The Knights lifted one monkey off their collective backs last week.
Today, Frederica Academy (8-3) looks to continue its redemption tour by securing a spot in the GISA 3A championship game when it travels to Newnan to face off against Heritage School (9-2).
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Knights exacted revenge for a pair of losses against the Valwood Valiants, one in the semifinal round a year ago, in epic fashion by taking a 33-0 advantage into halftime last week en route to a 60-29 victory against the defending champions to earn their third appearance in the round of four in six seasons under head coach Brandon Derrick.
Having also fallen against Valwood in the regular season, Frederica entered its quarterfinal game with a chip that it proceeded to remove.
“I thought the kids did a really good job,” Derrick said. “They were pretty focused last week on just being able to go. They remembered last year, losing in the Final Four.
“It was one of those things, they wanted to come out and prove to everybody that we belonged.”
Despite the presence of Auburn commits Jaylin Simpson and Jashawn Sheffield, it was Isaiah Jackson that burned the Valiants in a 259-yard, six-touchdown performance on the ground.
Along a strong offensive line, the number of weapons on the Frederica Academy team make it difficult to contain all of them. The Knights average more than 41 points per game, and last Friday was the fourth time they’ve scored 58 or more points in 11 games this season.
“The best thing about our guys is they’re unselfish,” Derrick said. “They go in and they just play hard...
“We spread it out and put pressure on defenses because of the 11 that we have. They don’t know who we’re going to hit them with, when we’re going to throw it to them, or when we’re going to hand it to them or whatnot.”
What’s more remarkable about the Knights’ offensive output last week is that they managed to score 60 points despite turning the ball over three times. If Frederica Academy can cut out the turnovers, it’ll be tough for any team to keep up.
Frederica will need to do just that against a Heritage team that has scored more than 31 points per game this season with an opportunistic offense that’s made opponents pay dearly when they’ve coughed up the ball.
If the Knights avoid handing the Hawks the ball in good field position, and eliminate the big plays, they can force them to work their way downfield against a fast and physical defense.
“We’ve got to fly to the ball,” Derrick said. “Read our keys and swarm to the football.”
Expect to see Frederica continue to press against Heritage, no matter the score, as it looks to avoid repeating the painful mistakes of a season ago when it saw its championship aspirations disappear when Valwood scored the game-winning touchdown with 24 seconds remaining to complete a 10-point fourth-quarter comeback.
The next week, the Knights watched from home as the Valiants won the state championship, but it’s a lesson they’ve taken to heart this season.
“I think they understand, as quick as it can get here, it can disappear too,” Derrick said. “You work all this time to get to this point, you don’t want to squander it in 48 minutes.”
Once again in the semifinals, Frederica is dialed in and well-aware of the opportunity ahead of it.
With a win against the Hawks, the Knights will be set for a trip to Macon for their first title game since winning the state championship in the program’s first varsity season in 2012.
“That’s been our thing here the last several days, just finish the drill,” Derrick said. “Our kids get that, they understand it.”