines added the final points of the game for Southland when he split the uprights on a 31-yard field goal with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
Heritage put the exclamation point on the victory with fourth-quarter touchdowns from Henry and Wright Arnall.
Nell capped the victory with an interception in the end zone to kill a final scoring chance from the Raiders.
The Hawks have now won three games in a row.
“It’s great to be one of the four teams still playing,” Alba said. “To get to play again at home the day after Thanksgiving is big.”
The Hawks second-year coach admits he doesn’t know a whole lot about the team who will be making the trek from Saint Simons, but he promises his team will be ready.
We will know more about them when we starting watching some film,” he said. “I am sure they are very athletic. We aren’t going to over do it this week. At this point of the season, there is no need for that. We will we ready to play.”