Getting to play four quarters of football with clear skies this time, Jackson County produced highlights on both sides of the ball to stay unbeaten.
Kyle Daniel threw a 60-yard touchdown to Ben Brissey, Austin McDonald ran for 176 yards and Garrett Holt intercepted three passes as Jackson County moved to 2-0 with a 21-3 victory over fledgling Walnut Grove Friday.
Senior safety Alex Crawford noted the intensity of the Panthers’ defense, which forced four turnovers.
“We knew what we were coming into, and we executed,” Crawford said. “We played really well tonight. I was impressed with how well we showed up and how well we played.”
Three Jackson County fumbles prevented the final score from being more lopsided than it was over the Warriors, who were playing only the seventh game in their program’s history.
“We could have probably put 40 (points) up,” Panther coach Billy Kirk said. “We’re inside the red zone three times, and we fumble the ball, and our penalties, we’ve got to fix those things before we can be a good football team.”
Jackson County, which played only two quarters last week before earning a lightning shortened victory over Johnson-Gainesville, begins Region 8-AA play this week in its cross-over game at Fannin County.
Jackson County’s defense still hasn’t allowed an opponent into the end zone, but Walnut Grove did kick a field goal as time expired Friday to deny the Panthers the shutout.
The only touchdown Jackson County has surrendered thus far this year came against the special teams in week one against Johnson.
“Our defense is lights-out,” Kirk said. “We’ve got to continue to coach them and they’ve got to continue to learn. Coach (Jay) Reid, our defensive coordinator, does an unbelievable job.”
Jackson County took a 14-0 lead at halftime thanks to Daniel’s deep throw to Brissey in the first quarter and a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter from McDonald, who had another huge night at running back after missing last season. The bruising senior running back has 273 yards rushing in just six quarters of play in 2010 led by some stellar play up front.
“Our offensive line did it again,” Kirk said. “Unbelievable. I mean you’ve got those big hogs up front. It’s great to watch.”
Daniel, a sophomore making his second start under center, finished 8-of-17 for 89 yards. Brissey, only a freshman, again led the Panthers with 61 yards on six receptions.
Kirk noted the number of youngsters already contributing on the varsity.
“Offensively, you’ve got to realize — sophomore quarterback, sophomore on the offensive line, freshman receiver, sophomore receiver,” Kirk said. “We’re babies. Those kids should be playing on Thursday nights … (Brissey), he took the CRCT six months ago.”
Backup quarterback Jalen Banks provided the Panthers’ final score, running in from four yards out with 1:36 left in the game.
Holt — only a sophomore — enjoyed a career night at cornerback picking up the first three interceptions of his career.
Holt picked off one pass in the second quarter and two in the third. His final interception stopped a Walnut Grove drive at the Panther 16.
“I was looking for slants,” Holt said of the final pick. “I said, ‘it’s coming.’ So I just went for it.”
Jackson County had four picks on the night, with K.J. Washington grabbing an interception late and returning the ball to the Walnut Grove three to set up Banks’ score.
Kirk said playing and beating the Warriors helps his team gear up for the region grind.
“People can say what they want to, but (Walnut Grove’s) a good football team,” Kirk said. “You saw on the field. Athletically, we had no business being on the field with them — athletically … We’re fortunate to come away with what we had.”
Jackson County's Garrett Holt grabs one of his three interceptions Friday night as the Panthers rolled to a 21-3 victory.
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