The next obstacle in Jefferson’s quest for region and state supremacy is East Hall.
The Vikings enter Friday’s contest with a paltry 1-4 record and are coming off a 42-6 loss in their region 8-AAAA opener at Cedar Shoals. But don’t let the poor record fool you, East Hall the ability to score a lot of points. The Vikings have eclipsed 21 points in four games this season, and they have two games in which scored more than four touchdowns.
East Hall runs an up-tempo, pass-happy offense that will challenge Jefferson’s rebuilt defensive backfield.
“Offensively, they certainly get your attention,” said head coach Gene Cathcart. “We feel like the long-term objectives of winning the region and playing in the playoffs, to make a serious run, you’re going to have to defend a bunch of teams that do a great job spreading it around and distributing the ball.
“This group offensively presents a lot of challenges, so it’s a good opportunity for us to improve against that style of play. It’s a good opportunity for us to put some stress on our defensive backs who have played really well, and trying to get pressure on the quarterback without having to dial up blitzes.”
Cathcart isn’t worried about his team focusing too much on East Hall’s record. The Dragons are dealing with a litany of injuries, including running back and safety Bowman Horn who has missed the last few games. Cathcart believes the injury bug has his squad focused on the task at hand, especially the backups who will receive opportunities to step up this week.
“One thing that will help us focus is the fact that we’re a really banged up football team,” he said. “We have a lot of kids who are questionable for this week and so that helps make sure our focus is where it needs to be as we get ready for our first away region game.”
“We’re blessed to have quality depth. We trust those players completely. When their number is called, they step up. As they say ‘the spokes change but the wheel is supposed to roll on.’ I’m interested to see how some of those guys dop this week.”
On a positive note as far as injuries are concerned; Running back and linebacker Jordan Perry returned to the active roster Friday. He didn’t start, but he play early on defense and made several good plays. Cathcart said Perry’s return is the “equivalent of getting back three players” because of his leadership role in all three phases of the game.
This game isn’t just an opportunity for Jefferson’s defense. Cathcart also sees an opportunity for the offense and for the team as a whole to play its first region road game of 2021.
“It’s a good opportunity for us offensively to try to distribute the ball well,” he said. “Part of running a great defense, we’re blessed to have one, but part of it is your offense being able to stay on the field.
“It’s one of those classic matchups where it’s a great opportunity for us to be in a hostile environment. We know we’ll get their best shot. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in this region, it’s that Jefferson is going to get everyone’s best swing.”
Jefferson at East Hall
Who: Jefferson at East Hall (Valhalla – East Hall Stadium)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: Jefferson 5-0, East Hall 1-4
Coaches: Gene Cathcart, Jefferson (fifth season at Jefferson, 45-9; 17th season overall 154-51); Matt Turner, East Hall (first season at East Hall, 1-4)
What else: The Dragons and Vikings have met only twice since 1987, but the two schools separated by just 21 miles had a pretty healthy series throughout the 1960s and 70s. Jefferson and East Hall met 14 times in a period of 21 years, with 10 of those games being region games. Jefferson went 10-4 against East Hall in those 14 games and it currently enjoys a 12-5 lead in the series including last year’s win by forfeit.