At 2-5 (not including last night's results) the Heritage Patriots are a bit of a puzzle. Although their record says, "We're not a good team," that's not the complete truth.
Sitting at seventh in the region standings, Heritage is 2-4 in the region with the only two wins coming against a 2-4 (against region opponents) Flowery Branch team and an 0-6 Cedar Shoals team.
Still, with this team you wonder what might have been. It wasn't a region game, but Heritage's season opener against Rockdale ended in dramatic fashion. After the Patriots had led by twelve early in the game, they let Rockdale back in it and the Bulldogs had a 28-26 lead with less than a minute to go. However, the Patriots had a chance to win the game with David Turner's heave downfield but the receiver missed it and Heritage lost the game.
There were two other close losses for Heritage this year, both were against region opponents. Against Salem, Heritage couldn't muster up enough points to overcome the Seminole's stout defense when they lost 19-14. And against Loganville, it was much of the same. The defense played well, holding Loganville to 13 points but Heritage couldn't get over the hump to get the win.
Against Lanier, a strong team that was undefeated in the region, at times Heritage didn't look like a bottom tier team. Emmanuel Holmes stood out on defense and played exceptionally well. The defense as a whole played well at times too, forcing Lanier into a few crucial fourth downs and creating turnovers.
Lanier was willing to gamble on a couple of fourth downs to keep drives going and they converted, but the fact that Heritage was able to force them into fourth downs twice proves Heritage has the ability to play sound defense.
A fake punt that went for a huge gain also kept Lanier them ahead in the game. Being able to hold on fourth down will be crucial for the Patriots if they're going to make the playoffs, which right now is a long shot. But it's still a shot.
Another area of improvement for the Patriots is penalties. They beat themselves, stalling drives and giving Lanier free yardage. Penalties are usually mental, sometimes they're pre-snap penalties and that's on the coaches, but most of Heritage's penalties were jumps offsides or false starts.
On offense, Heritage has the athletes to put up points, it's just a matter of putting it together. The coaches do their best to put the playmakers in position to make plays, but sometimes there's hesitation from the quarterback, especially on hitch routes. David Turner is a good quarterback, but at times he can be too patient looking for the big play instead of taking what the defense gives him. Making the quick read and throw should be an easy fix.
The Patriots' problems are fixable and with two games to go, if they win out and get some help from other teams, they might find themselves as a dangerous team in the playoffs.