Jackson County looks to keep Elbert County star Mecole Hardman off the field as much as possible — and tackle well when he’s on it. The Panthers travel to Elberton this Friday to take on the Blue Devils and their star quarterback and cast of talented athletes. Hardman holds offers from over 20 major programs, including Georgia, Tennessee, Michigan, Miami, Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Florida State.

“We’ve got find a way to tackle this week,” Jackson County coach Brandon Worley said. “If we can get something moving on offense, and have a game similar to what we had at Jefferson — establishing long drives offensively and keep the ball out of their hands — I think that’s the best way to solve that problem. But they’re very, very athletic. We’ve got to tackle and keep the ball out of their hands.”

Sixth-ranked Elbert County (5-1, 1-1) lost a high-profile region game against Jefferson last week, falling 27-8, while the Panthers (3-3, 0-2) are coming off a 29-0 loss to Oconee County in a game played in tough conditions on a field soaked by several days of rain.

Jackson County trailed the Warriors 13-0 after a quarter, 20-0 at the half and 29-0 after three quarters. Tyler Davis scored Oconee County’s first touchdown and quarterback Zeb Nolan followed with three rushing touchdowns. The Warriors notched their final points with a third quarter safety.

“It was one of those games that I guess you could say that if anything could go wrong, it went wrong,” Worley said. “But I think our kids fought. We just had some things happen and not go our way.”

Turnovers were one of the problems for the Panthers, who dropped their second straight region game.

Jackson County fumbled the ball away on the second offensive play of the game and threw two interceptions in its second shutout loss of the season.

“We just had things happen at the wrong times,” Worley said. “Overall, our defense didn’t play terrible. (Oconee County) had to establish long drives, but when you get down and it’s nasty, it’s hard to score a lot of points in that environment anyway.”

The Warriors’ Christian Carey ran for over 100 yards on the night as Oconee County moved the ball effectively on the ground.

“They did a great job across the line of scrimmage, and that’s something we need to do a better job of,” Worley said.

As the team moves toward its second game in three weeks against a highly-ranked region opponent, Worley said his team must get healthy and simply “get better at doing what we’re supposed to do.”

But the coach said he believes his team will respond this week.

“We’ll fight,” Worley said. “We’ll come back, and we’ll compete.”

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