It didn’t take long to see whether or not the Jones County Greyhounds would be able to put their season opening loss to Grayson behind them.
Hosting another nationally ranked team from the state’s largest classification, this time, North Gwinnett, the Greyhounds gave the visitors more than they could handle for a bit more than a half, leading 21-9. But a critical momentum swing in the wrong direction landed in favor of the Bulldogs, and they used it to take over the rest of the way to win 44-21 and drop JCHS to an 0-2 start to the season.
“We were excited with the way they competed at the beginning of the game. We really feel like our guys got better from playing the week before,” Jones County head coach Mike Chastain said.
“There’s a lot of things that we need to work on and get better. That’s why you play teams like that so you can find things you get better at. You don’t see those things a lot of times against a team you can easily beat.”
The Greyhounds continue their brutal non-region gauntlet on Friday at Veterans. The Warhawks are hardly the caliber of Grayson and North Gwinnett but are plenty formidable, sporting a 2-0 record with wins against Northside and West Laurens. Friday’s game will be the first meeting between the two schools.
Veterans is balanced offensively, rushing for an average of 176 yards and passing for 209.
The Greyhounds will have to slow Veterans down in order to win on Friday, something that they were able to do for a half on Friday while also controlling the tempo of the game.
Jones County grabbed momentum from the start against North Gwinnett, perfectly executing a squib kick that was mishandled and recovered by Deon Richardson. Two fourthdown conversions later, the Greyhounds were up front 7-0 on a four-yard run by Andrew Carner, who rushed for 55 yards on Friday.
Although the Bulldogs bounced back with a 50-yard run by Marcus McFarlane and short pass to Bobby Ezzard to tie it at 7-7, the Greyhounds hit right back. Zion Ragins took a John Alan Richter screen pass 80 yards to move Jones County back in front, 14-7 with 3:55 left in the first quarter. Richter was 18-of-38 passing for 192 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Ragins led JCHS in receiving in both catches and yards, hauling in six for 89 yards.
The Greyhounds defense denied the Bulldogs of equalizing the score in the second quarter, even with the backs against the wall. Not only did Jones County stop North Gwinnett on fourth and one from the Greyhounds one-yard line, but after a short field was set up by a Richter interception, JCHS got the ball right back with an interception of their own by JaVorius Venerable.
The Greyhounds weren’t to escape being unable to get out of their own end of the field totally unscathed. A high snap on a punt with 1:49 to go in the first half resulted in a safety and 14-9 halftime lead.
And when JCHS started the second half with a methodic drive to score on a 12-yard run by Carner, the Greyhounds looked to be on their way to a win. But it was not to be.
Another big run up the gut by McFarlane, who finished with 160 yards, set up one North Gwinnett score to close the gap to 21-16, and the Bulldogs then led with 6:13 left in the third on a 24-yard dash by McFarlane, up 23-21.
With the Jones County offense stalled, North Gwinnett was able to pound the ball away. After the touchdown to start the third quarter, the Greyhounds drove past midfield just once more on Friday.
“We feel like we have a pretty good football team. If we continue to get better each week, we feel like things will be really good for us this year,” Chastain said. “We have to continue to get better and can’t beat ourselves on stuff and we did that with a few things on Friday.”