STARKS

Jefferson's Malaki Starks dives for the goal line on Nov. 5 in the Dragons win over Chestatee. Jefferson will close the regular season Friday (Nov. 20) at Madison County. 

It’s been an odd season, but Jefferson’s football team has a chance to join some select company.

The Dragons (9-0, 5-0 Region 8-AAAA) can become only the fourth team in school history to record a 10-0 regular-season record if it can beat Madison County (3-6, 2-3 Region 8-AAAA) Friday (Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m.) on the road. Jefferson’s 2008, 2009 and 2014 teams are the only other squads to complete a 10-0 regular season.

“It’s just a different year,” said Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart, whose team picked up forfeit wins this season against East Hall and North Oconee. “But, all I can say about our guys is we’ve won every game we’ve played. To finish that, that would be a special thing for this group.”

This week's opponent, Madison County, a quarterfinals team from last year, enters this game with momentum, having routed East Hall 38-6 last week.

Cathcart praised the job Chris Smith has done guiding the Red Raider program, pointing to last year’s deep postseason run.

“He did as good of a job as anybody,” Cathcart said.

The Dragon coach noted that Madison County is playing with extra incentive this week as it still has chance to earn its way into the state playoffs with a win and a Cedar Shoals loss.

“We know we’ll get their best swing because mathematically they are still alive for the playoffs,” Cathcart said. “It’s a proud program.”

Meanwhile, Jefferson’s postseason position is already set, having locked up a No. 1 seed for the state playoffs. It clinched the region title — the program’s seventh in 13 years — after a forfeit victory last week against North Oconee, which canceled against the Dragons due to COVID-19 exposure issues.

Cathcart said he was proud of his team for earning another region championship, the program’s second in a row.

“It’s disappointing not to have an opportunity to win it on the field,” he said. “But we can only control — as we’ve learned this season — what we can control. Certainly, being a No. 1 seed carries a lot of weight with it as you enter the playoffs.”

Jefferson looks forward to just getting back on the field this week. Since beating Flowery Branch 40-10 on Oct. 9, the Dragons have played only twice, defeating Cedar Shoals and Chestatee. The Dragons have had an off week and two games canceled during that span.

Cathcart expects his team to see a hostile environment at Red Raider Stadium when it returns to action Friday.

“That’s a proud program and an outstanding coaching staff,” he said of Madison County. “I don’t think there’s a lot of love lost for the Dragons over in Danielsville. Even though we get along great with their coaching staff, I think we’re a pretty good rival for them. So, it would be great to have that atmosphere as you get ready for the playoffs.”

Cathcart said while this time of the year marks “the beginning of the end” for most teams, for those teams embarking on special seasons, it’s “just the end of the beginning.”

“That’s what we’re hoping certainly,” he said.

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