Heading into his team's finale, Jackson County football coach Rich McWhorter wanted his squad’s best week of the season. He got it.
Isaiah Maxey threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jaden Cofer with 20 seconds remaining as Jackson County rallied to beat Apalachee 21-17 at home Friday (Nov. 20).
With the win, Panthers finished 4-6 in their second season under coach Rich McWhorter. The coach said he was eager to see how his team would perform in the second half of the game after struggling in the second halves of previous games.
“I was excited to see our guys compete to the end, and not only just compete to the end, but also make plays throughout the second half, too to pull it off,” McWhorter said.
Maxey was 6-of-9 passing for 75 yards with two touchdown passes, both to Cofer, while La'Travious Ransom also ran for touchdown as the Panthers ended a three-game losing streak. Ransom rushed for 145 yards on 32 carries, passing the 1,000-yard mark despite missing one game this year. He finished his junior campaign with 1,131 yards.
“We knew that our offensive line was a really good group,” McWhorter said. “Of course, we knew that Tre is an excellent, excellent running back. Put that together, we were hoping on the year that he’d have that kind of year, and he did.”
With the Panthers trailing 7-0 after a quarter, Ransom scored on a 15-yard run during the second quarter to tie the game.
The teams were knotted 7-7 at the half, but Apalachee returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter for a touchdown.
But Jackson County tied the game with four minutes left in the third quarter with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Maxey to Cofer, who finished with 44 yards on five catches.
Apalachee took a 17-14 lead with a late fourth-quarter field goal from Gustavo Solis, but Maxey and Cofer answered with the game winner to avenge losses to the Wildcats the past two years.
A short kick from Apalachee followed by a long kickoff return from Ransom — who had been positioned up front on the kick return unit by Panther coaches — set up Jackson County in prime field position for its game-winning drive.
“It really enabled us to use the whole play book being on that side of the field to where time wasn’t as big of a factor,” McWhorter said.
While Jackson County earned the win, it was shutout of the postseason with Loganville beating Walnut Grove to lock up the fourth and final spot out of 8-AAAAA for the state playoffs.
But the come-from-behind win has next year's players motivated.
“I got a text from some of our younger players this morning just saying ‘Can’t wait until next year and a bunch of us are already out working out,’” McWhorter said. “I think that’s some of the benefits of finishing the year with a win.”