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OCTOBER 1, 2003


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So Close
Tigers Miss Upset Of No. 1 Lincoln County
The ingredients for another instant classic were all there. All it lacked was the ending.
Banged-up and trailing 14-0 at one point to the state’s top-ranked team, Commerce found itself only 12 yards and a two-point conversion away from penning perhaps its most improbable comeback story in the wild Tiger-Red Devil series.
But instead of another addition to the Commerce “Wall Games,” this one went down as simply game 10 in the rivalry.
Commerce’s screen pass on a fourth-and-nine try from the 12 with 47 seconds left failed and Lincoln County survived to claim its first win against the Tigers in four tries, 14-7.
“It was a heck of a game,” Savage said. “Both teams hit each other hard. There wasn’t any room out there for the timid ... I thought we had a great effort. We were just a play or two a way from winning it. And we made some plays that kept us in it.”
The inspired performance from a Commerce team missing at least four key players for all or parts of the game wasn’t lost on those who nearly engineered the upset.
“We really busted it tonight,” said senior tight end David Evans who caught three passes for 35 yards. “We haven’t played that way all year long.”
Dennis Wilder took the quarterback reins for the second week in a row in the place of Josh Haynes, who was injured last week, and carried the offense on his shoulders.
Wilder totalled 37 rushes for 145 yards, a figure even more impressive considering that the Red Devil defenders keyed on him all night long.
Employing the ancient “Notre Dame box” formation, Commerce lined up Wilder in the shotgun with three back field blockers to either his right or left and ran him on direct snaps almost all night long.
Wilder threw some as well, completing 4-of-11 passes for 60 yards, including a key 25-yarder to Tristian Daniels on the Tigers’ lone touchdown drive.
“Dennis really took the bull by the horns,” Savage said. “He ran the ball 37 times and really touched it more than that.
Savage said Haynes would have gotten the call at quarterback if the game was a region contest. Still, Haynes made a surprise appearance under center with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, hitting 1-of-2 passes, for no yards.
The Tigers seemed undaunted in the second half despite trailing by two touchdowns late in the third quarter.
Much of that credit goes to the Commerce defense which limited Lincoln County to just 72 yards in final two quarters and thwarted two of the Red Devils last three drives of the game with a pair of monumental turnovers to put the Tigers in the position to win the game.
The first came when David Bray forced a fumble on the Tiger 31 late in the third quarter with a big hit on Red Devil quarterback Travis Clarke. The huge defensive play ignited six-play 65-yard drive for a fourth quarter score from Dennis Wilder with 10:32 trim the lead to 14-7.
The defense provided an even bigger reprieve, however, with just 3:42 left to go as Commerce jarred the ball loose from Octavious Andrews at the 50. The turnover gave the offense one last shot after it was seemingly out of chances with a failed fourth-and-four a play earlier at the Red Devil 45.
With the second chance, Commerce moved the ball down to the Lincoln County 12 thanks in part to a pair of Lincoln County penalties.
But that’s where the game ended as Wilder was stopped at the line of scrimmage on a screen play on fourth down.
Lincoln County led 14-0 at intermission and outgained the Tigers 231-83 but the game remained scoreless for most of the first half thanks to a pair of two huge fourth down defensive stands by Commerce.
Lincoln County however, benefited from a short Tiger punt on its third possession and moved 46 yards, hitting Steven Brown for a key 28-yard completion to the Commerce eight which set up an eight-yard score from Shawntavius Jennings with 4:16 left in the half to go up 6-0.
It appeared that Commerce had a solid shot of going into the half facing just that deficit though as it put the Red Devil offense at its own 20 with just 2:24 left before intermission thanks to a 38-yard punt.
But the Red Devils rode the right arm of Clarke down the field as he hit four clutch completions, three of which were big gainers to Brown, including an18-yard touchdown pass with just 23 seconds left in the half.
Savage said his team should have never given Lincoln County another shot at the endzone.
“The biggest series of the game was when we got the ball on the 45 and couldn’t get a first down,” he said of his team’s last possession of the half. “The key there was to keep the ball. You could either get a field goal or go into the half up 7-6.”


Into a cat fight
Leopards, Cats to showdown at Apalachee
The Leopards could look at Friday’s game as winnable. But after a 2-0 region start, Apalachee comes to the game with a lot of confidence.
“We’re playing pretty good right now,” Wildcat head coach Brian Moore said of his 2-2 team. “There’s a lot of things we do to be better. Our confidence is high because we have had some success. But our competition is going to get a lot better this week.”
Friday’s game will be the first meeting between the two schools at Apalachee’s home stadium. When the Leopards last played them on the road two years ago, the Wildcats still played games at Winder-Barrow High School.
Apalachee comes into Friday’s game off back-to-back region wins, downing Rabun 28-14 last week and Dawson 21-0 two weeks ago.
But the Wildcats will likely get tougher competition this weekend.
“Banks County has got a good football team right now,” the Apalachee coach said. “They play real hard on both sides of the ball.”
Brian Moore pointed to Seth Brownlee as one of the players his team will be gunning for Friday.
“He’s one of the better linebackers in the region,” the Wildcats coach remarked.
He also named seniors Alex Cruce and quarterback Tyson Baxter as players to key in on.
As for his own team, coach Brian Moore said his offensive line has been a strong point this season.
The 6’2”, 280-pound Eric Nesbit (75) anchors the line at center. Left tackle Jeff Van Horn (64) at 6’1”, 270 pounds as been a playmaker as well.
On defense, the Wildcats will look to linebackers J. J. Wright (50) and Jasper Jackson (5).
“Those are two guys we hang our hat on,” Brian Moore said.
The Leopards come into the game Friday off a 38-0 loss to top ranked Buford.
“We are bruised up and banged up,” Leopard coach Greg Moore said. “After Commerce, Wesleyan and Buford back to back, you’ll get bruised up.”
After coming out of the game late last week with a shoulder injury, Leopard quarterback Tyson Baxter is questionable for the start at Apalachee.
On defense, the Leopards will likely try to focus on Apalachee’s backfield.
“They’ve got three real good running backs,” Moore said. “They have the biggest center I’ve ever seen.”
HOW TO GET TO APALACHEE
The Wildcats play at their stadium at the high school in Winder. Mapquest estimates a 46 mile trip from Homer.
According to the website, the best route to Apalachee is as follows:
•Take I-85 south to exit 129 (Hwy. 53).
•Turn left onto Hwy. 53. After about 10 miles, Hwy. 53 will become N. Broad Street. The road then becomes Hwy. 81/Loganville Hwy.
•Go about three miles and turn right onto Carl Bethlehem Road (Hwy. 324).
•Another half-mile later, turn slight left onto Haymon Morris Road. The school is about one mile down the road.


Dragons get much-needed break to heal up, reflect on 2-3 start
After Friday’s tough loss at Monticello the Jefferson football team is bruised, battered and ready for a break. Luckily for the Dragons (2-3) a break is just what the schedule has in store for them this week as much of Region 8-A is off this week as they prepare for the beginning of the region schedule next week.
Only Athens Academy, which plays Franklin County on Friday, is in action this week, with the other five teams in 8-A idled.
The break comes at an especially crucial juncture for the Dragons who, thanks in large part to injuries, have suffered through the first half of their schedule.
Although things looked promising after a 2-0 start with road wins against Apalachee and Union Co., the team has seen several starters sidelined due to injury. The results since those first two affairs have been less than desired with three straight losses to Lumpkin Co., Landmark Christian, and the latest defeat at Monticello.
Still, if there’s hope on the horizon for Jefferson, it’s got to be that the Dragons have yet to play a single game with playoff implications.
Next week’s trip to Athens Christian will be against a struggling 1-4 Eagle squad that has had its share of difficulties so far this season.
The following week Jefferson will make the trip to Hiawassee to play an improved Towns Co. team that is 2-2 on the year so far.
A brutal final three games against Social Circle, Commerce and Athens Academy finishes out the regular season slate for Jefferson, with all three opponents coming to Memorial Stadium.


A rare stalemate
Jefferson County rallies to tie Raiders
A methodical, grinding assault or a quick strike offense.
In the end, one’s just as good as the other.
Or so it was Friday night as the Madison County Red Raiders and Jefferson County Warriors battled to a 21-21 tie in the little east Georgia town of Louisville.
Madison County controlled the clock for much of the second half, pounding the ball up the middle time and time again for four, five and six-yard gains, before eventually taking a 21-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But Jefferson County, led by fleet-footed freshman quarterback Dennis Thomas, crossed the goal line twice in 87 seconds mid-way through the final period to knot the score and force the tie.
“Of course, we wanted to win and we didn’t,” said Raider head coach Tom Hybl, whose team is now 3-1-1. “But what do you say? You don’t know whether to feel good or bad.”
Despite the ambiguity in the final score, Hybl said his squad showed clear success in terms of effort. He noted that the team was missing key, two-way starters Travis Calloway and Josh Blackmon and said that the rest of the team did a great job filling the void.
“My kids played as hard as they could,” said Hybl. “I thought my seven or eight kids who play both sides of the ball left everything on the football field.”
Hybl praised the efforts of Anthony Tilton, Garrett Hochstetler, Thad Pruett, Justin Crider, Danté Montgomery, Lee Shivers and Kevin Cash, pointing out that Shivers had six tackles and four assists and that Cash had 11 tackles and 77 yards rushing on 19 carries — all in the second half.
He said Crider turned in a gutty performance after being shaken by a family medical emergency the day before. Hybl said T.C. Ledford played well at quarterback, completing three-of-six passes for 32 yards and a touchdown, while also filling in for Calloway at punter.
“They (Jefferson County) are a very athletic team,” said Hybl. “We had to play hard four quarter to be in that ball game and we did. I had no problem with our effort. We just had a couple of mistakes that put us in a hole.”
But it was Madison County who would first put the Warriors in a hole. The Raiders began their first drive on the Jefferson County 48 with 10:20 to go in the first quarter. Aided by a pass interference call, Madison County grinded out an 11-play, 6 minute and 33-second touchdown drive, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Tyler Johnson, who finished with 27 yards on eight carries, but was held out of the second half after referees maintained that he had been knocked unconscious after fumbling later in the first half.
Though the Raiders grabbed the early lead, Madison County could manage little more offense in the first half, tallying just 47 total yards. Jefferson County, meanwhile, fought back with a 70-yard, 5 minute and 55-second scoring drive, capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Jeffery Walker with 10:48 to go in the second quarter.
The two teams headed for the lockerroom knotted at seven apiece. But Madison County seized the momentum in the third quarter, eating up clock with short runs up the middle for first downs. The Raiders took a 14-7 lead late in the period, capping off a 16-play, 75-yard, nine minute and 38 second drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Ledford to Marcus Shivers on fourth and six with 2:22 to go in the quarter.
Thirteen seconds later, the Raiders had the ball again, thanks to a Warrior fumble on their first play from scrimmage in the second half. Madison County recovered on the Jefferson County 34 and scored seven plays later on a seven-yard run by Cash with 10:41 to go in the game.
Jefferson County soon seized the momentum, returning a kick to their own 47, then scoring with 7:59 to go in the game on a 29-yard quarterback keeper by Thomas.
Marcus Shivers then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Warriors recovered on the Raider 27. Thomas broke free on fourth down from the Madison County 23-yard line for his second score. Unlike last year, when the Warriors botched the game-tying extra point, the PAT was good and the game was knotted again at 21.
Madison County started at its own 23 with 6:29 to go and pounded the ball downfield, picking up a first down at the Warrior 36-yard line with just 1:12 to go. The Raiders moved six yards on two carries. Then on fourth down, with just 10.7 seconds left, a Ledford pass to Marcus Shivers fell incomplete near the goal line. There was some contact, but no flags were thrown. And Jefferson County took over on downs at their own 30 with time for one last play. Thomas was tackled on a final play, a quarterback keeper, and the game ended in a tie.


Off-week allows Panthers to focus on next big challenge
After surprising many with their play thus far this season Jackson County will be able to sit back and rest while gearing up for what coaches are deeming the next big step for the program.
Although the squad sits at a disappointing 0-4 this season, it is the matter in which the team has competed that is causing heads to turn not only within the program but also around their region, 8-AAAA.
“We’ve gotten there quicker than we expected,” head coach Brent Brock said. “But now the next step is to make darn sure we go out there to win the game. That’s the next step, learning how to win and focusing on the intangibles that it takes to win each week.”
Although pleased with the obvious strides his squad has been able to make this year and happy to be competing week in and week out, it is this next step of learning how to win that Brock admitted will be the most difficult challenge for his staff and players.
The first step toward finding that winning formula will be to rid the program of an unattractive 18-game losing streak that now sits as the third longest in the state behind Druid Hills (22 games) and Henry County (20).
This week the team will enjoy some time to rest and prepare for the final stretch of the season during which they will take the field on six straight Friday nights. Thus far injuries have hampered the team only slightly this season. The most notable impairment in the first couple of games was put to rest Friday against Salem when running back Bo Bonds showed that he has completely healed after an early season leg injury.
The junior rushed for a career-high 134 yards on 27 carries in the game, the majority of which came during a strong second half when the Panthers made a concerted effort to rush the football.
“I think we had a very poor football game in the first half and so we went into the locker room and challenged out guys up front and they came out in the second half and really responded,” Brock explained. “There were a few adjustments we made here and there, but mostly it was a mental adjustment.”
Offensive lineman Russ Spicer and the rest of the line were able to execute up front for the squad and showed that Jackson County’s ball-control style can be very effective. But Friday Bond’s healthy running ability was clearly a key.
“Bo’s one of those guys,” Brock said of the tailback. “He’s kind of like a Greg Maddux, he’s not going to overpower you but he’ll just find a crease here and there. You’ve really got to admire a guy that carries the ball over 20 times in a game though...”
Another positive sign for the Panthers despite Friday’s loss was the play of their defense. Linebackers Ben McDaniel, Andy Crawford and Robert McVay all had solid games, as did defensive end Nathan Johnson. Their ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage was a key to holding the Seminole ground attack in check.
If not for two short fields allowed Salem because of Panther turnovers, Jackson County might well have only allowed one touchdown on the evening.
“We’ve played some really physical football games this year and that the sign of a good team,” Brock said.

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