AT 4-4, Hart County may not enter Friday’s game with Jackson County in typical Hart County fashion, but Panther head coach Billy Kirk expects nothing less than a typical Hart County team.
“Don’t let Hart County being 4-4 be an indicator of their football team,” Kirk warned. “We’ve played them every year since I’ve been here. They’ve always got great athletes, and they’ve always got a lot of speed.”
Kickoff is Friday at 7:30 at Pete Herndon Stadium in Hartwell.
Hart County is coming off an off-week, having beat Oglethorpe County 44-26 on Oct. 14.
The Bulldogs are 2-3 in subregion play but nearly upset region co-leader North Oconee back on Sept. 23 in a 28-20 loss.
The Bulldogs feature standout tailback Stephon Eades.
“He’s a good ball player and we’ve got to be able to contain him,” Kirk said. “But our kids have been doing a good job of containing people’s running games this year.”
Jackson County is coming off a 31-14 loss to rival Jefferson, the Panthers’ sixth in their last seven games.
Though Jackson County is now mathematically eliminated from earning a spot for the final-week region playoffs, the Panthers are still in contention for the no. 4 seed out of the South subregion for the slate of consolation region play-in games.
Of course, getting that no. 4 seed will require Jackson County beating Hart County, something the Panthers haven’t done in eight tries against the Bulldogs. Hart County has beaten Jackson County by a combined count of 153-7 in the last four meetings.
Should Jackson County and East Jackson both lose this Friday — thus creating a three-way tie between the Panthers, Eagles and Oglethorpe County — Kirk said his team would earn the no. 5 seed based on point differential in the games those three teams played against each other.
The Panther coach feels good about his team heading into this last scheduled regular season game. Though Jackson County ended up losing 31-14 to Jefferson, the Panthers were within striking distance in the first half before the Dragons jumped ahead by 24 in the third quarter. Jackson County quarterback Jalen Banks finished 12-of-19 for 85 yards and also ran for 63 yards and a score.
“We think we found something,” Kirk said of Banks. “We’re probably going to stick with that the rest of the way.”
Kirk noted that there will still be an offensive package for quarterback Kyle Daniel too.