RINGGOLD, Ga. — Zach Brown spent time over the summer pulling a Jeep on an incline to prepare for Heritage's upcoming football season.
The Generals' team captain was all over the field imposing his will with his teammates in Friday's season-opening 35-7 rout of visiting Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.
After piling up 15 tackles in last season's one-point victory over the Warriors, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Brown was stout again, finishing with a team-high 12 tackles to go with a forced fumble and an interception.
The Heritage defense forced six turnovers — four interceptions — and gave up 18 carries for minus-8 rushing yards in the first half as Cade Kiniry's second interception went for six points to help build a 14-0 lead going into the break.
"Being back out on the field was amazing," said Brown, who has an offer from Birmingham-Southern College and is hopeful of many more. "We have been working our butts off to get back out here even though we weren't sure we would see this day. Our defense is really seasoned, and I think we could have one of the best we've had in a while. We just need to keep it rolling."
Heritage senior quarterback Nick Hanson completed 13 of 19 passes for 222 yards, 88 of which went to Dylan Bryan, who finished with four catches, half of them touchdowns.
Hanson stood tall in the pocket to deliver a strike across the middle on a post route to Bryan for a 33-yard touchdown for the season's first score with 2:16 left in the first half.
LFO could not stop Bryan in the opening minute of the second half, either, as he returned a kickoff for 36 yards and then made a great catch on a deep 30-yard touchdown pass with a defensive back draped on him to take a 21-0 lead.
"We lost our entire offensive line last year, and not many people thought we would do anything big, but I think we showed a lot of people what we are capable of tonight," Bryan said. "Nick threw some really good balls tonight and he's great at reading defenses. I love that he is our quarterback. He knows where I am going to be all the time."
Generals coach EK Slaughter spoke highly of Bryan after the game, saying he believes the senior receiver will possibly be the team's most improved player and is Heritage's best route runner. Running back Paxton McCrary showed great burst out of the backfield running and as a receiver, and he scored on a 45-yarder down the left sideline in the second half.
Heritage sophomore Kaden Swope also had an interception.
"Our coaches really had a great defensive game plan, and we have some guys that fly to the football," Slaughter said. "When you have a kid like Zach who is a team captain, coachable and plays with a great physicality, it makes everyone around him play better, too. Our kids have some guts, and that's what you have to have on defense to be really good. They all played really good, sound football. Tonight was a great way to open the season."