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OCTOBER 16, 2002


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Banks hopes for second region win
Coach Greg Moore has called the Rabun County game a “big one,” and if Banks has any hopes of resurrecting the season, Moore is right.
“This is a big one,” he said. “It really is a big one.”
Now that the Leopards (1-3, 1-5) have gotten their first region win, the distant possibility exists of a playoff berth. That’ll only happen, however, if the Leopards can manage to do well in their final four games.
But before any of that can even be considered, Banks must handle Rabun County (1-2, 2-3) first.
“I think we’re equal,” Moore said. “It’ll be a matter of who wants it most.”
Rabun County head football coach Sonny Smart agreed that the two teams are very similar. He said both have struggled early in the season. Both are fairly young. And both are coming off wins over the same school, Dawson County.
“I think probably we are a lot like the Banks County team,” Smart said.
The Cats come into town with an experienced quarterback who has started three years under center. They will, though, be starting seven sophomores after having lost several to graduation.
“We play a lot of young people and they are inexperienced and weak,” Smart said. “That’s our weakness.”
Despite what Smart says, Moore said Rabun County has an explosive offense.
“They are very improved over last year,” Moore said. “Their offense is unbelievable.”
As far as the Leopards go, they will have several things working against them this week.
Friday is a holiday from school. Friday night also is homecoming. And players will likely be playing in cooler temperatures than they have been conditioned to so far this season.
“There are a lot of things I’d rather the players not have on their mind,” Moore said.
But Banks does come into the game with a monumental win over Dawson County that likely boosted the team’s confidence. Moore said practice had gone well so far this week.
“It was upbeat,” he said. “They worked hard.”
Rabun County’s Smart said he was expecting a hard football game between the two school’s Friday.
“I think it’ll be a very close game,” he said. “The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.”
Smart also said he looks for a much-improved Banks County team to step on the field.
“They have improved pretty consistently through the year,” Smart said. “They are a very solid, well coached, fundamentally-sound football team.”
Rabun County comes in off a bye week. They played and beat Dawson County 20-7 two weeks ago. The Cats only other win was over North Carolina’s Robbinsville High School.
Rabun has lost 62-0 to Franklin, N.C., 31-6 to Buford and 37-21 to Apalachee.
“The key for us is not turning the ball over and not giving up the big plays,” Smart said.


Cardiac Cats
The Denver Broncos have their famed 98-yard game-tying drive in the 1986 NFC title game—a feat forever remembered in pro football annals as “The Drive.”
Commerce can now add a similar chapter to its history.
Armed with an offense designed almost exclusively for ball-control, time consuming marches, the Tigers covered 66 yards for a score with just 2:47 left Friday night and then added a two-point conversion to pull out an improbable 29-28 victory over rival Madison County.
Tiger Quarterback Josh Haynes gave Commerce the touchdown, keeping the ball for a two-yard score with 33 seconds left and then pitching to Dennis Wilder on the next play who scampered in the endzone for the go-ahead two point conversion.
A subsequent interception by Wilder on Madison County’s final drive made the win official.
For the Commerce players, the do-or-die heroics capped what had been a nerve-racking two hours worth of football against a poised Raider team.
But according to Haynes, he and his offensive teammates were determined during their final drive to keep Commerce’s unbeaten season intact.
“That was tough,” he said of the final drive. “We knew we were down. We knew we needed to score. And we knew we weren’t going to lose a football game. That win was for the seniors.”
Both Haynes and Wilder put the team on their shoulders during the march, connecting on passes of 34-yard pass and five-yards on the first two plays of the possession and then carrying the ball three times each the rest of the way to give Commerce the score.
After his team cut the lead to one with the touchdown, Tiger head coach Steve Savage said the squad had come to far to settle for a possible tie.
“There was no need in playing for the tie,” he said. “We had come that far so we went on and tried to win it.”
Commerce’s one-point win over the Raiders marks the third consecutive time in the series that the a contest has been decided by less than 10 points. The Tigers won 31-22 in 1998 and 22-16 in 1999.
This one however, might go down as a classic.
“I thought both teams played extremely hard and extremely well,” Savage said. “There were great performances on both sides of the ball.”
On Commerce’s side of the ball, Dennis Wilder garnered his share of highlights. In addition to securing the game-ending interception, the junior tailback romped for a career-high 183 yards on the ground which included a 58-yard touchdown run, the second week in a row he’s gone over 50 yards for a score.
Countering Wilder on the ground for the Raiders was senior tailback Richard Stowers who pounded on the Tiger defense all night long carrying 40 times for 198 yards (Madison County statistics have Stowers at 173 yards on 34 carries).
“If you can carry it 41 times and still manage to play some defense, you’re quite a man,” Savage said. “He put on a show. We couldn’t stop them.”
And the final stat sheet tells the story.
Stowers helped Madison County racked up 231 rushing yards on the Tigers defense and converted eight of 12 third down tries. The 28 Raider points surrendered were more than Commerce gave up in its first four games combined.
Though Stowers gave them fits, Commerce seemed to finally be in control of the contest with a 21-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter until Haynes coughed the ball up at the Tiger 37.
Madison County made Commerce pay for the error, driving to the five for a Scott Dills field goal. However, Raider coach Tom Hybl elected to take those points off the board after a roughing the kicker call.
The gamble payed off as Tony Freeman scooted in the endzone for a four yard score and then added a two-point run to give Madison County a touchdown lead with under three minutes left.
The Commerce coffin seemingly looked sealed moments later after several Madison County players indicated that they’d recovered a lose football on the ensuing squib kick off. However, the officials ruled that the Tigers recovered the ball on the 37 and Commerce went to work from there.
It was Commerce that looked unstoppable early, marching 77 yards on its opening drive and getting a seven-yard score from Haynes.
But Madison County quickly seized the momentum, pounding the ball with authority on its first drive which set up a 32-yard touchdown strike from Michael Allen to Tony Tittle to even the score at seven.
Stowers and company then marched 80 yards on their next possession with Stowers getting his first score of the night with a five-yard run.
Commerce temporarily regained its footing in the second quarter with Wilder’s 58-yard juant to even the contest at 14, but Madison County jumped ahead once again before the close of the half, getting into the endzone with a 12-yard screen pass to Freeman.
Commerce found itself on the ropes with the start of the third quarter as the Raiders drove to the Tiger 16. However, the Commerce defense held on fourth and two and the Tigers temporarily restored order with a 13-play, 73 yards scoring drive capped by two-yard dive by Haynes.
Though the Tigers had to fight for their lives to win, Savage said narrow victory will help them.
“All games help you find things—strenghts and weaknesses. We feel fortunate to win. It was a great game for the fans.”


Panthers prep for homecoming test
Winless midway through their first season at the AAAA level of competition, the Jackson County football team will hardly receive a cupcake opponent, as is commonplace on most schedules during homecoming week. Instead, the Panthers will take the field against a seasoned and well-skilled team from Heritage this Friday night at Panther Stadium.
The Patriots (4-2) come into the match-up after taking care of nearby rival Newton 31-14 two weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Panthers can’t say they had similar success after dropping their fifth straight contest, also to Newton, last week.
Despite the losses so far, Panther head coach Brent Brock is as positive as ever this season, although not many people may understand why. The challenge this week is no different than any other for Jackson County, and it may even be aided by one simple thing according to Brock—Panther pride.
Sure the team is without victory, sure they are coming off a sizable loss and sure they are up against stiff opposition, but, playing at home in front of alumni during a festive week should add to the team’s motivation says their coach.
“There is an added dimension to playing at homecoming,” Brock said. “It’s a big night in many phases and there definitely ought to be some added incentive.”
Heritage head coach Randall Owens knows all too well about what pride can do for a team’s play. He cited a similar situation the Patriots faced last season when they traveled to Woodward Academy and faced another 0-5 team, one that then proceeded to hand them a loss.
“We’ve been there, seen that,” Owens said while noting the importance a good week of practice will play in preventing a let down on Friday.
“The big focus for us is for the guys to respect everyone and fear no one,” he said. “And you do that by showing up prepared to play.”
Should the Panthers pull off the uncommon “upset” at their homecoming they will likely have to slow down a powerful offense that is averaging better that 22 points a game this season. In addition, the Panthers can expect to see a lot of different sets from a Patriot team that features a multiple pro-style offense.
Jackson County will hope to rebound from a 52-7 trouncing at Newton, in a game that was a lot closer than the score indicated. Trailing 17-7 at the half, the Panthers were hurt by several punt returns for touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters last Friday.
That said though, Brock is impressed with the wherewithal his team has shown in the face of adversity, as not a single player has left quit in a thus far dismal season.
“There a unique group of individuals,” Brock said. “(Monday) we had our best practice of the season and this team is just as excited as they were at the beginning of the season and you can see them getting better.”


Third straight Dragon win appears prime for taking
In just their second region game of the season this Friday, the Jefferson football team already has a chance to do something no other 8-A team can claim, they can secure their future in this year’s playoff hunt.
While a victory at home against Towns County (0-5, 0-0) would clinch the Dragons a playoff spot this season, not to mention give them their third straight win, it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the region play this year. But, with three important road tests to close the regular season, ensuring a berth on Friday will go a long way towards solidifying the team’s future in the region.
The contest, which marks the final regular season home game for the Dragons, pits two teams whose paths could not have been any more dissimilar thus far this season.
The reeling Indians come in to town without a win in five tries this season, and a team that appears to be in disarray. Coach Gary Bell has reportedly seen numerous players leave the squad after starting the season with poor performances, the last of which was a 35-21 loss to Ashville School (NC).
Jefferson (4-2, 1-0) on the other hand has prospered thus far this season under first-year head coach Bill Navas. The team’s latest win over Athens Christian to the tune of 32-0 was one of their most impressive games of the season and one that should give them confidence as they head down the stretch during the next couple of weeks.
Navas, who has implemented a powerful rushing attack and found a star in fullback Jeremy Smith, has a chance to have his team equal the win total of a year ago, just seven games into the season.
However, while the contest appears to be a mismatch on paper Navas said he is looking for Jefferson to remain consistent in their play regardless of the circumstances.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, we’ve got to go out there and (perform),” he said.
If there’s one thing the Indians can look forward to, it’s a size advantage in many areas on the field, however that is something that Jefferson has grown accustomed to dealing with this season.
The Dragons have regularly run into opponents with an advantage in size, particularly up front, however they have had little trouble finding a way to move the ball on offense.
Perhaps the team’s main weakness this season, a defense that had allowed better than 27 points a game before the ACS game, seems to have found found its niche in recent weeks.


Raiders host struggling first-year Northview
There’s only one real remedy that can ease the sting of back-to-back heartbreaking losses—a win.
Madison County, which has fallen in its last two contests by a combined four points, should have a good shot a easing its recent pain this Friday night as it takes on a first-year Northview team that has a full-fledged case of the growing pains.
A look at the numbers tells the Duluth-based school’s hard luck tale.
At 0-6, the Titans have been steam- rolled in its inaugural season, getting outscored this year by a count of 321-38.
Their closest contest this year was a 45-13 loss to Pope High School.
The Northview defense is surrendering 53.5 points per game this year.
Titans head coach Don Savage said his team has made strides this year, but those steps haven’t translated into becoming competitive on the football field
“There’s two ways you can look at it,” Savage said. “If you look at the scoreboard, then we haven’t had success at all. But we’ve seen the kids come together and work hard. We haven’t have anybody quit. They’ve played hard for 48 minutes for the most part. The community has been very supportive. We’ve seen the booster club come together. So it many ways its been a success, but not by what most people measure success.”
Hybl described the Titans as a “new school having a difficult time,” especially in the turnover department.
In fact, Northview had four interceptions returned for touchdowns in a 68-7 loss to Stephens County.
“They are a little out of their league, but they’re not out of our league,” Hybl said.
But the Raider coach did offer that his outfit should matchup favorably with Northview, but added that his team needs a solid effort.
“It may be the only time this year we feel we have an opponent outmanned physically,” Hybl said. “We should be bigger and stronger than them. We just want our guys to play hard with some attitude like they did Friday (against Commerce.)”
Savage said he’s been “very impressed” with what he’s seen of Madison County this season.
“I think they’re extremely well-coached,” he said. “They do stuff that’s hard to do. And the quickness which they get up to the line, that’s not complicated, but it dictates what the defense has to do. And the kids play really hard. Either they have good kids or good coaches or a little of both...I’ve been very impressed.”
THE MATCHUP
According to Savage, Northview’s multiple I-formation offense, which is only averaging 6.33 points per game, is led by sophomore tailback John Compton and senior wide receiver Chris Donaby.
The Titans base 50 defense is anchored by senior linebacker J.T. Strode, senior tackle Russel Olmsted and sophomore defensive end Ryan Blair.


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LOCAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

  Banks County
  (1-6-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 at Oglethorpe Co 18-21
9/13 Commerce
0-13
9/20 Wesleyan
0-28
9/27 at Buford
0-42
10/04 Apalachee
6-20
10/11 at Dawson Co.
14-0
10/18 Rabun Co. 20-48
11/1 at GAC -
11/8 Lumpkin Co. -
11/15 at Union Co. -

  Commerce
  (5-1-0)
Date Opponent Score
9/6 Franklin Co.
23-15
9/13 at Banks Co.
13-0
9/20 at Morgan Co.
10-3
10/04 Lincoln Co.
28-6
10/11 Madison Co.
29-28
10/18 at Athens Acad.
14-10
10/25 Athens Christ. -
11/1 at Towns Co. -
11/8 Jefferson -
11/15 at Social Circle -

  Jackson County
  (0-6-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Winder-Barrow
0-34
9/13 at Clarke-Centl. 12-41
9/20 Eastside
2-42
9/27 at Salem
0-21
10/11 at Newton Co.
7-52
10/18 Heritage
0-41
10/25 Rockdale Co. -
11/1 at Habersham Cen. -
11/8 Loganville -
11/15 at Cedar Shoals -

  Jefferson
  (5-2-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Apalachee
27-19
9/6 Union County
27-19
9/13 at Lumpkin Co.
28-31
9/20 at Landmark Christian
21-45
9/27 Monticello 42-26
10/11 Athens Christ.
32-0
10/18 Towns Co.
41-14
10/25 at Social Circle -
11/8 at Commerce -
11/15 at Athens Acadm. -

  Madison County
  (4-4-0)
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Franklin Co.
6-7
9/6 at Hancock Cent.
16-8
9/13 at Athens Acad.
7-16
9/20 Monroe Area
15-12
9/27 Jefferson Co.
14-13
10/4 Grayson
14-17
10/11 at Commerce
29-28
10/18 Northview
58-0
11/1 Buford -
11/8 Cross Keys -


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