CONYERS — Khafri Jamison was the key Heritage needed in 2019.
For a Patriots club wondering where its goal scoring would come from with the departure of two of its biggest scorers from 2018, head coach Brandon Stewart and company turned to Jamison. After scoring 18 times as a junior, Jamison lead the offense and easily drove away his competition.
Knowing his importance to the overall team success, Jamsion said that drove him even harder in his goal to be the best.
“I always put 150 percent into my play on the field,” Jamison said. “Knowing that we lacked in some areas on the field, I had to work harder and other players hard to work harder, too, to cover for those areas. When it came to goal scoring, I always did the most that I could and tried to score as many goals as possible so that it wouldn’t be as hard on them.”
Things didn’t quite go according to plan for the senior early on in 2019. After failing to score in either of the Patriots’ first two games, Jamison scored twice against North Oconee. 10 days later, he notched his first hat trick of the season against Evans and seemingly never looked back.
“I don’t think it was smooth because the first couple of games, we were trying to figure out what we were going to do and where people were going to play,” Jamison said. “It took like 3-4 games to kind of get in our groove. After that, everything started going how it should. Everyone knew what they brought to the team and knew what they needed to do both offensively and defensively. That made everything run smoothly after that.”
Entering the midway point of Region 3-AAAAAA play with a 2-2 record, the Patriots played host to Lakeside (5-0), who hadn’t lost a game thus far. By halftime, the Patriots trailed 2-0 and were on the verge of falling out of playoff contention with a loss.
Jamison, however, had other ideas.
With the Lakeside lead cut in half, 2-1 thanks to a Steven Landers’ goal, Jamison scored the equalizer in regulation and the game winner in overtime to lift the Patriots to victory. It’s a game Jamison called his favorite of the season, no question.
There’s not a better feeling than that of coming back, especially when you’re down 2-0 against a region team,” Jamison said. “The rush and adrenaline kicks in knowing that you have to score. You score and during it, you might not feel it as much because you’re trying to finish the game out. But after, you can’t help but smile and be happy.”
By the end of the season, Jamison had 23 goals to go along with seven assists. The senior helped lead the Patriots to a No. 3 seed in the state playoffs, as well as a victory over rival Rockdale County in their last regular season match.
“I’m most definitely going to miss playing against some of my friends at Rockdale,” Jamison said. “They like to talk trash, so it was fun playing against them. We lost the last two years, so coming back and winning my senior year, the most important year, I can hang that over their head forever.”
While the Patriots’ playoff run was cut short with a first-round loss, Jamison said that if the season was longer, a different outcome could have taken place.
“I would say that if we had 2-3 more games, that we would have been better in the playoffs,” Jamison said. “We definitely could have gone farther than we did.”
Jamison capped off his last two seasons at Heritage with 39 goals and 18 assists, numbers he said he never dreamed of reaching after suffering an injury during his sophomore season.
“I think I’ve improved greatly,” Jamison said. “10th grade year, I was injured for half the season. The other half, I played a little bit, but I obviously wasn’t as good as I am now. I had a different role on the team this year than I did back then. That builds you in different ways. Going from playing midfield to striker, it built my attacking mindset. That overall does help me as a player. It helped me score more goals and be a better playmaker.”
When he wasn’t scoring goals of assisting for the Patriots in 2019, he said he was using his leadership to lift the players around him.
“The most important thing that I’m going to take away was my effect on the team and my position and role on the team as a leader,” Jamison said. “I get to take that into my college, career too. I starting from the bottom and I have to try and work my way up to the top. Show them that I can be the best, work hard and try to become a captain all over again, basically.”
Jamison also gave praise to Stewart, who he said pushed him in every way imaginable.
“He’s definitely been the one pushing me to be a captain and be the player that I could be today,” Jamison said. “He pushed me both on the field and off to be the best. In times where the team needed me to show up and in the easy games to help my teammates become better in those moments to gain some confidence for the harder games.”
Luckily for Jamison, his high school career will not mark the end. The senior inked with Thomas University in early May, where he will continue his career at the collegiate level. Having spent much of his offseason thus far training for the next level, he said his senior season at Heritage was one he will never forget.
“I’m glad that my senior year went this well,” Jamison said. “I couldn’t have asked for better teammates. They all helped me with everything that I got. It all came from them. I can’t thank them enough.”