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November 5, 2001


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Tigers-Dragons To Add Latest Chapter To Old Series
Commerce-Jefferson Contest Full Of Region Implications This Year.
They've been "going across the river" to play each other since Harry Truman was in the White House and the Hudson car ruled the road.
And while a lot has changed since 1947, the Commerce-Jefferson backyard battle has remained a constant fixture of the fall in Jackson County.
Friday night, Commerce will cross the North Oconee River once again to meet Jefferson for the 56th time overall and 51st in a row in the latest installment of one of Northeast Georgia's oldest rivalries and perhaps one of its longest continuous matchups.
Like always, 365 days of bragging rights are on the line.
"It's special for the players," Commerce head coach Steve Savage said whose team has a six-game winning streak against their cross county foes. "Whoever loses this game is going to feel bad for a year and whoever wins this game is going to feel good for a year."
And for coaches, it's one of those games that makes them choose their words carefully-if they choose to say any at all.
"When you say something about this game, it gets all twisted around...so no comment," Jefferson coach Bob Gurley told the Jackson-Herald.
But whoever wins this year's matchup will have plenty to talk about, espeically with Region 8-A implications at hand.
Whoever wins this game is assured of no worse than a second-place finish in the region and still has a shot at the region championship
Commerce is currently tied with Class A's number-one squad, Buford, for first place in the region after a 24-15 win over Wesleyan. Jefferson, on the other hand, comes into the contest 0-1 in the region after being shellacked 41-0 by Buford last week.
Despite being shut out by the Wolves, the Dragons still bring an impressive offensive unit into the contest. In fact, Jefferson's "Wing-T" attack was averaging 29 points per game heading into the Buford contest.
Savage said that Jefferson sports an "outstanding" signal caller in Kyle Potts, complimented by a receiving corps led by senior standouts Blake Gooch and Ryan Gurley.
"Most teams are lucky to have one good receiver; they've got four or five," Savage said.
Savage added that Dragon tailback Courtney Wiley is a game-breaker.
"He's got the capabilities to take it to the house every time he touches the ball," he said.
Defensively, the Dragons have been sound this year, surrendering just 19 points a game this year-with that average being inflated a bit after sustaining an offensive barrage last week from Buford.
The Jefferson defensive unit operates primarily out of a 4-3 set led by linebacker Jeremy Smith and defensive backs Potts, Gurley, Cooch and Brantley Gilbert.
Despite sound offensive and defensive numbers, the outcome of the contest could depend largely on what Dragon team shows up
Jefferson has been erratic this year, shooting out of the gates with lopsided wins over Athens Christian and Banks County, but then fell in a 14-11, turnover plagued loss to Madison County followed by upset loss at Social Circle. The team rebounded with a 42-20 over Oglethorpe County and picked up an impressive 23-14 win over then 4-1 Landmark Christian before falling to Buford last week.
THE SERIES
Overall, Commerce has dominated this rivalry of between the schools separated by nine miles and a river.
The Tigers hold a 35-15-5 edge over Jefferson and in addition to winning the last six, have won 17 out of the last 19.
And the early years of the rivalry closely resemble the past 19.
The series started in 1947 with Commerce winning the 14 out of the next 20 contests.
However, Jefferson sustained a five game winning streak from 1966-1971-their longest in the series.
Savage, who played for the Tigers from 1969-1972, remembers that losing streak well.
"Part of my memories against Jefferson weren't very good at all," he said. "It wasn't until my senior year that we beat them."
After Jefferson's streak, the rivalry reached its most competitive point in between 1972-1982 when the team's split the series 5-5-1.
Gurley, who played for Jim Stoudenmire from 1975-1978 in the midst of that stretch remembers the magnitude of those Commerce-Jefferson games.
"The thing I remember is getting there at 7 p.m. to warm up and there's not an empty seat in the house," he said.



Getting ready for the battle
Shoulder pads. A helmet. Cleats. A jersey. Knee pads. A mouthpiece. They're all tools for a football player.
But perhaps the most important tool-the one that pushes farther on a run, that hits harder despite the cold, that keeps playing through the pain-is the mind. And the Banks County football coaching staff focuses on preparing the mind before each game, from the meal, to the bus ride, to the locker room.
Preparing for the game is almost as important as actually playing, and it's something the Leopards don't take lightly.
THE FOOD
Banks County started their Friday afternoon last week with a meal. Each pre-game meal is prepared for the team by a local church.
Friday's meal-sloppy joes (limited to just two per person, one if you're starting that night), potato chips, a dessert and a drink-was cooked by the ladies of Mt. Sinai Congressional Holiness Church. They had made enough to feed 200.
The players filed into the lunchroom at the high school and took their seats, waiting for head coach Greg Moore to send them to the food.
"We're not going to a picnic tonight, we're going to a war," Moore told them. Then they began to eat.
The players ate in silence, as they started to focus on the task that lay ahead later in the evening. And after the meal was over, they headed into the locker room to dress and get ready to board the bus.
ON THE BUS
The bus ride up winding Hwy. 129 is a long one, straight through the mountains of North Georgia.
The Leopards split up onto two buses, the starters taking one and the rest of the team on the other. Moore and defensive coordinator Butch Bennett take the bus with the starters.
Most of the players sat quietly for most of the ride, focusing on the approaching game. Others sat back with their eyes closed. And others managed to catch a quick nap.
Moore studied his playbook, occasionally scribbling down notes or another play. Bennett, too, looked over some of the defensive sets.
As the team neared Union County High School, the coaches woke up the sleeping players. Bennett slipped to the back of the bus for a while to go over some defensive plays with the players.
THE LOCKER ROOM
The Leopards arrive in Blairsville several hours before kickoff. They step off the bus into the chilly mountain air and the blistering wind.
The players head into the visiting locker room. The coaches walk over the field, looking for inconsistencies in the playing surface. And then it's back into the locker room.
Banks' assistant coaches grab tape and begin wrapping up some of the players. Jonathan Bagwell and Cory Bolton get their ankles taped. Nick Baker gets his arm wrapped.
Then the team gathers together in a small area in the locker room.
Moore says a few words, telling the players not to focus on the cold.
After his talk, the Leopards, still without shoulder pads, step outside to walk the field. They spend several minutes covering the field from endzone to endzone and gather on the 30 for a brief prayer.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Banks County News.




Panther duo qualify for state cross country meet
For the first time in the history of the program, Jackson County Comprehensive High School will be represented by two participants in Saturday's boys' state cross country meet in Carrollton.
Kelly Parr and Daniel Elder ran fifth and sixth in Saturday's region meet to qualify for the state meet. Parr finished the region course in 16:37, and Elder posted a new personal best, just four seconds behind Parr.
Michael Rudio and Mitch David also ran new personal-best times, as did JV runners Rob Butler, Chris Cornelison and Dustin LaBarge. The eighth grade Butler's 20:16 was good for eighth overall among JV runners. James Sullivan also participated in the JV race.
Other varsity runners were John Richardson, Adam Hughes and William Butler.
Megan Lerette just missed qualifying in the girls' meet, finishing ninth at 22:30. The top eight runners from each region advance to the state meet. Lerette's time was a new personal best.
Christina Nowak was 11th at 22:43, and Nikkee DuBose posted a new personal-best time of 25:55. Nicole Rizzo also ran for the varsity Lady Panthers.

Madison County to host Athens Christian Friday
Madison County and Athens Christian will resume the new Hwy. 29 rivalry Friday in Danielsville.
The Raiders, 7-1, will host the Eagles, 4-4, at 8 p.m., the final home game for Madison County. The Raiders will end the year at North Hall Nov. 16, a game rescheduled after the terrorist attacks.
Madison County coach Tom Hybl said the Eagles have improved significantly since the last meeting, a 43-0 drubbing by the Raiders.
"They (Athens Christian) have done a really good job," said Hybl. "You talk about a team that has really improved since the first of the season....We'll have to play an excellent football game to compete."
Seventh-year Athens Christian head coach Van Beacham agreed his team has improved. The 26-member Eagles have beaten Glascock County twice, as well as Towns County and Riverside last week, 14-7.
"We've been very pleased with our young men," said Beacham. "They've picked up on what we teach and shown improvement each week."
The team is led by senior fullback Bud Winderweedle, who has rushed for approximately 550 yards. Other seniors include Jonathan Gurley, wide receiver and defensive back; Rusty Prather, offensive tackle; Jeff Faw, offensive tackle; and Owen Bullard, tight end and defensive end.
Beacham said Madison County will be tough to beat.
"Madison County does a great job," said Beacham. "Hybl and his staff do a wonderful job on both sides of the ball. Their players are well disciplined and carry out their responsibilities. (Tony) Freeman and (Richard) Stowers are hardnosed runners. And their quarterback (Jonathan Pou) is a seasoned veteran who does not make many mistakes."

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LOCAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

  Banks County
  (2-7-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/31 at JCCHS 12-7
9/7 Jefferson 7-35
9/21 Dawson Co. 0-28
9/28 at East Hall 0-28
10/5 GAC 0-48
10/12 at Apalachee 0-30
10/19 Lumpkin Co. 0-20
10/26 at Union Co. 0-35
11/2 Rabun Co. 21-18
11/9 at White Co. -

  Commerce
  (5-3-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/31 Franklin Co 29-13
9/7 at Forsyth Ctrl 14-35
9/14 Morgan Co ppd.
9/21 at Walhalla, SC 35-24
9/28 at Lincoln Co 13-12
10/5 at Ath Acad 7-34
10/12 Wash-Wilkes 26-49
10/26 Wesleyan 24-15
11/2 at Jefferson 14-0
11/9 Buford -
11/16  Morgan Co. -

  Jackson County
  (1-7-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/31 Banks Co 7-12
9/7 at Madison Co 7-35
9/14 at Elbert Co ppd.
9/28 Hart 3-51
10/5 at Eastside 7-47
10/12 Loganville 0-47
10/19 at Franklin 21-14
10/26 Winder-Barrow 0-35
11/2 Stephens Co 3-34
11/9 at Monroe Area -
 11/16 at Elbert Co.  -

  Jefferson
  (4-4-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/31 Athens Christian 40-6
9/7 at Banks Co 35-7
9/14 at Johns-G'ville ppd.
9/21 Madison Co 11-14
9/28 at Social Circle 21-28
10/5 Oglethorpe Co 21-6
10/12 Lndmrk Christ 23-14
10/26 at Buford 0-41
11/2 Commerce 0-14
11/9 at Wesleyan -
 11/16  at Johns-G'ville  -

  Madison County
  (8-1-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/24 South Forsyth 0-17
9/1 Apalachee 36-3
9/7 Jackson Co 35-7
9/14 at North Hall ppd.
9/21 at Jefferson 14-11
9/28 Warren Co 14-7
10/5 Union Grove 35-6
10/19 at Wesleyan 14-0
10/26 at Union Grove 14-10
11/2 Athens Christian 49-6
11/16 at N. Hall  -


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