JACKSON County started strong. North Oconee finished stronger.
The Panthers played to a scoreless tie after one quarter, but the Titans (3-1, 1-0) answered with five touchdowns between the second and third quarters to earn a 35-6 win over the Panthers (3-2, 1-1) Friday at Panther Stadium. Click here for photos.
“We lost to a good football team,” Jackson County coach Benji Harrison said. “Obviously, we didn’t play our best (Friday). I would have liked to have seen us play them when we were playing our best, and obviously we didn’t do that (Friday).”
The upset-minded Panthers forced two turnovers in the first quarter and held North Oconee out of the end zone as Jackson County — which lost 56-0 to the Titans last year — got off to a promising start. The takeaways came when Jackson County recovered a fumble on the Titans’ opening drive, and later when Garrett Holt picked off a pass on North Oconee’s second possession.
"I thought the defense did exactly what we asked them to do the first half," Harrison said. "They're a good offense. They're a good football team. I thought our defense came out and played really well and created some opportunities. We've just got to take advantage of those. If we take advantage of one of those turnovers, I think it does a lot for the confidence of our kids."
But the Titans broke the 0-0 tie midway through the second quarter when Dakota Greene scored from two yards out. Zantravious Shields later scored on a five-yard run to put North Oconee up 14-0.
A big turning point in the game came right at the end of the half when the Titans picked off a pass at midfield, setting up a five-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Tate Adcock to Shields to give the Titans a three touchdown lead.
"It was huge," Harrison said. "That was a big turning point in the game. We made a mistake on offense and let them get back into it right before half and let them get one. Going down 14-0 at the half is a lot different than going down 21-0 as far as momentum."
North Oconee starting quarterback Nick Colvin opened up the second half by throwing a 53-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Bobby Dando. Rob Farriba then broke the game open with a 55-yard touchdown run.
Panther quarterback Kyle Daniel, who finished with 120 yards on 19-of-27 passing, connected with Ben Brissey for a four-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter for Jackson County’s only score. The Panthers finished with 179 yards of total offense.
Jackson County played without injured wide receiver Xavier Harper, who was coming off 200-yard and 100-yard receiving performances in his last two games.
“He’ll be back,” Harrison said. “He’s definitely a big part of our offense, and more for the confidence of our kids a lot. When Xay is out there, they feel like they’ve got one more playmaker. But the bottom line is whoever is in, we expect them to make plays.”
Harrison believes his team will rebound from the loss.
“I just feel like in a game like this you can learn a lot from it,” Harrison said. “You can learn a lot about the character of your football team and where they’re at, and I don’t really have any doubts about that. I feel like we’ll bounce back from it.”