Friday’s (Sept. 20) skirmish between Madison County and East Jackson will feature two of northeast Georgia’s most improved football teams.
Both squads combined for a 3-17 record in 2018 with last place finishes in their respective regions. So far this year, they’ve combined for five wins as the Red Raiders enter the contest 2-2, while the Eagle’s 3-0 mark is their best through three games since 2009.
Last season, Madison County proved to be the better team with a 55-0 win over East Jackson, but it was the only game in which the Raiders scored over 35 points and allowed less than 10 points. The 55 points were more than what East Jackson scored in the entire season (41 points).
That’s why East Jackson has gotten more admiration from area media this season. New head coach Cameron Pettus has the Eagles undefeated and outscoring opponents 93-29. Last week (Sept. 13), they defeated Banks County 38-0.
Participation on the football team is up and everyone who has seen the Eagles have said the improvements are obvious. The team already had a star player in Caleb Adair, they have finally put players around him.
“They’re a better team than they were last year,” Smith said. “They’ve got a great coaching staff, they do a good job executing on offense. We have to come in here and not take those guys for granted and get ready to play. We have to be focused and be ready to play with the same amount of intensity that we came out with tonight, and realize they’re not the same team they were a year ago.
“Caleb is a hard nosed kid. He plays hard, plays the game the right way. Very smart kid, he’s going to be in position no matter what side he’s on.”
But one can’t overlook the improvements Madison County has made, thanks in part to new offensive line coach and former East Jackson head coach, Scott Wilkins. His unit dominated in the Red Raiders' two wins and played well enough to put the offense in striking distance multiple times last Friday (Sept. 13) against Hart County while the game was still close.
Next to preparing for the Eagles, Smith’s biggest task this week was getting his team to realize how good Hart County is and how that game can’t define their season.
“I think they understand that they’re still improving,” he said. “The biggest thing is to not let them get hung up on a loss to Hart County. They have to realize they’re [Hart County] a dang good football team. They’re ranked No. 6 in the state for a reason. You want to play these types of teams to prepare yourself for region play. That’s why we schedule them. I think it gives us a measuring stick to get better.”
“We have to be sure we know who we’re blocking on each and every play we’re running and continuing to get our skill players to do a better job blocking. I don’t think our offensive line did a bad job, I just don’t think we did a very good job with our skill guys blocking. We talked all week about our skill guys establishing the line of scrimmage. That’s something we have to get corrected.”