FRIDAY night brought several unenviable “firsts” for new East Jackson coach Brian Smith — his first loss with the Eagles, his first home loss in his new post and his first time being shutout at East Jackson.
His team, coming off a 35-0 loss to Oconee County, aims for better distinctions this week when it hosts rival Banks County Friday at 7:30 p.m. Smith said Friday’s disappointment simply can’t linger into this week and beyond.
“They beat us, sure,” Smith said. “Friday night they were 35 points better than us, but we can’t let them beat us this week and the next week and the next week. We’ve got to get that out of our system and get moving.”
This week’s foe, Banks County, is off to a 2-0 start under new coach Phillip Jones after steamrolling Riverside Military 41-0 this past Friday. Smith said the Leopards are playing confident, inspired football.
“They’re 2-0 right now,” Smith said. “They’re playing hard. That’s the big thing I see on both sides of the ball especially — they play hard. They like to run the football a little bit and they’re a hard-nosed team.”
East Jackson — which got back to the practice field very early on a rainy Labor Day morning — hopes for a much better start this week than it experienced during last week’s first-half turbulence.
Oconee County opened with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Conner White to Jamar Thomas on its first play from scrimmage and the scenery never changed for East Jackson.
The visiting Warriors ran out to a 28-0 halftime lead and held East Jackson — playing without standout tailback C.J. Allen — to just 137 total yards on the night. Conversely, Oconee County rolled up 432 yards by half time, 273 of that coming via the Warriors’ passing attack.
Oconee County, which finished with 602 total yards, tacked on a 25-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to hand the Eagles their most lopsided defeat since a 58-0 loss to Lovett in the 2009 playoffs.
The final score might have been worse, but Oconee County turned the ball over twice inside East Jackson’s five-yard line.
Smith said that Allen, who ran for 179 yards in week one in the Eagles’ win over White County, had been suffering from headaches resulting from a hit he sustained in the season-opener. Allen didn’t have any symptoms against White County but began having headaches last week and was held out against Oconee County as a precaution.
Smith said Monday that Allen had been symptom-free for about a week and should play Friday.
“It makes us a little bit better football team, and it gives us a couple threats in the backfield and makes the job a little easier back there,” he said.
East Jackson — which will also get back right tackle Lance Haley from injury — will face a Banks County team that bases out of a five-man front defensively and operates out of both the spread and I-formation on offense. Smith said the Leopards are “not real fancy, but what they do, they do very well.”
“They’re pretty high right now,” Smith said. “They’ve got a new head coach. They’ve got two wins under their belts, so they are on a high right now.”
Not to be forgotten are the bragging rights at stake, given that the two schools are only about 15 miles apart. That adds an element of excitement to the game, Smith said.
“It’s a close game,” Smith said. “They’ve got relatives. They’ve got friends. They go to church with people, especially the guys who live on this end of the county. So they know some of those guys. That’s a big thing.”