When Jackson County looked at its schedule before the year, it knew one of its toughest tests loomed on Oct. 8 against North Oconee.
What Jackson County (3-3, 1-2) didn’t know was that it would be tasked with trying to beat the Titans (5-0, 2-0) minus three starters on defense.
“We’ve got to put together a band-aid defense to play one of the top offensive teams in our region,” coach Billy Kirk said.
Starters at outside linebacker, defensive line and safety were ejected last week after Jackson County and Oglethorpe County players began fighting for a loose ball late in the Panthers’ 7-0 victory. Two Oglethorpe County players were thrown out in addition to the three Panthers who were tossed. Players ejected from a game automatically miss the next game, so the Panthers are down three more starters off an already depleted defense.
Kirk was very upset with the referees’ handling of the situation, saying that two of the Jackson County ejections weren’t even justified. Had a whistle been blown when it should have, Kirk contends, none of this would be an issue.
“That situation would have been eliminated had the refs controlled the football game,” Kirk said.
Meanwhile, Jackson County does get a starting linebacker back after he missed the Oglethorpe County game due to an ejection in the Panthers’ Sept. 24 loss to Elbert County.
Suspensions aside, equally as vexing for Kirk has been the Panther offense, which generated one touchdown this past Friday. And that score came after a botched Oglethorpe County punt set Jackson County up at the Patriot 20. (Click here for the JCCHS-Oglethorpe Co. game story)
“We were poor Friday night,” Kirk said. “My frustration still hasn’t changed.”
Simply put, Jackson County has to move the ball and keep North Oconee’s potent offense off the field to give itself a chance.
“That’s one of the things we talked about in our meetings,” Kirk said. “We can’t be three-and-out every time or we’ll get murdered.”
Jackson County is still trying to sort out its quarterback situation heading into week seven. A third quarterback, Tony Holton, started for the Panthers this past Friday, but Jalen Banks will get the starting nod this week. Banks started the Elbert County game.
Kirk noted one of his assistant coaches has jokingly started calling him “Steve Spurrier” — who’s known for shuffling quarterbacks — but said he’s still trying to find consistency at that spot. Though the Panthers have an offensive package for Holton, the starting job is firmly Banks’ this week. Kirk said his coaches have a game plan “and I think Jalen can execute it.”
North Oconee, meanwhile, is having no problems on either side of the ball. The Titans, who beat Jefferson 35-22 last week, are averaging 39 points a game and only surrendering nine points a contest.
“They’re loaded,” Kirk said.
While North Oconee certainly has the ability to put the ball in the air, the Titans like to run the ball first with star running back Lane Thompson. North Oconee ran for 255 yards in the win over Jefferson.
“They want to run it and make it hurt,” Kirk said.
Kirk puts into perspective the challenge his team faces Friday.
“Nobody is giving Jackson County a chance Friday, probably not even anyone in our school,” Kirk said. “But that doesn’t change the way we’re going to prepare.”
Anything is possible, but with early season injuries, two weeks of suspensions, qb swaps every week, and fumbles/incomplete passes/penalties (='s 3 & out!)you can't expect a team to get their act together...