Before Jackson County can move on to its huge game with Elbert County in the Granite Bowl Friday, it must sort out one minor detail: who’s starting at quarterback.
Jackson County coach Billy Kirk didn’t say a change at the no.1 spot is eminent, but said there will be lots of evaluation in practice this week after the offense struggled again in last week’s loss to East Jackson.
“We can’t continue to put ourselves in a bad situation,” Kirk said.
Sophomore Kyle Daniel started the Panthers’ first four games, but was pulled Friday in favor of Jalen Banks, who started the last six games of 2009.
Jackson County quarterback Jalen Banks ran for 76 yards Friday and threw for 126. Photo by Brandon Reed
Re-thinking the quarterback situation midseason is not a slight on Daniel or his ability, Kirk said, noting the difficulty of running a varsity offense as a sophomore.
“He’s a great kid and he’s going to be a good quarterback,” Kirk said.
But Jackson County got greater production last week out of Banks, who came in and threw for 126 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 75 yards.
“I thought Jalen was fantastic … The only regret I had is that I didn’t make the decision sooner. Jalen stepped in and did everything we asked of him on the ground and in the air.”
Kirk also pointed to Banks’ experience as a starter last year. Banks led the Panthers to a victory over Stephens County last year and a near-upset of Elbert County.
“He’s familiar with the territory that we’re going in,” Kirk said.
Regardless of who starts Friday at Elbert County, it may ultimately work out to where both quarterbacks play as the season moves on, depending on who has the hot hand on a given night.
Kirk doesn’t necessarily want a “two-headed quarterback” system, but “that’s where I think we may be headed with that.”
As for this week’s game against Elbert County — which is coming off a 63-0 romp over Oglethorpe County —Jackson County will again try to take down the Blue Devils after near misses the last two seasons.
The Panthers lost 25-23 in 2008 and 28-27 last season.
So Jackson County won’t be lacking for confidence heading into the Granite Bowl.
“There’s no intimidation factor with Elbert County,” Kirk said. “That part of the equation is out.”
What is in the equation is the athleticism of the Blue Devils, who run the Wing-T offensively and base out of a 4-3 defensively.
“They have a ton of speed,” Kirk said.
Jackson County will try to limit the mishaps that have contributed to losses the past two weeks. That starts with not giving the ball away.
“We’ve got to fix the stupid things we do – the interceptions, the fumbles,” Kirk said. “We had some missed blocks that killed us.”
Jackson County will go into the game shorthanded as offensive lineman Josh Ingram and safety Alex Crawford are out for this week. So the Panthers will have to try to get a huge win minus two of their key players.
“We’ve got to find some guys to step up and fill those roles,” Kirk said.