Mention Elbert County and the word that instantly comes to mind is speed.
The Blue Devils (5-1, 3-0) are loaded with it this year as they’re tied atop the subregion standings with North Oconee. If Jefferson is to pull off an upset Friday at Elbert County, it will have to find a way to corral the Blue Devils’ fast runners.
“They’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of athletes,” Jefferson linebacker Kyle Mosley said. “We’re just going to have to work hard and continue working hard this week.”
Led by speedsters like Valdon Cooper and Tyshon Dye, Elbert County is two points away from being unbeaten this year under first-year coach Sid Fritts. Elbert County is averaging 38 points a game.
“Just work on our outsides, work on our sweeps,” Mosley said of preparation for Elbert County. “They’re quick, so we’re going to try to bump up the intensity this week and work hard.”
Dragon coach T. McFerrin, who’s a 40-plus year veteran of the sidelines, said Elbert County possesses “tremendous speed.”
“Probably as good as I’ve seen in a long time,” he said, noting that includes the time he spent coaching in Class AAAAA.
Elbert County operates out of the Wing-T, a scheme that features a heavy dose of East-West running from its backs.
“You’ve got to be in exactly the right gaps to contain it,” McFerrin said.
One important responsibility is containing the edge. Jefferson can’t afford to let the Blue Devils backs get loose on the perimeter, though very few opponents of Elbert County have been successful in limiting that this year.
Elbert County runs a lot of the same plays, but out of seven or eight different formations, which makes a defense’s task more difficult.
“They’re a really explosive offense,” McFerrin said.
This is a huge game for Jefferson if it wants to keep its playoff hopes afloat.
The Dragons, who are currently in fifth place in 8-AA South, have to win out to have any shot of making the state playoffs. They don’t control their own destiny.
The Region 8-AA will determine its four playoff teams Nov. 5. The top two teams from each subregion will crossover and play each other during the region play-in week to determine the region champion and the no. 2 seed in the state playoffs. Meanwhile, the no. 2 seeds from each side will play the no. 3 seeds from the other side. The winners of those two games are the no. 3 and no. 4 seeds.
While a no. 3 seed in the subregion is still mathematically possible for his team, McFerrin said the Dragons can only concentrate on winning the games they have remaining and on not the possible scenarios out there.
“That’s not even in our thoughts right now,” McFerrin said. “We’re focusing on Elbert County.”
Subregion implications aside, Friday presents yet another road challenge for the Dragons, who are making their first trek since 1976 to the 15,000-seat Granite Bowl.
The players are looking forward to the trip. This is already Jefferson’s fifth game away from Memorial Stadium.
“Oh, yeah, it’s going to be exciting,” Mosley said. “I’ve never played over there. The JV has, but the varsity hasn’t so it should be pretty exciting.”
Jefferson’s tough luck with injuries drags on into week seven. Buddy Camp, a starter at defensive tackle, broke his thumb against Oglethorpe County and is out for two weeks. Starting safety Jason Demos injured his ankle. The Dragons hope to have him back this weekend.
“It’s the darndest thing I’ve ever seen,” McFerrin said.