Kyle Daniel and Michael Lewis connected for a 49-yard score and Kelly Moates returned a fumble for a 39-yard touchdown, but Jackson County (2-1) still fell to Fannin County 28-14 Friday in Blue Ridge.
Jackson County — which faces East Jackson this week — turned the ball over three times in the loss and allowed a 93-yard kick off return on the game’s opening play.
Lewis finished with a season-high 89 yards receiving Friday, with nearly half of that coming via the touchdown toss from Daniel.
“Michael has improved every single week,” coach Billy Kirk said.
Daniel went 14-for-29 with 128 yards passing and the touchdown to Lewis.
Austin McDonald, who rushed for a combined 273 yards in the first two games, ran for 72 yards on 17 carries. He has 345 through three games.
“Offensively, we did some things, but obviously turnovers destroyed us,” Kirk said.
This was Jackson County’s region cross-over game, so the loss doesn’t count in the 8-AA South standings.
Giving up a kickoff return to open the game certainly put Jackson County at a disadvantage.
“That kind of took the wind out of our sails,” Kirk said.
But the Panthers rallied.
Jackson County tied the game at 14 in the third quarter and recovered an onside kick. But the Panthers threw an interception on the very next play.
Fannin County, a 6-4 team from last year, threw a touchdown pass to reclaim the lead at 21-14 and the momentum.
“It just about kicked our teeth in and we never recovered,” Kirk said.
The coach was still enthused by the play of his defense though it gave up three touchdowns.
Billy Manis had 15 tackles and a sack to lead Jackson County defensively. Nick Oney had 10 stops.
In addition to Moates’ scoop-and-score, the senior had nine tackles.
Alex Crawford forced the Panthers’ other turnover, picking up an interception. He also had eight tackles.Alex Nanigan finished with seven tackles.
“The defense played outstanding,” Kirk said. “They were on the field for 80 snaps.”
Kirk noted that his team fell to arguably the best team in Region 8-AA North. The loss to Fannin County would only come back to haunt Jackson County if needed for tiebreaker scenarios in the subregion standings.
So the goal is to learn from what’s essentially a non-region loss and move on.
“I think I’d rather it be now than the next week or the week after that,” Kirk said.