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NOVEMBER 6, 2002


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Leopards close out at home with Lumpkin
Lumpkin County’s record (5-3) isn’t a good reflection of the team’s abilities.
The Indians lost two close games thanks to several costly mistakes. Lumpkin fell to Wesleyan early in the season on a missed point-after kick and a handful of turnovers cost the Indians in a game against Dawson County two weeks ago.
“They are a good team,” Leopard coach Greg Moore said.
Lumpkin County (5-3, 3-3) will be looking to increase its chances of a playoff berth with a win Friday. The Indians sit at fourth in the region and would likely clinch a berth if they beat Banks County.
Lumpkin owns a tie-breaker over Rabun and Union. Dawson County, the only other team that could get two more region wins, still must play Buford.
For Banks County, a playoff berth still isn’t out of reach.
By winning their final two games, the Leopards could earn a 3-5 mark in the region.
Lumpkin and Rabun would have to lose their final two games and Union and Dawson could split in their remaining two contests. Apalachee would also have to fall in its last game of the season.
Should that all happen, the Leopards would be tied with Lumpkin, Union and possibly Dawson at 3-5 in region play. Banks would own the tie breaker and could advance to the state playoffs as the number four seed from 8-AA.
But before the Leopards can think of any postseason possibilities, they must get past Lumpkin.
The Indians will bring a team into Homer Friday night dominated by underclassman.
Lumpkin’s quarterback David Richardson and tailback Dorian Dorsey are both solid offensive threats for the Indians.
Lumpkin runs their offense out of the wishbone and most often sticks to the rushing attack. The Indians have aired the ball out few times this season, averaging around six passes per game.
Lumpkin will likely run sweeps to Dorsey, using his speed to get outside the tackles and move the ball upfield. The Indians will also use freshman fullback Josh Ghabadpoor to move the ball through the middle.
Defensively, the Indians have been solid stopping the run but have had trouble in their secondary when teams put the ball in the air.
Lumpkin comes into Banks County off a 29-7 win over Rabun County last week. After the game with the Leopards, the Indians have one contest left with GAC.


Rivals Jockeying For Region Position
Fifty-five years of history and bad blood aside, one has to look no further than the region standings to see that this Friday’s Commerce-Jefferson matchup will mean a lot to whoever is left standing.
Both bitter rivals are locked in a three-way tie with Social Circle for the second-place spot in region 8-A with 2-1 records.
“It’s a big game because it’s the next one and because of the region implications,” Tiger head coach Steve Savage said. “The person who wins this one still has a chance to come out with their seeding out of the region in the playoffs.”
A win over Jefferson would keep Commerce’s region title hopes afloat with a 3-1 region mark.
However, the team doesn’t control its own destiny ever since it fell to region front-runner Athens Academy Oct. 18. who is currently unbeaten.
First-year coach Bill Navas said his team has aspirations as well.
“We can still win this region and it wouldn’t take a whole lot of help from someone else.”
True, if Jefferson wins its final two region games, it would only need Commerce to beat Social Circle to give them the title outright.
But for that to happen, the Dragons will have to clear a gigantic hurdle Friday night.
And Navas knows that history has not been on Jefferson’s side.
“I know it’s been since 1995 since we’ve beat them and I know we’re going against an exceptional football program in Commerce and an exceptional football coach in Steve Savage...On film, they’re as well-coached a football team we’ve seen.”
Navas said his team needs some mental adjustments before it can take the field with a team the caliber of the Tigers Friday.
“Going into a game with a great football team like Commerce, you have to be playing with confidence,” he said. “We haven’t been playing with confidence lately and I really don’t know why.”
THE MATCHUP
When the teams take the field, Commerce will be seeing a team with almost an identical offensive philosophy as the Dragons keep the ball on the ground almost exclusively, averaging just over passes a game.
Jefferson’s main ground gainer is Jeremy Smith who’s rushed for 938 yards this year.
“He’s good, he’s a slasher,” Savage said. “He’s strong and powerful.” You can’t stay on the outside of him because he’ll cut back inside.”
But Savage warns that Jefferson still knows how to throw the ball with quarterback Brantley Gilbert who’s completed 22-of-38 passes this year for 285 yards.
“They do a good job of running the ball and their quarterback does a good job when they throw it,” Savage said.
On the other side of the ball, Navas said his team’s young defense is led by linebackers Brandon Vinson, 72 tackles, and Forrest Garner, 62 tackles.


Another successful Lady Panther season ends in Columbus
Not many people might have expected a team returning only two players from a season ago to have a very successful team, let alone one that was in competition for a state title. But, that’s exactly the position the Jackson County slow-pitch team was in last weekend as they returned to their fourth trip in five years to the state tournament’s Elite Eight in Columbus.
And, although they failed to bring home the crown—which was won by Class AAAAA’s Pope High School for the fourth straight year—it’s clear that the Lady Panther season was one full of success and high on accomplishment.
“The team really responded well to hard work and with a great team chemistry, the girls continued the fine slow-pitch tradition at Jackson County,” said JCCHS coach Scott Rainwater after his team took fourth-place among the AAAA/ AAAAA teams at the Columbus tournament.
Last Thursday the Lady Panthers (24-10) dropped their opening game against South Cobb 16-1, but then responded to hold off elimination in the losers’ side of the bracket with a 10-6 win over Sprayberry.
That set up a showdown with area opponent Jones County last Friday, with the right to move in the tournament at stake. Although the result was not what the Lady Panthers were hoping for—a season-ending 7-3 loss—Jackson County still felt good about what they had accomplished according to their coach.
“Again we got a taste of what it takes to get to state and win state. We were competitive and with improved play on defense, who knows how far we could have gone,” Rainwater said, adding that with so few returning players, the team accomplished far more than was expected.
The team’s four seniors, Ashley Rainwater, Callie McGinnis, Le Ann Lance and Ashely Bennett all ended their career’s with “great contributions to this year’s team.”
In Columbus, the Lady Panthers were led by several strong performances at the plate, including Courtney Franklin (6-for-10 with two RBI’s), Bennett (4-for-8), Nikki Sosebee (5-for-10 with three RBI’s), Brittany Bennett (5-for-8), Lance (4-for-10 with one RBI).
In addition, the surprising play of first-year player Tosha Ransom in Columbus was symbolic of the strides the Lady Panthers made as a whole, as she finished the tournament tied with Sosbee for the team lead in RBI’s in Columbus (three) after having 10 total RBI’s prior to the Elite Eight.


Rivalry aside, Friday’s showdown has huge Region 8-A implications
As if there wasn’t already enough animosity between the two schools that make up the North Oconee River Rivalry, the latest incidents of tomfoolery that surround the meeting between Commerce and Jefferson will almost certainly add to the fervor.
After vandalism incidents at both schools recently, the rivals will look to take things to a more appropriate arena to settle their squabble, as they meet at Commerce in what is a also key region 8-A football game on Friday night.
For Jefferson the game means several things besides the chance to end a seven-game losing skid against the rival Tigers. For one thing it’s at matter of respect.
The Dragons come into the contest after an off week to think about their last loss at Social Circle, a game that was as disheartening as any this season for the team.
But with improvement fresh on their minds, the Dragons will look to make up for the loss which dropped them to 2-1 in the region. The Dragons and Tigers are currently tied for second-place in 8-A, with the winner Friday having a reasonable shot at taking the region crown. A loss for the Dragons would mean they would be seeded fourth in the region.
Both coaches remain focused on the real playoff implications of the game, however Commerce coach Steve Savage made the point that the game is not the biggest game of the year by any means for his team.
With similar bruising-style running attacks on both sides of the ball, Friday’s game may very well come down to which team’s defense can prevent the opposing side from racking up yards while controlling the time of possession. That could be good news for Jefferson as they come in to the game playing well on that side of the ball. In their last game against Social Circle, the Dragons saw their defense come alive with intensity, limiting the Redskins to just 109 yards rushing on 39 carries and holding them to 10 points.
That said, however, the challenge for the Dragons will be equally as tough on defense, after playing their poorest game of the year offensively against Social Circle. A Dragon offense that had been averaging nearly 32 points per game could muster up only seven in the loss, with a late 82-yard touchdown pass from Brantley Gilbert to Hunter Garner securing the team’s only score of the game.
One bright not offensively for the Dragons was the return to form of last season’s leading rusher Courtney Wiley, who had been sidelined for much of the season with injury. Wiley ran for a team-high 30 yards against the Redskins and showed signs of regaining his elusive form of a year ago.
Jefferson’s leading rusher Jeremy Smith, who played sparingly against Social Circle because of an ankle injury suffered two games prior, looks to be healthier than he has been in weeks after an off week to heal up for the Commerce game.
Despite the last three games however, Smith still leads the team with 938 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.
“With Smith and Courtney Wiley back along with Riley its going to be a tough match-up for us,” Savage said.
While the run has been the cornerstone of the Dragon offense for much of the season, the passing game also caught Savage’s eye.
“They’ll give us all we want throwing the ball,”
While Jefferson backfield appears to be getting stronger by the minute, Commerce is coming off a win over lowly Towns County in which their leading rusher, Dennis Wilder (894 yards), was mysteriously absent from the Tiger backfield. Commerce head coach Steve Savage declined to comment on the situation, however the timing of the absence seems particularly odd.
With Wilder out, the Tigers still had little trouble win a winless Towns County team that sits at the bottom of the Region 8-A standings.
Quarterback Josh Haynes filled in nicely for Wilder against the Indians, racking up a team-high 95 yards on the ground while throwing for two scores and 145 yards on 10-for-13 passing.
Should Wilder not be in the Commerce lineup come Friday, the Tigers could turn to the likes of third leading rusher David Bray (438 yards), fourth leading rusher James Rucker (117 yds.), the team’s leading returning rusher from last season Nick Slayton (71 yds.), or possibly sophomore Brandon Jennings.
“They’re big and strong and they’re an excellent football team. I think they have an advantage because they’ve been doing what they do the same way (for a while). But it all comes down to who wants it more.”

The Mental Challenge
Perhaps the toughest obstacle facing the Dragons this week at Tiger Stadium is overcoming the past, in hopes of a rebirth in the rivalry under Navas.
For the Jefferson players, and the seniors especially, getting a win over a team they have never defeated will be a motivating enough element to the game. Depending on who you talk to from Jefferson, that could be a sign of things to come or rather it could bring hope that this it the year the Dragons are “due” a win.
“Like it or not, these kids have lost to them for seven years...that works two ways, if something bad happens your more apt to give up quicker where as if good things happen it helps you. There’s really two philosophies.”
Entering his first game against Commerce, Navas will have to contend with his counterpart on the Tiger sideline, who is a long-time veteran of the series and no stranger to the animosity and intensity that makes the series one of the biggest rivalries in North Georgia.
Savage has been involved in the rivalry for some 26 years, the last 14 of which as the Commerce head coach. During his tenure, Jefferson has only defeated the Tigers twice, with the last seven games taken by the Tigers including a 14-0 win last season at Memorial Stadium.
“I guess we’ve just been pretty lucky, but every games been a big one,” Savage said.


One last time:
In last year’s season finale, a winless North Hall team handed Madison County a 23-point humbling.
The Raiders don’t want an encore this year.
Madison County will look to avoid its first losing season since 1999 when it faces a lowly 1-8 Cross Keys team at home Friday night in both teams’ final contest of the year.
Raider head football coach Tom Hybl said there’s still much to salvage if his team can top the Indians, especially for the senior class which has enjoyed a 24-15 record in one year of region football and three of non-region.
“This is our last game for our 11 seniors,” he said. “It’s a chance for them to go out of here with a .500 record...We need as many folks (fans) out here as possible. “
While Madison County has the incentive of ending a season with .500 mark, Cross Keys is looking to gain a measure of self confidence to take with it into next season.
The past five years have been rather bleak for the Indians.
The Atlanta-based team is out of Region 5-AAA has gone 3-45 in that time span with winless seasons in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
In fact, the program recently broke a 23-game losing streak with a 6-0 win over Carver-Atlanta.
Indians’ coach James Nicholson said the team has been plagued by lack of depth and inexperience. The team fields only 26 players, 18 of those being freshman or sophomores.
“We’re not where we want to be,” Indians head coach James Nicholson said. “We have a really young team. We’ve had some bright spots. We have some freshmen that have really taken on some responsibility against some teams than on paper, they shouldn’t have been out there. But we have been satified with their effort.”
Three of those freshmen who’ve stood out have been linebacker Nico Williams, who’s the team’s leading tackler, tailback Phillip Peoples and quarterback Martavius Conyers who are both starters out of the Indians’ multiple-set which has only scored more than 10 points twice this year.
Wingback and part-time quarterback Sylvanus Davey is a more experienced weapon out of the offense.
Of the six seniors the team has, Nicholson said the team has relied heavily on linebackers Ike Johnson and Victory Sandy, who help key Cross Key’s 4-3 defensive set up.
“They’re struggling,” Hybl said of Cross Keys. “They have some athletic people on the field. They’ve got a quarterback who can scramble and we’ll have a difficult time containing him. We’ve just got to do what we do best, control the ball....We’ve got to make something happen on special teams.”
Nicholson expressed respect for the Raiders’ no-non sense brand of football.
“They’re really disciplined,” he said. “Their offensive scheme is something that’s been in place and they know what they’re doing. Their backs look good. Defensively, they’re tough.
The Indians’ coach said his team’s staying in the ball came will hinge heavily on whether his team can execute or not.
“It’s going to be tough ball game,” he said. “If we carry out our assignments, we’ll be fine. If we don’t it’s going to be a long night.”


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LOCAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULES/RESULTS

  Banks County
  (1-8-0)
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
7-45
11/8 Lumpkin Co.
7-17
11/15 at Union Co. -

  Commerce
  (8-1-0)
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.
54-0
11/1 at Towns Co.
37-12
11/8 Jefferson
36-7
11/15 at Social Circle -

  Jackson County
  (0-9-0)
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.
0-28
11/1 at Habersham Cen.
6-41
11/8 Loganville
6-38
11/15 at Cedar Shoals -

  Jefferson
  (5-4-0)
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
7-10
11/8 at Commerce
7-36
11/15 at Athens Acadm. -

  Madison County
  (5-5-0)
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
7-21
11/8 Cross Keys
52-18


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