Senior running back, O-Line ignite Jackson County offense
Austin McDonald might have been as disappointed as anyone that Jackson County didn’t get to complete the final half of its game with Johnson-Gainesville Friday.
The Panther senior running back was striding toward career night with 115 total yards in two quarters and the go-ahead touchdown before the game was called after halftime due to lightning.
McDonald and the Panthers (1-0) — who were awarded a 14-8 victory — hope for more of the same offensively Friday when they play Walnut Grove at home at 7:30 p.m.
“I was sad kind of because I would have had a 200-yard game if we had played the other two quarters,” McDonald said of the game being called. “But I’m happy to have 100-plus yards in one game.”
The two-quarter victory and McDonald’s stats still go into the record books as the Panthers move to 1-0 with an offense that’s showing some promise.
Against Johnson, McDonald nearly topped the century mark in just the one half with 97 rushing yards. Combined with 18 yards receiving, McDonald had 115 total yards on 15 touches, according to the finalized tally sheet.
“It’s amazing what he did,” Jackson County coach Billy Kirk said.
Kirk lauded the Panther offensive line’s performance in the season-opening win, and McDonald offered similar praise for his blockers. Paving the way up front were Josh Ingram (6’3,” 255-lb.), Ben Brown (6’0,” 205-lb.), Reno Messler (6’6,” 265-lb.), Troy McIntyre (5’9,” 240-lb.), Brandon Echols (6’0,” 235-lb.) and Keith Pruett (6’1,” 285-lb.).
“They were playing awesome,” McDonald said. “Every single time I touched the ball almost always there were perfect holes. All I saw was grass. They did awesome — every single one of them.”
Friday also signaled McDonald’s return to the backfield after a two-year absence. He played fullback in 2008 when Jackson County operated out of the I-formation. Ankle surgery in 2009 caused him to miss last season, but McDonald is back now working in the Panthers’ spread offense. He provided over half of Jackson County’s total yardage Friday.
“I was really excited to be back out there,” McDonald said. “I hadn’t been out there in over a year. It’s just good to be back.”
The rest of the offense thrived too.
Jackson County rolled up 221 total yards in the one half and controlled the time of possession in sophomore Kyle Daniel’s first start at quarterback. Daniels finished 13-of-25 through the air with 92 yards.
McDonald is excited about Jackson County’s offensive potential this year.
“Our quarterback, Kyle, he’s only a sophomore and he was doing awesome,” McDonald said. “And we have a freshman receiver Ben Brissey. He was catching just about all the passes. He did awesome.”
Now the Panthers look toward this Friday and Walnut Grove, whose program is only in its second year of existence.
Based on what he’s seen on film, McDonald said he’s concerned about the visiting Warriors’ defensive front but still has confidence in the Panther lineman that gave him all those great blocks in game one.
“Our offensive line should take care of it,” McDonald said.
With two great quarters of football behind him, McDonald is ready for this Friday when the Panthers get to play — presumably — four quarters of football.
“I don’t know about everybody else, how they’re looking forward to it, but I’m ready as I can be,” he said.