THE JACKSON County football team celebrated a program-changing moment Friday but isn’t satisfied yet.
After clinching their first playoff spot in 20 years with a 33-28 win over Elbert County, the Panthers are now shooting for a no. 3 seed in their regular season finale against Morgan County.
Jackson County faces the Bulldogs in Madison Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s good to know that we’ve met that goal,” Jackson County quarterback Kyle Daniel said. “Thinking back to the first day he (coach Benji Harrison) ever talked to us and telling us that goal and knowing we’ve achieved it … Then again, we’re not going to stop now. He told us a few weeks ago, we’re not just trying to get in. We’re not just trying to slide in.”
Morgan County is playing some of the best football in Region 8-AAA right now. The Bulldogs have won four straight and are coming off a 35-8 thrashing of Hart County, which had been unbeaten in region play.
“It’s a huge game,” Daniel said. “Just because we’re in doesn’t mean we’re going to take it easy this week.”
Morgan County’s wing-T attack is averaging 33 points per game, second only to North Oconee. The Bulldogs are a team that has no glaring weakness, according Jackson County head coach Benji Harrison.
“They do a really good job,” Harrison said. “They’re a well-coached team. Offensively, they give you a lot of different looks. They get the ball to a lot of different kids. They’ve got some really good playmakers in the backfield.”
Harrison points to the speed of players like Melvin Davis and Michael Davis and the power running of fullback Marquis Benton. He also said the Morgan County defense is strong, anchored by a stout defensive line, quality linebackers and good athletes in the secondary like Davis, who plays strong safety.
This is a big game for Morgan County as well as Jackson County. The Bulldogs find themselves the precarious position of finishing as high as a no. 2 seed in the region if they win or being eliminated from the state playoffs if they lose and Elbert County beats Franklin County.
“So they’ve got a lot riding on it, but we feel like we do too,” Harrison said. “Getting the third seed is really important for us. Getting to seven wins is important to us.”
Jackson County would play on the road with the no. 3 seed but it would mean avoiding the Region 5-AAA no. 1 seed — most likely 9-0 Cartersville.
“The difference between the third and fourth seed going against that region is huge for us,” Daniel said. “We’ve got to come out and have a great week of practice.”
Jackson County is shooting for its third straight win after having beating Elbert County behind a 143-yard, four-touchdown night from Dustin Scott and 207 yards passing from Daniel. Jackson County’s defense allowed just one Blue Devil touchdown in the second half and forced two turnovers as the Panthers clinched a playoff spot.
The Panthers, however, know that now’s not the time to rest on their laurels.
“We don’t want to relax by any means,” running back Dustin Scott said following Friday’s victory. “Now that we’ve celebrated this (Friday), we’re all going to go to bed, wake up and focus forward on the next game.”
Almost exactly a year ago Mr. Buffington authored an article about our lack of football success. While many people,including myself, complained about recruiting and the undue harshness of the article, I think our football team, and many of the other competitive groups at JCCHS accepted the challenge to get better. JCCHS has improved in almost all areas, from academics to atheletics, and to fine arts. We took the challenge and overcame it, making me more proud of my school then ever before.