The specter of a nationally-ranked opponent and fans anxious to soak in the improvements at Greyhound Field greeted Jones County last Friday.
Visiting Grayson, ranked No. 1 in the state’s largest classification and fifth in one national ranking, proved to be as good as advertised, easing to a 51-13 win.
“We saw a lot of things that we need to work on. Anytime you play a team that’s as talented as they are, you get a chance to find out where your guys are,” Jones County head coach Mike Chastain said. “There's definitely not a more talented team in the state of Georgia right now than them.”
Jones County gets another stern test this Friday when it hosts another 7A power, North Gwinnett, which beat McEachern 35-7 last week. The Bulldogs are ranked 20th nationally and fourth in their classification.
But that’s not to say that the Greyhounds had no reason to come away from Friday night’s big stage with nothing to hold their head high about. Despite an early two-touchdown deficit, JCHS showed how it would respond when adversity struck.
Down 14-0 with 7:12 left in the first quarter, the Greyhounds flexed some muscle defensively, getting a tackle for a loss, sack by Deon Richardson and an interception by JaVarious Venerable of Grayson quarterback Deyon Cannon.
That got the Greyhounds in business offensively. Quarterback John Alan Richter’s pass toward the end zone was hauled in by Zion Ragins to set Jones County up goal to go, and Omarion Tucker bulled his way into the end zone a few plays later to get the Greyhounds on the board, igniting the new purple and gold LED lights at Greyhound Field.
“Throughout the game, we saw our guys compete at a very high level,” Chastain said. “There are a lot of good things we can take and learn from and use to help us get better.”
The score got Jones County within a touchdown with 1:18 to go in the first quarter, but the Rams extended their lead back out as they simply had too many weapons in their arsenal. Jamal Haynes took a screen pass 54 yards to put Grayson up 21-7, adding to a monster of a night in which he had five catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
The Georgia Tech commitment also caught the game’s second touchdown, a 31-yarder.
Haynes was not the only blue chip commitment giving the Greyhounds trouble. JiBrahn Claude had a pair of interceptions of Richter, and the first came on the third play of the game as he returned it to the two-yard line, where a play later by Clemson commitment Phil Mafah punched it in for the game’s first score.
Still, the Greyhounds kept fighting. Even when they trailed 23-7 after giving up a safety, Ragins took a sweep 78 yards down the Grayson sideline for a touchdown, electrifying the home crowd.
Jones County could get no closer as a pair of touchdowns, one being Haynes' third touchdown, enabled the Rams to pull away and led 37-13 at halftime of the way to the win.
Richter was 17-of-31 for 163 yards in his debut as the Greyhounds’ starting quarterback. He was intercepted three times, but one of those was a deflection off a Greyhounds receiver and another came as he was hit as he threw a pass. The Greyhounds spread the ball out offensively through the air, completing passes to six receivers. Andrew Carner caught six passes for 21 yards with Maleek Wooten hauling in three passes for 30 yards. Tucker Mix, Ragins and Jaylon Clark also each had a pair of catches and Ed Chester had an 11-yard reception.