Jackson County senior quarterback Kyle Daniel carved up Athens Christian with 327 passing yards and four touchdowns — both school records — in the Panthers’ 39-21 win Friday. His favorite target Xavier Harper hauled in three touchdown passes with a video game-like 217 yards — also a school record.
Daniel wasn’t going to let himself get too enamored with his record, however.
“It’s great just to be able to leave and say I accomplished something like that,” Daniel said. “But bottom line, those are individual records. I’m more looking to make the playoffs and take this team somewhere. So it’s nice, but it means nothing if we don’t make the playoffs.”
Harper said his performance was a much-needed boost after what he called a disappointing 2011 season.
“I was coming off kind of a bad year last year,” Harper said. “And so to come back this year and have a good game, all shout-outs to my line and Kyle and everyone that helped.”
Jackson County may have very well found its go-to combo entering region play.
Daniel’s four touchdown passes give him seven already on the season. Jackson County coach Benji Harrison said Daniel is doing a good job of running the offense and getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers, like Harper.
“I thought he did a really good job of getting the ball out of his hands fast and getting it to our guys and letting them do the work,” Harrison said.
Daniel hit Harper for touchdown passes of 65, 53 and 22 yards. The two long touchdowns came on screens that Harper turned into explosion plays.
“Xay, he’s just a great athlete,” Daniel said. “It’s good to know as a quarterback that you can throw the ball 10 yards and get credit for an 80-yard touchdown pass. Like I said, he’s an unbelievable athlete. The O-line blocked great all night and gave me time to get him the ball.”
Harper credited his blockers — Reno Messler and Ben Brissey — for springing him on his long touchdown plays, particularly Brissey.
“We’ve been best friends since middle school — Xing and Yang,” Harper said. “He was the one that got the corners and freed me up to go big.”
Harper’s ability to take a short pass and make people miss is a valuable commodity in Jackson County’s spread offense. He has the potential to take it to the house if given just a little space.
“You can nickel and dime people, but it’s always really to a guy and he can take it for a touchdown,” Harrison said.
The coach pointed out that it wasn’t just Harper catching passes Friday — another good sign for the Panther offense.
“The thing I liked about it was that Xay had a lot of yards, but seven different guys caught balls,” Harrison said.
Friday’s output gives the Panthers a lot of confidence moving forward. Jackson County begins region play against rival East Jackson Friday.
“We’re really starting to click,” Daniel said. “I’m glad we had that big out-break the week before region starts to kind of get us rolling into region play.”
Harper said the offense is definitely picking up steam.
“Each week we’re putting the pieces together, figuring out where our strengths and weaknesses are,” he said. “We feel like within the players that we have, we can do something really good this year.”
Speaking of East Jackson, the Panthers have yet to beat the cross-county Eagles. Daniel hopes to change that Friday.
“I’m 0-2 against those guys, and I really just want to go out with a win against them,” Daniel said.
Harper feels like this is a different team this year.
“The past couple of years, we’ve come up short and had a few interceptions, turnover and bad things happen,” Harper said. “But this year, we feel like we’re more focused, better coached under coach Harrison. We know what we have to do to win. We’re learning how to win this year.”