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Greyhounds battle from behind to take down Dutchtown for third straight region title

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    Kaleb Wiggins closes in to make a tackle on Friday against Dutchtown. BRAD HARRISON/Staff
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    Zion Ragins gave the Greyhounds a threat on the perimeter against Dutchtown, leading Jones County in receiving. BRAD HARRISON/Staff
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    Standing tall: The Greyhounds come up with a late defensive stand to knock down a last-ditch throw to the end zone to beat Dutchtown and celebrate afterward. BRAD HARRISON/Staff
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    Chandler Harris (44) takes down the Dutchtown ball carrier for a loss on Friday. BRAD HARRISON/Staff
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    Austin May (21) hauls in a second-half touchdown to extend the Greyhounds lead. BRAD HARRISON/Staff
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    Zion Ragins (13) finds an opening around the side to get Jones County on the board for its first touchdown. BRAD HARRISON/Staff
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    Evan West drills an extra point through the uprights on Friday, He was a perfect 3-of-3 on PATs. BRAD HARRISON/Staff

The Greyhounds are still the kings of the region.

Unrattled by a 13-0 deficit at the end of a quarter, Jones County rallied for 21 unanswered points against Dutchtown and turned the Bulldogs away as Connor Bass batted down a long pass in the end zone in the waning seconds for a 21-13 win and unprecedented third region title in a row.

By virtue of the win and region title, Jones County now has home field advantage for at least the first two rounds of the state playoffs, and it’s a playoff road that has some familiarity.

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The Greyhounds play Griffin in the first round on Friday and, should they win, would host the winner of Eastside and New Manchester. Jones County played Griffin and Eastside in the second and third rounds last year.

Regardless, the Greyhounds added another measure to their unprecedented run with a third region title in a row, this time clinching it on their home field.

“We were down, had some bad things happen early and our guys responded and kept on,” Greyhounds head coach Mike Chastain said. “I’m really proud of them.”

It came on a night in which Jones County’s defense, a unit that came into the season short on experience, outshined their Dutchtown counterparts that led the region in points allowed.

“We’re real young on defense. We played hard all game and stuck our nose in it,” Greyhounds linebacker Drew Jones said. “To do this at home, it means so much.”

The task for Jones County started with an uphill climb, however.

On the game’s first play from scrimmage, a screen to Zion Ragins resulted in a fumble and 41-yard return for a Dutchtown touchdown and 6-0 lead. The Greyhounds were able to drive the ball into Bulldogs territory on their first two drives, only to see each promising scoring opportunity fizzle by way of a penalty to force 35 and 34 yards to go on third down. One of those resulted in a punt to the Dutchtown one-yard line, but the Bulldogs simply took the ball on a 99-yard scoring drive to lead 13-0 with 2:47 left in the first quarter.

But the opportunistic Greyhounds kept pressure on, and that tenacity resulted in miscues that Jones County feasted on. Three plays after getting excellent field position when the Bulldogs punter was ruled down by contact, Ragins burned Dutchtown, getting space after John Alan Richter found him in the flat for a 28-yard touchdown. Even after a Richter interception in the first half’s final minute, Jones County appeared confident headed into the locker room, and that confidence showed to start the third quarter.

Richter was efficient through the game, going 20-0f-23 for 196 yards, helping Jones County to minimize three and outs and prevent Dutchtown from winning the time of possession battle.

“They played a light box and we had to run the ball a little bit early, which is fine; just a great gameplan by all our coordinators and a great job by our staff and the guys for executing what we wanted to do,” Chastain said. “We made some mistakes early and were able to overcome.”

Helping in that were the 66 rushing yards from Javious Bond and Ragins’ team-high 77 receiving yards. Bond also tied for the team lead in tackles on Friday with D’Koby Wynes as they each had five.

“We were worried at first,” Bond said. “But we knew if we came together, we could pull it off.”

Two plays after a fumbled kickoff by Dutchtown, Bass took a quick pitch off a screen pass to score from 13 yards away. That, followed by an Evan West extra point, put Jones County into the lead, 14-13, with 11:09 left in the third quarter.

Holding onto a one-point lead, Jones County needed some insurance to force Dutchtown to score at least a touchdown. The Greyhounds did just that. Facing a fourth and 9 and the Dutchtown 28, an 11-yard pass from Richter to Mills kept the drive alive, setting up a 12-yard throw to Austin May that stretched the Jones County lead to 21-13 with 6:34 left in the game.

Then, it was up to the Greyhounds defense, which at first forced a three and out before Jones County punted it back to Dutchtown with 1:50 to play. With a region title hanging in the balance, the Greyhounds rose to occasion on defense, setting up a last-ditch heave from the JCHS 42 that was broken up as time expired.

“I’m extremely proud of them. In some ways, it kind of leaves you speechless to see where they’ve come from,” Greyhounds defensive coordinator Robert Braucht said. “Every week, they are working hard to get better, so if nothing else, I’m proud of them for that.”

“We were worried at first. But we knew if we came together, we could pull it off.”

– Javious Bond LINEBACKER/RUSHING BACK