ATLANTA – In high school football, the non-region schedule is sort of like NFL Preseason.
Once the region slate hits, won-loss records go out the window.
Two teams that could use a fresh start will square off Friday at Lakewood Stadium, as the Mays Raiders tangle with the Langston Hughes Panthers in the second game of a doubleheader as region play gets under way for 5-AAAAAA.
Both teams are winless in their first two games, but Mays certainly had the tougher road. The defending champs of 5-AAAAAA, the Raiders started things off with a 42-26 defeat at the hands of AAAAAAA powerhouse Norcross in the final game of the Corky Kell Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Then Mays was downed by Central High 42-18. The Alabama team was only ranked #2 in the state.
Mays made it to the quarterfinals in the playoffs last year before losing to Lee County. This edition has found strength in their offense. Veteran quarterback Jahquez Evans remains a steady hand. Scouts love his quickness, as evidenced by a bevy of Division I offers. But most FBS schools sought him as a wide receiver. Only South Florida offered as a signal caller, so Evans committed to the Bulls.
Tyree Nelson is his main target. The junior running back is dangerous wherever he plays. He caught a 65-yard touchdown pass versus Norcross. The Sportscenter-worthy highlight featured him dragging a Blue Devil defender five yards before busting before romping to the end zone. Also look for Terrence Morton and JaQuari Wiggles (a transfer from Pace) to be worked into the offense.
Wiggles also sees action on the defensive line. The junior has offers from Florida Atlantic and North Carolina. Durante Jones is a transfer from Douglass, and the junior has good size to stay with most receivers.
Hughes finished third in the region last season, and bowed out to Allatoona in the first round, 27-7. The Panthers went 7-4 overall, 5-3 in the region, and even knocked off AAAAAAA Westlake 16-13. This year, things have started much slower. Hughes was blanked by Dutchtown in the opener 31-0, and only managed one solitary touchdown against Gwinnett County school Mountain View, 27-7.
To get the offense in gear, coach Willie Cannon (the only coach in school history) will need quarterback Zadrien White to consistently get the ball to Nae’Saan Dickerson. The duo connected for the lone score versus the Bears, and Nickerson has impressed college coaches with his ball skills.
The Panthers have a true freshman at running back, as Antonio Martin Jr. leads the squad with 49 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Defensively, Hughes was hit hard by graduation as both Telly Plummer and Rashad Ajayi both moved on to FBS schools (Louisville and Colorado State, respectively). But the Panthers are strong at linebacker, as the corps features seniors Xavier Robinson, Dequavious Parker and DeAndre Moss. Each one averages at least ten tackles a game.
This will be the fifth meeting between the two. Hughes won the first three, but Mays prevailed last season in a tight battle, 32-20. Niketa Battle, Mays head coach, enters his third year with the Raiders, and has a record of 22-6.

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