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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Teammates congratulate Christian Heritage linebacker Ben Williamson, lefft, after he intercepted a pass during a home game on Sept. 25 in Dalton, Ga.

DALTON, Ga. — Christian Heritage School senior Ben Williamson is not the type of person to sit back and let something happen without taking initiative.

It shows in his personal life as much as it does on the football field.

The standout middle linebacker who has 346 career tackles for the Lions was on the move as Hurricane Sally caused catastrophic damage to the town of Lillian, Alabama, in September. He and his father drove seven hours through the late night to early morning to help aid close family friends and a town in great need.

"So many people's houses were destroyed, and when we got there I saw a boat on land that was from a mile down the bay," Williamson recalled. "Piers were destroyed and debris was everywhere. You just had to pick up the scraps of what you could and ask the home owners, 'What can I do to help you?'

"When things get tough, you have to come together and pick each other up. Football has taught me that, and that's what I did down in Alabama. You have to care for those people, and if you put yourself in their shoes, you would want the same thing done for you."

The relief provided by Williamsons was greatly appreciated by the Toombs family. The following week, they showed their gratitude by driving eight hours to Dalton to cheer Ben on as the Lions hosted Heritage, the GHSA Class AAAA program from Catoosa County, and won 39-7 on Sept. 25.

With 6-year-old Chelsea Toombs jumping up and down in the crowd for her favorite player in the No. 54 jersey, it was a magical night for Ben, who intercepted a pass to help Christian Heritage roll to the surprising rout.

"That night was crazy because I had never intercepted a pass in high school," Williamson said. "Then I get my first at the game they are here, and it's the biggest crowd I've ever had cheering for me. It was a really big win against a much larger school than us, and it was a night made possible by God. A family important to me was there, and it was almost like, you did something good for them, so I will give you a little back in return.

"It's a night I will never forget."

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Christian Heritage School football player Ben Williamson

While he has time to add more to his Christian Heritage legacy, it's already certain the Lions won't forget the impact the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Williamson, who also plays guard for the offensive line, has had on the program.

A talent-filled senior class of 14 players has helped one of the state's smallest schools become a formidable power in Class A private after just winning three games combined in 2016 and 2017. Williamson totaled 80 solo tackles and 70 assists his sophomore season as Christian Heritage went 7-4, and he had 106 total tackles and two sacks to fuel a 9-2 record in 2019.

He has 34 tackles, two interceptions, two tackles for loss and a sack this season with the Lions 4-1 and off this week before returning to competition next week at Walker in Marietta. That will be the opener of Christian Heritage's four-game Region 7-A private schedule.

The Lions, who are ranked No. 76 among all Georgia prep teams by MaxPreps.com, haven't lost since dropping their Sept. 4 opener to Fellowship Christian, which remains undefeated. In Jay Poag's fifth season as head coach, the expectations are as high as they have ever been for a program that didn't begin GHSA competition until 2012.

"When we got to high school, the football and culture wasn't really strong," Williamson said. "But our senior class this year really got after it in the weight room and believed in one another. There is a lot of talent on this team, and I think if we keep our head down and continue to grind, we will have one of the best seasons in program history this year.

"We focus on one game at a time, then we get back in the weight room and watch more film and then hopefully kick butt again the next week."

Williamson first found his love for the sport at the age of 5 and grew up cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs as he and his family would often go to Athens to watch games. He has ambitions of continuing his football career after high school, and he is doing everything he can to give himself that opportunity.

In addition to the physical style he displays as a linebacker and offensive guard, he is also ranked as the No. 29 long snapper in the nation for the class of 2021 by Kohl's Kicking Camps. At his first official long snapping competition camp this past summer, he excelled by registering a time of .6967 second to hike the ball roughly 15 yards to the punter.

"I have worked on my long snapping every Sunday with coaches, and I feel like it really gives me a shot to fulfill my dreams of playing big time college football," Williamson said. "I have been working on my accuracy a lot. I have been timed at .68-.69 seconds lately, and the average long snap time in the NFL is around .65 or lower and around .75 for college. I am in the right range, and as long as I get the accuracy and do again in my next camp this December, I should have a good chance to be seen."

Williamson plans to study business management, and when his playing days are over, he wants to stay connected to football as a coach.

Right now, though, he is a busy high school senior — and from helping families in need to stepping up to make big plays as a two-way standout for the Lions, he is extremely grateful this year has provided him.

"It is important to be thankful in life," Williamson said. "This year has really had some eye-opening moments and experiences for a lot of people. You just have to be the best you can be and lend a helping hand sometimes when others are in need. When things get tough, people need to come together and be there for one another."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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