One would think that Commerce and Elbert County, two storied northeast programs, would have engaged in numerous classics in their 60-plus-year histories. That’s not the case, however.
Actually, last year’s game between in Tigers and Blue Devils at Ray Lamb Field was the first meeting of the two schools separated by just 40 miles. That means this Friday the Commerce varsity Tigers will play a regular-season game at the Granite Bowl for the first time since 1952, before Elberton High School transitioned into Elbert County High School.
Besides the historical significance on Friday’s game, both squads are looking to get their seasons back on track. Both have dealt with game cancellations. Elbert County hasn’t played since its 54-21 loss to Hart County in the season opener on Aug. 20. Commerce had to find a new opponent (Pickens) for Aug. 20 and had to cancel its Aug. 27 game against Athens Academy.
“It’s a year that’s different from any that I’ve ever experienced,” said head coach Mark Hollars. “There’s been a lot of interruptions and it’s been challenging to get a rhythm. The teams that are able to handle it, the teams that are able to fight their way through it will be fine. We’re focusing on continuing to work hard and fight through it. You can’t control the interruptions, but what you can control are the practice effort and your execution. But it has definitely been a year unlike any I’ve ever experienced.
“They were great, we had a very good week of practice last week. I thought they handled it really well. The energy level was good. I think they understand that what you do today matters whether you have a game or not. That’s how we’re approaching things. We’ve had two games this year, they’ve only had one. I think both teams are looking forward to getting out there to play.”
Despite the hectic last two weeks, Hollars isn’t concerned about his team’s preparation at all. He says his team is most excited to get back on the field.
When the Tigers do return, they’ll be met by a very talented Elbert County squad that expects to make strides in Shannon Jarvis’s second year as head coach. The former Mill Creek coach has endured the COVID-19 season and has rebuilt the Blue Devils roster around a few veterans.
Of those vets is quarterback Braydon Scarborough, running backs Quan Moss and Christian Harris, and H-back Bryce Dickerson. The latter is a 6-3 and 222-lb. threat as a receiver and blocker. Dickerson allows the Blue Devils to be more proficient in the passing game. Trustin Allen and Caden Brown are the receivers who will catch most of Scarborough’s passes, however.
“They’ve got a lot of kids back who played last year,” Hollars said. “On offense, they’ve got a pretty good tailback that they like to run between the tackles with. Their quarterback is pretty proficient. They like to use him to get the ball to the edge on quick screens. They will throw it vertically, but they really like to get you on edge with the quick screen game.”
The last time Commerce played, it struggled to prevent big plays on defense. Pickens had a pair of long touchdown passes. Elbert County’s dynamic offense presents just as many challenges as the Dragons did two weeks ago.
The Tigers are also looking to get the offense rolling again. They’ve scored just two touchdowns in 2021, but haven’t struggled to pick up yardage. Dreylan Martin and Malachi Shockey both have over 100 yards, and Jaiden Daniels found the end zone on a long run against Pickens.
Commerce at Elbert County
Who: Commerce at Elbert County (Granite Bowl)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: Commerce 1-1; Elbert County 0-1
Coaches: Mark Hollars, Commerce (first year at Commerce, 1-1; sixth year overall, 31-26); Shannon Jarvis, Elbert County (second year at Elbert County, 3-7; 17th year overall, 105-75)
What else: Between Commerce and Elbert County are 23 region championships and three state championships. Some of the best coaches in Georgia high school football history have marched the sidelines at Commerce and Elbert County. The Tigers have Ray Lamb, Steve Savage, Michael Brown and Jeff Davis in their history books. The Blue Devils have Sid Fritts, Jeff Arnette, T. McFerrin and Lee Atkinson in theirs.