After being hardened by one of the state’s toughest non-region schedules and ripping off six region wins in a row, it all comes down to this for Jones County on Friday.
With a win on the road at Dutchtown, the Greyhounds are region champions for the second year in a row. If the Bulldogs pull the upset, it’ll force a three-way tie for first place between Jones County, Ola and Dutchtown.
The Bulldogs are 6-3 overall and 5-1 in region play, their only loss coming to Ola, 20-6 on Oct 2. Dutchtown needed triple overtime last week to beat Locust Grove, 27-21.
Winning a region title would secure a home game in at least the first two rounds for the Greyhounds and would also be the fourth region crown in school history. It’d also be just the second unbeaten region record in program history, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. In 1961, JCHS was 4-0 in region play, going 8-2-1 overall.
The recipe for the Greyhounds to collect a region title would include doing something similar to what Jones County did Friday on senior night against Woodland – starting fast and coming up with big plays on offense, defense and special teams in a 49-0 victory.
“This win gives us momentum. We’re excited about going back, looking at film, seeing what we did wrong and getting ready for next week,” Jones County running back Andrew Carner said.
In what’s becoming a broken record when it comes to Jones County football, Carner had a big night, rushing 13 times for 186 yards and four touchdowns. His third score encapsulated the night for the Greyhounds. One play after Drew Jones came up with a fumble recovery, snuffing out Woodland’s best scoring chance of the night, Carner took a handoff 80 yards down the sideline to extend the Jones County lead to 35-0 with 5:00 left in the half. The big play came after the Greyhounds firmly controlled things from the opening kickoff, leading 28-0 after a quarter.
“Being able to start like that, it’s huge,” Jones County head coach Mike Chastain said. “When our guys play in front of our fans, it’s big for them to feed off that. ”
It didn’t take long for JCHS to get in gear, and having continued good field position thanks to Woodland being pinned deep didn’t hurt. In addition to converting all seven extra-point tries, Evan West also put nine kickoffs into the end zone.
Jones County needed just two plays to take advantage early on. After an onside kick to start the game by Woodland was recovered by the Greyhounds, the second play from scrimmage was a 45-yard touchdown by Carner.
“When we start fast, we play better,” Carner said. “That’s how we win.”
Then, it was the defense’s turn.
On third down of the first Woodland offensive drive, Kenny Wooten stepped in front of a pass, picking it off and returning it 28 yards for a touchdown, and more importantly, 14-0 Greyhounds lead with 9:58 to go in the first quarter. Wooten’s interception was one of two by Jones County with Reion Blount having the other.
The Greyhounds kept Woodland grounded offensively, forcing them into third and longs and having to rely on a passing game yielded minimal results.
The Greyhounds linebacker play had a lot to do with that. Inside linebacker Deon Richardson had nine tackles and half a sack while outside linebacker Daniel Scott had eight tackles, one for a loss, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and half a sack.
Most impressive? Scott’s production came in just 26 defensive snaps.
The Greyhounds didn’t have much trouble running the ball as the game went on thanks to their offensive line play, paced by left guard Matt Adams, who graded out at 89 percent in one half of play. JCHS rushed for 233 yards, averaging 10.6 yards per carry.
The passing game also kept Woodland off-balance. John Alan Richter was 8-of-12 for 102 yards, connecting with Zion Ragins on a nine-yard screen pass to extend the early lead to 21-0.
Carner’s one-yard run on fourth down from the one-yard line was the final of the four first-quarter scores, and Jones took it in from three yards away for the final score of the first half and 42-0 Greyhounds lead. Carner’s final score came with 10:20 to go in the third quarter. And although the Greyhounds led by a big margin early on, the drive to compete did not waver.
With leading receiver Maleek Wooten significantly limited due to injury, the Greyhounds were able to get work in with additional receivers. It went beyond Ragins, who had 46 receiving yards. Jaylon Clark actually led the team in receiving, four catches for a season-high 61 yards with others with at least one catch being Carner, Tyler Stewart and Tucker Mix.
“It’s really been good for us to get a lot of guys some key minutes, even for our ninth graders that we’ve been able to get work in for,” Chastain said.