The Panthers’ 2010 campaign hasn’t exactly gone by design.
Despite having to replace a host of starters from last year, coach Billy Kirk had hoped his Panthers would be better than 3-6 at this point — perhaps even competing for a state playoffs spot. Instead, Jackson County (3-6, 1-5) faces Rabun County in a consolation game Friday during the Region 8-AA play-in week.
Still, the Panthers have two motivational factors going for them: an opportunity to equal last year’s win total in a rebuilding season and a chance to send their seniors out with a victory.
“I’m challenging our guys to send these seniors out as winners,” Kirk said.
Jackson County finished sixth in Region 8-AA South, which has it paired it up with Rabun County (1-8, 0-5) for the final week’s action.
The top three seeds in each subregion of 8-AA will play games with state playoff implications Friday. The remaining seeds are simply playing to finish out the schedule.
Against 1-8 Rabun County, Jackson County faces a team that’s struggled all season. The Wildcats have dropped six straight contests, while their only victory came against winless Oglethorpe County Sept. 10 (23-7).
But Kirk is approaching this game with caution.
“They’re 1-8, but they’re an OK 1-8,” Kirk said. “I think if we can go play inspired football and it being senior night, I think we can be OK.”
Jackson County comes into the contest on the heels of a 49-0 shelling by Hart County last week.
The Panthers are continuing to search for a rhythm offensively, substituting different players at quarterback to give opponents a different look.
Kyle Daniel will get the starting nod, but Alex Crawford is in charge of running the Panthers’ option game and Billy Manis is used for Jackson County’s “wildcat” package.
Kirk pointed out that each player brings something different to the table, and that utilizing multiple quarterbacks is something that’s done even at the college level.
“We’re trying to find the right combination,” Kirk said.
And Jackson County hopes that combination comes Friday.
A victory would mean a lot to the Panthers heading into the offseason, with Kirk noting the buzz that last year’s season-ending victory created.
“It’s the same thing as last year with the win vs. Stephens County,” Kirk said. “That was a springboard for this year.”
Despite a tough season, Kirk said his team has stuck together.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Kirk said. “Our kids fight. Our kids play hard.”