SUWANNEE – A week after a team from a lower classification came onto their homefield and stole a victory, the Greyhounds happily turned the tables on Friday at North Gwinnett.
Jones County stormed to a 21-0 lead and made the advantage stand up, hanging on to win 33-28 for the first win over a AAAAAAA team in program history.
“That’s a program win, to beat a 7A program that’s a perennial program,” Greyhounds head coach Mike Chastain said. “Great win for the guys. I’m so proud of them and can’t wait to see our guys continue to get better.”
Jones County hosts Veterans on Friday in its final non-region contest of the season.
Rolling up offensive yards was not an issue for the Greyhounds, who had 517 offensive yards. Zion Ragins had 270 all-purpose yards, 241 receiving.
“I do not ever want to see him again,” North Gwinnett head coach Bill Stewart jokingly told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “He can go, man. That is world-class speed right there.”
The gritty win came in the face of building injuries. A week after two expected to contribute as either or both defensive backs or running backs, Kenny Wooten and Javion Butts went down with injuries in addition to tight end Austin May. The Greyhounds offensive backfield was even more decimated in the fourth quarter with Javious Bond sidelined with an apparent leg injury. That flushed Zion Ragins and Drew Jones into seeing more time at running back, and they were able to help the Greyhounds move downfield to get in position for booming 50-yard field goal by Evan West, energizing the JCHS sideline in a big way with 1:29 to play. The scoring drive began with 3:24 to play and kept alive by a 15-yard run by Ragins.
But a defensive stand had to be made against the Bulldogs, a perennial contender for the state title in Georgia’s largest classification and its offense that had gained traction in the second half, scoring four touchdowns. They wouldn’t get another one. After being backed up after multiple Greyhounds registered a quarterback sack, Javian Washington came up with the interception, enabling Jones County to run out the clock and touch off a wild celebration among coaches and players.
“First all, just thankful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for just blessing us with a win,” Chastain said. “Last week, things didn’t happen our way. (Friday), we had a few things happen our way. Our guys just competed, played with passion and that was the whole charge before the game, just play the game and have fun. Our guys did that, that’s why I’m so happy.”
The Greyhounds wasted very little time establishing themselves on the road. Backed up in the shadow of their own end zone, they took a very quick 7-0 lead when Bond gashed the North Gwinnett defense for an 88-yard touchdown just 49 seconds into the game. Bond carried the ball ten times for 123 yards.
“Our guys came out ready to play,” Chastain said. “We got the ball to some guys with some speed and did some awesome things with it.”
After the Bulldogs were halted on fourth down from the Greyhounds four-yard line, another big-play attack hit for JCHS. This time, quarterback John Alan Richter’s screen to Ragins put him in perfect position to outrun the North Gwinnett defense and he did just that on a 96-yard run. Richter was 18-of-30 for 351 yards and three touchdowns
Things got even better to end the first quarter when Chandler Harris ended another North Gwinnett drive with a fumble recovery.
Next came an unwanted break, a delay of approximately an hour due to a lightning delay. But if there were any worries of North Gwinnett coming out blazing after the break, Jones County made sure that it didn’t materialize, getting a fourth-down stop while also making it 21-0 with 1:00 left in the half when Richter connected with Tyler Stewart for a 19-yard touchdown.
“We’re so proud of our defense,” Chastain said. “They’ve got some dudes over there. Our guys stepped up and made plays. I’m super proud of them.”
North Gwinnett got its offense in gear during the second half, kicking off a back-and-forth seesaw affair. The Bulldogs got on the board with a six-yard touchdown run with 8:13 remaining in the third to trim the Greyhounds lead to 21-6, and an 11-yard touchdown pass cut the lead even further to 21-13 with 4:27 left in the third.
The Greyhounds needed a big answer, and got just that – another pass from Richter, who evaded an oncoming rush, dumped it off to Ragins, who did the rest to turn the third-down pass into a 59-yard touchdown and 28-13 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
Then, after another North Gwinnett scoring drive ended on a seven-yard touchdown pass, the Jones County lead was 28-20 thanks to the Bulldogs taking advantage of their speed and strength on the perimeter.
West drilled a 30-yard field goal, making it 31-20. That cushion ended up being vital, as a North Gwinnett touchdown drew the Bulldogs within three, down 31-28 with 7:46 remaining.
The Greyhounds stepped up on defense, getting a pair of stops in the final five minutes to preserve the win.
“We were pumped up coming in,” linebacker Kaleb Wiggins said. “We came in, stuck to the gameplan, and just executed.”
“We’ve got several guys stepping up,” Chastain said. “I’ve really got to tip my hat to Coach (offensive coordinator Josh) Herring, he and his staff did a great job of coming up with a game plan.”
Richter commits to Lehigh
The decision is in for John Alan Richter’s football future.
The Jones County quarterback committed over the weekend to continue his career at Lehigh. Richter made the announcement on his Twitter account. The Nighthawks are an FCS program that competes in the Patriot League. Through two games this year, Richter is 27-of-57 for 638 yards and six touchdowns.