JCHS to host Union Grove in region opener Friday
Justin Rogers’ message to his players after their latest victory was simple.
“If we quit making mistakes, boy, we’ll be goooooooood.”
As it is, they are still pretty lethal even while dodging all the shots at their own feet.
Just ask the Northside Eagles, Jones County’s latest victim.
After being outplayed in the first half, the once mighty Eagles stormed back with three third quarter touchdowns to take a 24-21 lead at McConnell-Talbert Stadium – a place they seldom lose and where Jones County had won only once before.
No matter. The Greyhounds adjusted their aim, taking advantage of a couple of Northside’s own miscues, and scored the game’s final two touchdowns while limiting the Eagles to a late field goal to take a 35-27 victory.
So the young Jones County team whose coach said would have to survive some early growing pains has finished the non-region portion of its schedule with an imperfectly perfect 3-0 record.
“It ain’t always been pretty, but we’ve found a way to win,” Rogers said. “Three games in a row. We made a ton of mistakes again this week, but I’m so proud of the guys because they haven’t quit fighting. We dropped passes, had turnovers, made a bunch of foolish penalties, but the kids haven’t quit on each other.
“They’re picking each other up, letting us coach them, and we’re coaching them. They’re getting better; we’ve seen it each week. If they’ll just keep working, and we can avoid some key injuries, we can be pretty good here with this group.”
The Greyhounds shift to the region portion of their schedule now, hosting Union Grove at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Greyhound Stadium in the 4-5A opener for both schools.
The Wolverines are 2-0 after beating Henry County 24-12 and Strong Rock Christian 48-20 in their first two games.
Chad Frazier is now 5-7 in his second season at Union Grove. The Wolverines were 3-7 last season, falling 42-10 to the Greyhounds.
Jones County is 3-1 against Union Grove, having won the last three meetings.
“Union Grove is improved. It’s a region game, so we better be ready,” said Rogers, who is now 40-12 in his fifth season coaching the Greyhounds.
“They have a ball-control offense and want to stay on the field for a long time, help their defense out by keeping the ball away from our offense. And on defense they are a lot like us with an eight-man front, four down linemen and four linebackers and a high safety. So we should be familiar with what they are trying to do.”
The Greyhounds also may be getting back a couple of defensive starters who have missed most of the first three games – junior linebacker Matthew Sheffield and senior safety Jake Lanford.
“We’ve got them back practicing and hopefully they’ll be ready to play some. We came out of the Northside game with the usual bumps and bruises against a hard-hitting team but nothingmajor,so we may finally becloseto healthy,”Rogers said.
Senior running back Semaj Ingram, who rushed for 164 yards on 18 carries, went out in the fourth quarter with a hip pointer, but the coach said he should be able to play this week.
“We’ll go easy with him early in the week to be sure he’s ready.”
Rogers also reported that Northside defensive lineman Lafredrick Chappell, who was knocked unconscious early in the second half and had to be taken off on a stretcher after a lengthy delay, is expected to be OK.
“I checked with (Northside coach Kevin) Kinsler Saturday morning, and he said it was a concussion and nothing else, so that is good.”
Hard hitting up front on both sides of the ball was common throughout the game, and Rogers said the good play of his offensiveanddefensivelinemen was crucial in the victory.
“Our offensive and defensive player of the week awards this week go to the offensive and defensive lines. They played outstanding.
“On offense, we had 180 yards rushing, notcountingsacks,and they had 25 pancake blocks. That’s where you knock the other guy on his back. And theyprovidedgreatprotection for our passing game.
“And on defense, our line held them to 31 rushing plays and 68 yards, and we had eight sacks. We were able to win up front on both sides of the ball.”
The Allstate Allstar of the Game award went to junior linebacker Britton Jones. He was in on 20 tackles, had three tackles for a loss, one sack and one fumble recovery.
“He was everywhere making hits. He had an awesome game,” Rogers said.
SeniorpunterColbyGordon was special teams player of the game, averaging 45 yards a punt and managing to snag a couple of errant snaps on extra point tries to get good holds so freshman Evan West could be perfect on his five kicks.
Junior offensive lineman Garrett Strong and sophomore linebacker William Whiddonwerethescoutteam players of the week.
JuniorquarterbackHunter Costlow completed 16 of 28 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns, two each by fellow juniors Jontavias Robertson and Caden Mutchler. Robertson had eight catches for 209 yards.
Northside, which was ranked No. 8 in Class 6A in the AJC poll, fell to 1-2 with the loss and dropped out of the rankings for the first time in 31 weeks. It is the first time the Eagles, who lost to Peach County a week earlier, have lost two consecutive regular season games since 1997.
Rogers is now 2-1 against Northside, which also lost to the Greyhounds in 2014 in Gray. It was also the sixth ranked team that Jones County has beaten since Rogers became coach. The Greyhounds had lost 24 consecutive games to AJC ranked teams before he was hired in 2014.
Asfor theGreyhounds,they moved up from No. 9 in the AJC’s Class 5A rankings to No. 6 this week.
Jones County started strong last Friday against Northside.
Forcing a punt after holding the Eagles to one first down to begin the game, the Greyhounds marched 80 yards in 10 plays the first time they had the ball, taking the leadwitha7-yardthird-down pass from Costlow to a sliding Mutchler in the end zone.
The teams traded punts the rest of the first quarter, but the Greyhounds scored on a big play the first time they got the ball in the second quarter.
After picking up one first down, Costlow found Robertson open streaking up the middle and they connected on a 66-yard touchdown to complete the five-play, 81-yard drive.
The Greyhounds lost the ball on a fumble after a catch by Robertson the next time they got the ball, setting Northside up at the 30. A pass interference penalty moved the ball inside the 10, but a sack by Ja’Darien Boykin backedtheEaglesupandthey had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Cory Munson for their only points of the first half.
TheGreyhoundsgottheball to start the second half and came out gunning. On their first play, Maleek Wooten hit a wide-open Robertson with a halfback sprintout pass deep behind the Northside secondary, but Robertson dropped the ball.
Ingram ran for 60 yards over right tackle on the next play to make up for the drop, but Northside’s Chappell was hurt on the play, and after the long delay the Greyhounds were unable to punch the ball in from the 20. Instead, on third-and-7, Costlow tried to hit Mutchler with a screen passbutdidnotsee Northside cornerback Tubby McCall, who stepped in front of the pass and raced 85 yards for a pick-6interceptiontogivethe Eagles their first touchdown.
Jones County immediately answered when Robertson went 85 yards with a tunnel screen catch to seemingly put the Greyhounds back in control with a 21-10 lead.
But the Eagles fought back. They scored on consecutive possessions with 40-yard and 35-yard touchdown passes from senior Jadin Daniels to take their first – and only – lead of the game, 24-21.
The Greyhounds, meanwhile, were having trouble moving the ball. First they suffered another wide-open dropped deep pass, this one by Wooten, between the two Northsidetouchdowns.Then, after Wooten had a 50-yard kickoff return after the second Northside touchdown to set the Greyhounds up at the 48, they could not move and had to punt after Costlow was sacked on consecutive plays.
The Jones County players would not fold, however.
First, the defense got the ball back when Cameron Rockmore sacked Daniels, forcing a fumble that Rockmore recovered himself at the 2. A penalty, one of 12 in the game by the Greyhounds, moved the ball back five yards, but Costlow found Mutchler in the end zone again to regain the lead, 28-24, just before the end of the third quarter.
The teams traded punts to start the fourth quarter, then another fumble by Daniels, this one recovered by Britton Jones, gave the Greyhounds the ball near midfield.
But they managed only one first down before Costlow was intercepted again, this time trying to throw the ball away in the end zone.
The Jones County defense held Northside to one first down again, however, and the Greyhounds again got the ball at midfield.
They drove to the 1 and seemed poised for a clinching touchdown before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed them up 15 yards.
West, the little freshman, calmly booted a 33-yard field goal, but Rogers decided to take the points off the board and accept a personal foul penalty against Northside for hitting the snapper, which gave Jones County a first down at the 8. It took three tries, but Wooten finally ran the ball in from the 2 for the touchdown to make it 35-24 with 1:33 to play.
Northside drove to the 21, but with time running out the Eagles elected to have Munson kick a 38-yard field goal and then try an onside kick. But the kick, recovered for the Greyhounds by Robertson, took too much time, and the final second expired.
Rogers, who had his players turn and cheer the large and boisterous Jones County crowd after the game, said the mistakes made by his team were worrisome, but are ones that can be corrected.
“These are things that will kill you when you get in the playoffs. We’ve still got time to get them corrected, but now we’re moving into our region games, so there isn’t as much time as we had,” Rogers said. “We’re just going to keep coaching them and working and hope we grow up fast enough to be ready and not let them derail us.”
Shoot yourself in the foot often enough, and eventually you fall down.