IT’S NOT an overwhelming 3-1 start, but it’s a 3-1 start nonetheless.
East Jackson struggled offensively this past Friday and gave up nearly 300 yards rushing but came out on top in a 21-12 win over rival Jackson County. Click here for photos of the game.
“We haven’t done it perfect … Friday night is not the way you want to win a ball game,” Eagle coach Brian Smith said. “It was a tough game. Jackson County played really well. But we found a way to do it.”
East Jackson (3-1, 1-0) — which hosts Oglethorpe County Friday for homecoming —benefitted from five Jackson County turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown.
Smith also noted that his team even got some lucky bounces in its 35-7 win over Banks County the previous week. The Eagles returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown and also scored a touchdown on a botched field goal attempt.
“We’re still in the process of growing,” Smith said. “We’re still trying to understand things and make sure everything is OK and get through what we need to get through, but we’re going to get there. I’m excited about our kids. We’re still trying to figure out who we are offensively and defensively.”
Among the offensive strides Smith would like to see is improvements in the passing game. East Jackson has completed just two passes in its last two games, with one of those coming off the botched field goal attempt against Banks County.
“We’ve got to develop the throwing game a little bit,” Smith said. “We know that. It’s not something that we’re overlooking. It’s just something that we’re struggling with right now.”
Still, East Jackson could surpass its win total from last year with a victory Friday on homecoming night against Oglethorpe County, which is off to a 2-2 start after a winless 2010. The Eagles are trying to move to 2-0 in subregion play.
“We’re sitting up in a high place,” said East Jackson defensive back Trent Dowdy, who picked off two passes in the win over Jackson County. “We’ve got some tough teams on the schedule coming up, so we’ve got to pick up the intensity in practice.”
Smith is impressed with what he said looks like a rejuvenated Oglethorpe County program.
“They’re much improved, very athletic,” Smith said. “They play hard. They’ve got some big kids and a big receiver that runs really good.”
Smith compares Oglethorpe County’s option offense to that of Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern. The coach said his defense must play disciplined, assignment football.
“Their quarterbacks and running backs run hard, I mean they run doggone hard,” Smith said. “It’s one of those things that we’ve got to make sure we stop the option. When you play an option team, it’s something that, all it takes is one snap and you’re down seven and two snaps and you’re down 14.”
While East Jackson will try to win on homecoming night, it could also be a milestone evening for Smith who’s sitting on 99 career coaching victories. Smith is taking the possibility of his 100th win in stride.
“I’m just getting old,” said Smith, who has a 99-74 record in 16 seasons, including two in college. “That’s all that means. That means I’ve done this a while.”
Smith added that 100 wins for him — whenever it happens — is not a big deal, giving credit instead to assistant coaches and players.
“I just hope the second 100 comes a lot quicker than the first 100 did,” he said.