LAST Friday dealt mixed results for the two teams that share Jefferson as their mutual address.
The Jefferson Dragons enjoyed a night of pure dominance in a 40-0 win over the Commerce Tigers.
Meanwhile, the Jackson County Panthers were routed 26-21 by Winder-Barrow in a battle that came down to the wire.
This Friday, the reigning class AA state champs will make the two and a half mile journey to Jackson County Comprehensive High School where the Panthers will look for a way to win in their home opener.
Jackson County may have its work cut out for it trying to stop an offense that racked up nearly 500 yards last Friday night.
“For us, it’s not so much worrying about Jefferson, it’s about worrying about us and doing what we do,” said Panther head coach Benji Harrison. “Hopefully, if we play well enough, we will have a chance to win the game on Friday.”
The Panthers suffered a multitude of penalties in the first half and several miscues on offense including a fumble on the first play of the game. Harrison feels that it is imperative that his Panther squad executes properly on offense and defense when lining up opposite the Dragons.
“Obviously (the Dragons) are a good football team,” said Harrison. “They are coming in with a lot of confidence and rightly so. They are good on offense and defense, so for us, we just need to minimize our mistakes. We need to eliminate the penalties and the turnovers that just killed us last week.”
While the Panthers may have let their opener slip away, Dragon head coach Ben Hall isn’t taking his week two contest lightly.
“Jackson County is athletic,” said Hall. “They have some really good skill players and they do a great job on the perimeter offensively.”
Hall noted that his biggest concern is getting his team ready for a team that runs a completely different offense from Jefferson’s week one opponent Commerce.
While Jackson County does employ an option game, Hall called the zone-read (JCCHS) approach and the slot-based triple-option (CHS) “night and day.”
“The biggest concern for me, especially defensively, is the different looks Jackson County is going to give us,” said Hall. “Hopefully we transition well from week one to week two. They are a well-coached team, so we have to be ready.”
Even though the schools are separated by a hop, skip and a jump, the Dragons and Panthers have only played a total of five games against one another – with Jefferson emerging the victor in all five.
Last year the Dragons defeated the Panthers at home 28-6.
This year, the Panthers will seek retribution in a developing rivalry, while Jefferson will seek to hold its dominance over Jackson County-based teams.
Jefferson – Commerce recap
Last Friday, the defending AA state champs got retribution for their 2012 loss to rival Commerce, and then some.
By the end of the night, the Dragons had tallied a whopping 475 yards of total offense while holding the Tigers to a mere 78 and keeping them out of the end zone for a 40-0 Jefferson victory.
The Dragons got off to a shaky start on their opening possession. After a string of penalties that backed Jefferson up to its own goal line, the Dragon offense showed signs of life before losing a fumble on the Tiger 33-yard line.
Commerce’s first drive would be its most productive of the night before turning the ball back over to the Dragons on a fumble.
After exchanging a couple of punts, the Dragon offense found its groove.
Jefferson’s first score came when Evan Shirreffs connected with Tristen Jackson in the flats late in the first quarter. Jackson turned up field breaking through three would-be tacklers on his way to a 48-yard touchdown.
After a defensive stop and a Commerce punt, Shirreffs hit Dalton Hill for a 24-yard touchdown pass which capped off a nine play, 49-yard drive.
The Dragons would score once more in the first half, on an 85-yard touchdown pass from Shirreffs to Jackson. The Jefferson PAT sailed wide left putting the score at the end of the half 20-0.
The Jefferson defense stopped a Commerce drive on fourth down to open the second half.
On the third play of the Dragons possession, Shirreffs scrambled for a 46-yard touchdown run.
Shirreffs once again connected with Jackson for a 20-yard touchdown on the Dragons next possession.
The Dragons would score one final time in the third quarter, when senior tail back Isaiah Blake found his way into the end zone on a two-yard touchdown run.
Shirreffs completed 17 of 28 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns. Shirreffs also rushed for 57 yards and one touchdown.
Jackson racked up 130 receiving yards and hauled in three touchdowns. Dalton Hill added 57 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Isaiah Blake led the Dragons’ ground attack, rushing for 56 yards and one touchdown.
Maverick McKinney led the Jefferson defensive corps with 12 tackles.
Jackson County – Winder-Barrow
In many ways Friday’s game was a typical season opener for the Jackson County Comprehensive High School football team.
The Panthers had their share of penalties, especially in the first half, and had some miscues on offense, including a lost fumble on the first snap of the game. However, coach Benji Harrison still saw his team in position to defeat Winder-Barrow High School for the second year in a row as the fourth quarter progressed.
In the end, the host Bulldoggs held on for a 26-21 victory, leaving Harrison and the Panther to ponder “what if?”
WBHS led 26-14 following a 5-yard touchdown run by Chandon Sullivan with 3:41 left and appeared to have the game in hand. However, Jackson County quickly moved down the field on an 80-yard drive and cut the lead to five points with 2:42 left after a 2-yard score by Malik Tuck.
The Panthers attempted on onside kick, but Winder-Barrow’s Ryan Evan recovered. The Bulldoggs, however, fumbled the football away on the first play of the ensuing possession, giving Jackson County a golden opportunity as the Panthers set up at the WBHS 40-yard line with 2:38 still to play. JCCHS (0-1) was unable to move the football, however, and turned it over on downs on fourth and 11.
The Bulldoggs then ran out the remainder of the time to start the 2013 season 1-0. With only one timeout remaining, JCCHS could not get the football back for another attempt at a go-ahead score. The Bulldoggs were flagged for two penalties on the possession but after each one the game clock was restarted allowing additional time to tick away. Harrison questioned the officials on whether the clock should continue to run after an offensive penalty, but the game officials continued to do so.
Overall, the game was filled with penalties on both teams, especially in the first half. In the first alone the teams combined for 17 penalties. Jackson County was not flagged in the second half but WBHS was called for six more infractions.
JCCHS fumbled the first play of the game and it took WBHS only one snap to find the end zone on a 25-yard by Sullivan, who finished with three touchdowns. The Bulldoggs moved in front 13-0 on a 29-yard pass from Hunter Cooper to Markesio Anderson with 11:50 remaining before halftime.
JCCHS got on the scoreboard on a 35-yard pass from Jacob Lewis to Xavier Harper with 8:21 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers took their only lead on a 51-yard run by Keyshawn Curry on their opening series of the second half. JCCHS had chances to build on the slim lead but had to punt on their next two possessions. WBHS regained the advantage on a 65-yard drive capped by Sullivan’s 9-yard run.
“I tell our kids all the time that we can think about (a loss) on the ride home, but when we come to school Monday morning, we have to put it in the past,” said Harrison. “Jefferson certainly isn’t going to feel sorry for us. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We have a lot of work to do in correcting the mistakes that we made, and we made quite a few. We just got have to focus on the next game and that will be against a good football team.”