Kadin Bailey

Kadin Bailey runs down the sideline in Jefferson's season opener against Rabun County.

Jefferson left the familiar confines of northeast Georgia to find its next opponent. The Dragons host the Southside Tigers from Greenville, S.C. this Friday (Sept. 3) night.

The Tigers are 0-2 on the year, but their two losses have come against high-quality opponents. Southside and new head coach Wilbur Ravenell Jr. were just six points away from achieving their first win together Friday night.

“It’s [Ravenell’s] first year, they had a tough outing against a very good Southside Christian team in the first week,” said head coach Gene Cathcart. “Then last week they played very well against a AAAAA playoff team in Woodmont. Traditionally, they’ve got no shortage of athletes. They excel in basketball and track, and the past few years they’ve had some very fine football teams as well.

“They’re 0-2, which any of our kids can see online, but they really improved from week one to week two. Coach Dolittle and I have competed against the coach at Woodmont and he’s an outstanding coach, so that was a good performance for those kids.”

Cathcart says the biggest challenge Southside presents is its speed at every position. If Jefferson takes bad angles or fails to make a tackle, Cathcart says Southside can make them pay with big plays. On offense, the Dragons will contend with a loaded and aggressive box which could create problems for Jefferson’s ground-based option attack.

Jefferson is coming off a 42-7 obliteration of AAAAAA squad Central Gwinnett last Friday Malaki Starks, Sammy Brown and Kadin Bailey combined only touched the ball four times for dour touchdowns and over 50 yards per carry.

From the outside looking in, Jefferson doesn’t look like a team with room for improvement. But in his 17-year coaching career, Cathcart certainly knows better than that.

“Friday was one of those things where we made some plays early,” he said. “They all made huge plays and we knocked the group out early, which is a good thing, but also you get a false sense of where we are knowing the teams we are going to play later are going to make us continue to execute.

“We’ve got to continue to improve from an execution standpoint… The film jumps out at you with opportunities for improvement.”

On the flip side, the blowout did give Jefferson a chance to play more backups which should make the team better in the long run, especially in the Region 8-AAAA opener against Flowery Branch on Sept. 24.

“It’s always good for morale and all of our kids work really hard,” Cathcart said. “The double-edged sword I’ve said many times of a running clock is the design of it is great to prevent one team from trying to embarrass another. But it really hurts the number of reps your backups can get.

“We did some good things in all three phases when we started subbing early Friday night… That’s great learning film for some of those young guys who are not only going to become good players in the future, but they’ll also start contributing in key roles as we get more into the year.”

Southside at Jefferson

Who: Southside at Jefferson (Memorial Stadium)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Records: Jefferson 2-0, Southside 0-2

Coaches: Gene Cathcart, Jefferson (fifth season at Jefferson, 42-9; 17th season overall, 151-51); Wilbur Ravenhill, Southside (first year at Southside, 0-2)

What else: Despite being from different states, Jefferson and Southside aren’t total strangers. The Dragons defeated the Tigers 31-7 back in 2018, Cathcart’s second year in the program. Cathcart and assistant coach Mike Dolittle certainly aren’t strangers to South Carolina high school football either. They spent six years (2009-14) coaching in the Palmetto State. Five years were spent at Greenwood where Cathcart won his first state title as a head coach in 2012.

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