Competing in Region 8-AAA doesn’t get any easier for the East Jackson football team. Case in point, one week after playing No. 2 Oconee County, the Eagles travel to play No. 8 Monroe Area.
East Jackson (2-4, 0-1 Region 8-AAA) comes in as a battle-tested program. The Eagles lost to Oconee County 35-7 last week, but had two other opportunities to score deep in Warrior territory. Outside of the score, third-year head coach Cameron Pettis said East Jackson needs to play programs like Oconee County.
“We know [Oconee County] is one of, if not the best teams we will see all year,” Pettus said. “It was a good eye-opener and experience for us, especially because we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores that are playing. They got to see exactly what it’s like to play at that level.
“We can’t replicate that in practice because we don’t have those kinds of kids. It was a good experience for us because I could see exactly where we’re at and what we need to do forward to get better.”
Monroe Area (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAA) is in no way a downgrade from Oconee County despite being ranked six spots lower than the Warriors in the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s most recent top 10 poll. The Purple Hurricanes do two things better than almost anyone in the state; run the football and suffocate offenses.
The Hurricanes rushing attack is the quarterback/running back duo of senior Selation Slaughter and junior Alan Jones. Slaughter is a third-year starter and you can tell by the way he leads the offense. He has 747 rushing yards with a team-leading 10 touchdowns. As a passer, Slaughter has 633 yards on 36-of-57 passing with seven scores.
Jones is the Hurricanes’ leading rusher with 892 yards with six touchdowns. He’s also caught a trifecta of passes for 64 yards and two more touchdowns.
When Slaughter and Jones aren;t carrying the ball, it’s usually in the hands of one of the receivers Jahlun Flud or Jeremiah Anderson, both juniors. Flud has 12 catches for 225 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Anderson has 10 catches for 126 yards with two scores. Junior Zillion Hammond is another receiver to watch. He only has four catches, but he has 105 yards and one touchdown.
“That quarterback/running back duo is very formative, very fast and very elusive,” Pettus said. “We have to be great tacklers this week. They’re going to be the fastest, most elusive quarterback and running back we’ve seen all year in my opinion. We’ve had some good tests with good, talented football players but I think these guys are a whole different level.”
Over on defense, Monroe Area is having a historic start. The Hurricane defense is allowing just 8.2 points per game. Previously undefeated Stephens County was the only team to really test Monroe Area’s defense, scoring 24 in a 34-24 loss.
“You can see their front, their defensive line is very fast and very physical. They use their hands extremely well and they can run. Their entire defense is fast. You can just see it when you put on the tape why they’ve been so good defensively.”
East Jackson at Monroe Area
Who: East Jackson at Monroe Area (The Purple Pit)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: East Jackson 2-4; Monroe Area 6-0
Coaches: Cameron Pettus, East Jackson (third year at East Jackson, 6-19); Kevin Reach, Monroe Area (fifth season at Monroe Area, 43-10; 12th season overall, 89-46)
What else: East Jackson and Monroe Area became Region 8-AAA rivals in 2016 and the Purple Hurricanes have won every game since. The two schools never played before joining the same region. Monroe Area is the only school from Walton County that East Jackson has met in football.