IF EAST Jackson and Jackson County each manage the same kind of offensive horsepower as last week, then this weekend’s much-anticipated intra-county clash may have the stat crews of both schools working overtime.
East Jackson steamrolled Banks County 35-7 last week (click here for pictures) with 354 yards rushing led by two 100-yard rushers, quarterback Tyler Collins (183 yards, two touchdowns) and running back C.J. Allen (169 yards, one touchdown).
“If we can have that every week, we’re going to be successful,” East Jackson coach Brian Smith said.
Meanwhile, Jackson County piled up 464 total yards with great balance between the run and pass in its 28-20 loss last week to Fannin County (click here for story and here for pictures). Though some special teams errors ultimately cost the Panthers a chance to win, coach Billy Kirk was enthused by his offense.
“When you put up those kind of numbers, you’re going to win some football games,” Kirk said.
East Jackson, which operates out of the spread, features the more-ground oriented offense of these two schools separated by just 10 miles. The Eagles have completed just 10 passes this year. But with Collins and Allen clicking in the backfield, East Jackson hasn’t necessarily needed to go to the air. Allen is averaging a robust 10.8 yards per carry this year with 348 yards in just two games. His 169-yard effort against Banks County came after he missed East Jackson’s Sept. 2 game against Oconee County. Collins has 316 yards in three contests but enjoyed a breakout performance last week with his 183-yard game.
Allen said it all started up front.
“The only reason we were really successful with our running is because of our offensive line,” Allen said. “Without them blocking for us, we couldn’t be successful. And what made me really happy about our offensive line is that they were running down the field with us as we were running the ball.”
Allen and Collins combined for 352 of East Jackson’s 354 yards Friday. Allen said that sharing a backfield with Collins brings back memories of past football glories.
“In the eighth grade we were undefeated 7-0 in middle school, and it just brings back memories of when we used to be in the backfield together,” he said.
Jackson County, which also operates out of the spread, rebounded from a disastrous performance in week two (just 33 total yards against Walnut Grove) with one of its most prolific nights in the Kirk era against Fannin County.
Panther quarterback Kyle Daniel completed 20-of-29 passes and threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in a career performance for the junior signal caller.
“That’s the kind of Kyle we know he can be,” Kirk said.
Though Daniel is asked to be mostly a game manager as the Panthers’ quarterback, he’s made some big throws this year. Against Johnson in the season-opener, Daniel lofted a 24-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Harper. Daniel found Harper again in last week’s game for a 20-yard scoring strike and also hit Ben Brissy on a 15-yard touchdown pass late as Jackson County tried to rally against Fannin County.
“He gives us a vertical passing game that we’ve never had,” Kirk said.
Jackson County also ran the ball really well last week, grinding up with 227 yards. Daivon Ledford led the Panthers with 90 yards on 20 carries and an early touchdown. Kirk points to his team’s balance.
“If you look at our ground and pound and what we were able to do with our passing game, that’s a big deal,” he said.
Now it remains to be seen who will have more success Friday night when Jackson and East Jackson meet.
Smith noted Jackson County’s offense and its different looks.
“Offensively, they’re very multiple,” Smith said. “They throw it a little bit better than we do probably, and they like to run the spread.”
Meanwhile, Kirk knows full well about what East Jackson features in the backfield.
“Those two kids (Collins and Allen), when you look at them on the film, they’re special kids … We’ve got a challenge to stop them. They’re going to get their yards, we’ve just got to keep them out of the end zone,” Kirk said.
Jackson County linebacker Trey PettyJohn said East Jackson’s offense will look very familiar.
“They’re not going to do more than our offense does at practice,” he said. “We’re just going to go out there and play ball.”