FOR ALL of Elbert County’s superlatives, East Jackson coach Brian Smith can sum up his team’s Friday night opponent in one word: speed.
“They’ve got a ton of speed,” Smith said. “We cannot simulate that speed. That’s the most speed of anybody that we’ve played. We can’t simulate that in practice.”
East Jackson (3-4, 1-3) — which is coming off a 56-3 loss to North Oconee — hosts the fleet-of-foot Blue Devils (7-0, 4-0) Friday at 7:30 p.m. Elbert County is ranked no. 7 in Class AA.
For the Eagles, a punishing stretch of games gets that much more punishing.
A week after taking one on the chin against subregion co-leader North Oconee, the Eagles now face the other leaders in the subregion.
“It’s kind of murderers’ row right now and we know that,” Smith said.
The Blue Devils are led by junior speedster Tyshon Dye, who has scholarship offers from both Georgia and Clemson. Dye is especially dangerous on the corners.
“The thing that scares us is, again, we can prepare for that all week but we’re never going to be able to prepare for that speed,” Smith said.
But that’s not all.
After facing the region’s best offense last week against North Oconee, East Jackson may face the region’s best defense this week. Elbert County has given up just seven points in its last five ball games. The Blue Devils just handed Jefferson its first shutout loss since 2005 in a 14-0 win over the Dragons this past week.
This poses quite a challenge to an East Jackson team that’s struggling to accumulate yards through the air.
“We’re still so one dimensional that it enhances what they do defensively,” Smith said.
And the Eagles are still trying to put a complete football game together.
East Jackson’s 53-point loss to North Oconee seemingly started off strong enough. The Eagles trailed only 7-0 during a stretch in the second quarter.
“For about 20 minutes, they didn’t want any of us,” Smith said. “We didn’t play perfect, but we played the game we needed to play for the first 20 minutes of the game.”
But North Oconee ended up leading 21-3 at the half and dominated the second half, posting five more touchdowns to top the 50-point mark for the second-straight week.
“We couldn’t get it done in the second half,” Smith said. “We kind of dug that hole ourselves.”
The Eagles’ Nick Alvarado provided East Jackson’s only points of the contest, booting a 42-yard field goal with 4:01 left in the second quarter.
C.J. Allen led the Eagles with 69 yards on 24 carries. The Eagles finished with 96 yards on the ground.
North Oconee rolled up 411 yards with a balanced offensive attack. The Titans ran for 215 and threw for 196. North Oconee’s Blake Gaubert hit 10-of-20 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Back-up quarterback Nick Colvin was 3-for-3 for 55 yards and two touchdown passes. Colvin also ran for a touchdown.
Smith reiterated that this was a talented Titan team.
“They were the team we thought they were going to be,” Smith said. “Like I said, we came out and I thought our kids fought hard and for about the first 20 minutes we were in a ball game and legitimately had a shot and made a couple of mistakes and went into halftime down 21-3.”
East Jackson still searches for an offensive spark entering this game with Elbert County.
The Eagles shook up the offense this past Friday, playing Taylor Saulters at quarterback in favor of Tyler Collins. Saulters finished 3-of-4 for 18 yards. East Jackson also got Austin Beauchamp some snaps.
“We’re going to continue to work and do things that give us a chance to be successful,” Smith said.
It’s possible that Saulters may start again this week.
“I would say right now that he’s the leading candidate to start,” Smith said.
Collins will see time at defensive back, receiver and perhaps running back.
“He’s a good athlete,” Smith said. “We’re going to continue to move him around and find a spot for him to play. And he’s not out (of contention) at quarterback either.”