Stephens County's football team was already equipped with size and speed. Now, the Indians can perhaps add confidence to the equation.
Jackson County hosts Stephens County this Friday (Sept. 18) after the Indians blasted North Hall 34-0 last week. They had lost to White County 44-6 in their season opener.
“You talk about improvements from Week 1 to Week 2, you definitely saw it with Stephens County,” Jackson County coach Rich McWhorter said. “They’re a much, much improved football team from one week to the next.”
In fact, McWhorter, who scouted Stephens County’s game with North Hall, said the Indians “look like a playoff football team.”
Stephens County, which is coming off a 1-9 season, is a program gifted with talent despite a rough season last year. McWhorter said he wanted his squad to face a team with the weapons Stephens County possesses.
“I knew scheduling Stephens County, we were going to be scheduling somebody that was really superior to us athletically and in size and speed,” McWhorter said. “But it’s good. We need to see that sort of thing because that’s what we’re going to see throughout our region.”
McWhorter added that the Indians’ offensive and defensive lines are “really solid,” sporting several players over 6-2, 240-pounds.
“It’s going to be a big step up for us, I think,” McWhorter said, “which, again, is kind off what we’re looking for get ready for the region schedule.”
Stephens County has moved to more of a shotgun, spread-oriented passing attack under third-year coach William Tankersley. Quarterback Ben Stowe threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns last week against North Hall, while receiver Gamarion Carter had a monster game with three catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Stephens County is anchored up front by lineman William Rudeseal.
“They have a lot of offensive weapons (and are) very impressive with the deep ball, especially (to) Gamarion Carter,” McWhorter said. “Just a very, very impressive player.”
Defensively, the Indians feature size along the line — one that’s highlighted by D.J. Hampton — and skill at linebacker and in the secondary, according to McWhorter.
Meanwhile, the Panthers haven’t played since a season-opening 26-18 win at West Hall on Sept. 4. Jackson County was originally slated to face East Jackson last week, but the game was canceled due to multiple Eagles coming into close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.
Though his team got in some extra work, McWhorter is not a big fan of open weeks.
“Open weeks are really no fun for anybody for high school football,” McWhorter said. “You want to just keep playing, especially now.”
But McWhorter saw positives from the team’s first game he hopes it can build upon. He pointed to the offensive and defensive line play, as well as the play at linebacker from a pair of new starters, Colton Boone and J.T. Sosebee, both of whom had nine tackles. Jackson County also expects to have top defensive lineman Andrew King back after he missed the West Hall game.
And McWhorter is eager to see his team back on the field this week. The coaching adage says that a team shows its most improvement from Game 1 to Game 2, but McWhorter notes the off week sandwiched in between his team’s first two contests.
“Coming off an open week, you don’t know if that’s always the case,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to get into a routine of play-and-prepare, play-and-prepare type thing. I hope we can keep some things going, and then also improve on some things … I hope we do see a real improvement, but I know Stephens County with the personnel they have, I know they’re going to be improved and they’re going to be ready to go.”