Football previews

Jackson County Panthers will host Madison County on Friday night. Below is information on that matchup and other Friday night previews:
Madison County (1-0, 0-0) at Jackson County (0-0, 0-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday night
Where: Jackson County Comprehension High School
Head Coaches: Chris Smith, Madison County; Benji Harrison, Jackson County
Players To Watch: Madison County, Cade Hancock, QB, Dylan Gentry, WR/DB, Ethan South, RB; Jackson County, Jacob Lewis, QB, Adrian Parsons, WR, Griffin McElvery, LB
The Panthers opens its 2014 campaign tomorrow night at home against non-region opponent Madison County. The Red Raiders are coming off a 31-3 victory last week over Johnson High School out of Gainesville.
In their only tune-up game before the season began, the Panthers clicked on all cylinders against Athens Academy, winning 35-14.
Jackson County quarterback Jacob Lewis tossed three first-half touchdowns and rushed for one. Adrian Parsons, Caleb Smith and Antonio Strickland each caught a touchdown.
The Panthers return 11 starters (six on offense, five on defense) from 2013.
Madison County quarterback Cade Hancock tossed two touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ victory over the Knights last Friday. Wide receiver Dylan Gentry was on the receiving end of one of the touchdowns. He also recovered a fumble for the Red Raiders’ defense, as did Sam Bartlett.
Ethan South added a 50-yard touchdown run for the Red Raiders’ offense.
Outlook: Stern test for Panthers’ defense to stop the Red Raiders dual-threat offense, but the Panthers’ offense matches them position for position, and Lewis’ leadership ultimately propels Jackson County to 1-0 start.
Mill Creek (0-1, 0-0) at West Forsyth (0-0, 0-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday night
Where: West Forsyth High School
Head Coaches: Shannon Jarvis, Mill Creek; Adam Clack, West Forsyth
Players To Watch: Mill Creek, Daniel David, QB, Johnathan Hawkins, RB, Chris Dickhute, DB; West Forsyth, Hampton McConnell, QB, Nathan Schmitz, WR, Ryan Guthrie, S/OLB
Mill Creek opened its season against the No. 2-ranked Colquitt County team last Saturday at the Corky Kell Classic. At halftime, the Hawks held a 14-10 lead, but the Packers scored 21-unanswered second-half points to take the victory 31-14.
Quarterback Daniel David threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Wide receiver David Curry racked up five catches for 77 yards and touchdown.
The Hawks face another stern test in the land of Class AAAAAA football – the West Forsyth Wolverines.
This is the season-opening game for the Wolverines and the first in post-Frank Hepler Era. Hepler went 49-18 as a head coach for six seasons. Adam Clack, who had been on Hepler’s staff since the program started in 2007, takes over as head coach.
Quarterback Hampton McConnell returns to lead the offense. He will be looking to connect with Nathan Schmitz for big plays. The Wolverines’ defense is led by linebackers Austin Sanders and Ryan Guthrie. But new pieces on both sides of the ball and the departure of running back Trevor O’Brien, who led Forsyth County in rushing yards (1,052) and touchdowns (15) leaves several questions heading into the team’s first game of 2014.  
Outlook: After the emotions settle down, the Hawks’ experience on both offense and defense and wanting to redeem themselves from a second-half disaster last week will be the difference in an entertaining game.
Jefferson (1-0, 0-0) at Winder-Barrow (0-0, 0-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday night
Where: Winder-Barrow High School
Head Coaches: Ben Hall, Jefferson; Heath Webb, Winder-Barrow
Players To Watch: Jefferson, Evan Shirreffs, QB, Sammy Williams, RB, Tradd Porter, DB; Winder-Barrow, CeCe Green, RB, Anthony Gates, DT, Brandyn Randall, WR
The Dragons opened 2014 in a near-flawless capacity, dropping 50 points on the Rabun County Wildcats. The offense had contributors from every position. Quarterback Evan Shirreffs threw for 220 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Dalton Hill caught four passes for 149 yards and one touchdown. He scored on a 5-yard run, as well.
Running back Sammy Williams had 64 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
The Dragons’ defense did its job against a formidable Wildcat offense, forcing three turnovers (fumble and two interceptions) and recording a safety. Kicker Gage Lawson booted through two field goals, as well.
First-year Winder-Barrow head coach Heath Webb takes over a squad that has won six games in six years. However, a nice scrimmage game win over South Forsyth on Aug. 15, 29-28, could be a sign of positive things for the Bulldoggs’ season.
The offense is led by talented junior running back CeCe Green and senior wide receiver Brandyn Randall brings veteran leadership to the Bulldoggs’ offense. The defense is anchored by senior defensive tackle Anthony Gates.
Outlook: The Dragons’ talent on both sides of the ball will be too much for the Bulldoggs to handle.
Lakeview Academy (0-0, 0-0) at East Jackson (0-1, 0-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday night
Where: East Jackson Comprehensive High School
Head Coaches: Matthew Gruhn, Lakeview Academy; Gary Hughes, East Jackson
Players To Watch: Lakeview Academy, David Abee, QB, Tae Turner, RB, Mitchell McIntire, OL/DL; East Jackson, Cody Hardwick, QB, Taylor Murphy, RB, Michael Seagraves, LB
After seeing four different head coaches in four years, Gary Hughes is in his second season as East Jackson head coach and has brought stability to the still-building program. The Eagles didn’t open 2014 the way they wanted, suffering a 35-15 loss at the hands of Hebron Christian Academy at home.
Amidst three turnovers and a blocked field goal and punt, East Jackson running back Taylor Murphy rushed for a game-high 113 yards and two touchdowns. Trevor Presley added 46 yards on seven carries.
The Eagles have a chance for redemption as they host their second straight home to start the season. The opponent coming to town is the Lakeview Academy Lions.
The Lions are led by head coach Matthew Gruhn. Quarterback David Abee is the signal-caller of the offensive attack. Running back Tae Turner brings explosiveness out of the Lions’ backfield. They also bring a veteran line into the 2014 season: Kyle Larsen, Mitchell McIntire and Jack Lipold.
Outlook: East Jackson picks up its first win of 2014 in a close battle.

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Pack down Hawks at Corky Kell Classic

POWDER SPRINGS - Going into Saturday’s Corky Kell Classic game, the Mill Creek Hawks knew the stern test that loomed.
Through the first half, they passed the test holding a 14-10 lead heading into the locker room. When the fourth quarter ended, 21-unanswered points by the Colquitt County Packers was the difference in tightly-contested entertaining matchup.
In a battle of two top-six teams in Class AAAAAA, the No. 2-ranked Packers found another gear during its second-half rally to upend the No. 6-ranked Hawks, 31-14.
“Obviously, Colquitt is very good. We knew that going into it,” Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis. “They have as good of skilled (players) as anyone in the state.”
Mill Creek senior quarterback Daniel David went 14-for-24, passing for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Senior wide receiver David Curry racked up five catches for 77 yards and one touchdown. The two connected on a 52-yard flea flicker which propelled the Hawks to the lead before halftime.
Colquitt County’s Siheim King rushed for a game-high 124 yards and one touchdown.
“The biggest thing we knew is we had to gang tackle,” Jarvis said, “Lord knows if we didn’t gang tackle today that kid could have rushed for 500 yards. So, our kids were flying around, but we still have got to play better.
“Just playing one half or three quarters is not going to be good enough. We have to play four quarters of solid football regardless of what the heat is, or how tired you are, so, I think our kids learned a lot and we (the coaches) did too. We learned about where we are at.”
Colquitt County quarterback Chase Parrish went 20-for-29, passing for 256 yards and one touchdown in the Packers’ win.
“I thought our conditioning and strength was the difference,” Colquitt County head coach Rush Propst said. “You have to give them (Mill Creek) credit, they’re a strong football team. We knew that going in.
“They hit us with a trick play that got us on one of (the touchdowns). It happens. I thought our defense played well. We gave up the trick play and then one touchdown.”

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Fire-breathing: Jefferson sizzles past Rabun County in season opener

JEFFERSON – The Jefferson Dragons 2014 season started off about as flawless as a team could hope for.
There were plenty of points scored, multiple turnovers forced and they showed who they are at full strength.
The Dragons (1-0) defeated the Rabun County Wildcats (0-1) 50-14, Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
Jefferson senior wide receiver Dalton Hill led the Dragons’ offense, catching four passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. He also had a rushing touchdown, as well.
Senior running back Sammy Williams carried the ball 20 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman running back Colby Wood rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Evan Shirreffs passed for 220 yards and one touchdown.
The Dragons’ defense did its job, too, intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble.
“I was proud of the guys,” Jefferson head coach Ben Hall said. 
“Dalton Hill had a nice night a receiver.  Evan threw the ball well and the line protected and the (running) backs ran hard. There were some fundamental errors you make game one…But as we tell the kids we just have to continue to ‘sharpen the blade,” Hall continued.
“They battled hard. It was a hot night tonight and they played a fine football team.”
The Dragons received the opening kickoff that resulted in a punt, but the first series looked to knock whatever rust was leftover from summertime off the offense.
Williams put Jefferson up 7-0, slicing his way through the Wildcat defense on a 4-yard run with 7:02 left in the first quarter. The drive was catapulted by a 46-yard reception from Hill.
Senior defensive back Tradd Porter intercepted a Rabun County pass. This set-up another Williams’ second touchdown as he found the end zone from eight yards away with 3:43 left in the first.
After a Gage Lawson field goal to open the second quarter, Jefferson senior Maverick McKinney forced a fumble deep in Rabun County territory, which the Dragons recovered.
Hill was the beneficiary of the fumble, scoring on a 5-yard end-around run to extend the Dragons’ lead to 24-0.
On the Dragons’ next possession, Shirreffs found Hill for a 65-yard touchdown and 31-0 lead.
The Wildcats’ offense finally found some magic, as quarterback Collin Grant found Charlie Wderner for a 19-yard touchdown with 3:40 left in the second quarter.
The Dragons’ defense redeemed themselves after Hill booted a 55-yard punt down to the Wildcats’ 1-yard line. On the first play of the series, Jefferson’s Cooper Young snagged the Wildcat runner before he could escape the end zone for a safety.
Lawson added his second field goal of the game, booting through a 28-yard field goal to give the Dragons a 36-7 at the end of the first half.
Wood added his two touchdowns on runs of one and 11 yards.
Rabun County’s Dawson Kendricks scored late on a 6-yard run.
Jefferson travels to Winder-Barrow High School next week, while Rabun County host Habersham Central High School.

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Turnovers doom Eagles in season opener

BY Kyle Funderburk
Turnovers and other errors were the East Jackson Eagles’ downfall on Friday night in a 35-15 season-opening loss at home to Hebron Christian Academy.
The Eagles (0-1) fumbled twice, threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown, and had a punt and field goal blocked with the latter being taken for a touchdown.
“We had two major errors with the interception and blocked field goal for touchdowns,” said East Jackson head coach. “Other than that it’s anybody’s ball game. Bottom line is that you can’t make these mistakes against teams with big-play ability and we certainly did that.”
East Jackson began the game good; however, Cody Harwick’s pass on third-and-2 was intercepted and returned 90 yards by Hebron’s Jaquan Gibson.
On the ensuing possession, East Jackson lost a fumble after just three plays. That set-up a 2-yard touchdown run by Connor Holliday. Along the way, Hebron managed to convert on a third-and-20 and a fourth-and-18.
East Jackson then put together another good drive until Taylor Murphy fumble.
On Hebron’s next drive, Andrew Redman began with a 54-yard run. Six plays later, Holliday scored his second touchdown on another 2-yard run to extend the lead to 21-0.
East Jackson managed to put together another long drive, making it all the way to Hebron’s 10-yard line. A sack and false start later, the Eagles were setting up for a 40-yard field goal that was blocked and returned 60 yards by Viktor Gibson, giving Hebron a 28-0 halftime lead.
The Eagles’ opening drive of the second half ended with a blocked punt, but the defense kept Hebron from scoring on that drive.
After holding the Eagles to a three-and-out, Hebron poured some more salt into the Eagles’ wound as they ran a reverse with a toss back to the Holliday who found a wide open Jacob Harper for a 55-yard touchdown strike, extending the lead to 35-0.
The Eagles scored 15-unanswered points two Murphy runs of 13 and three yards. He also scored on a two-point conversion run.
Murphy led all rushers in the game with 113 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
Trevor Presley added 46 yards on seven carries.
Hebron was led on the ground by Redman who had 79 yards on 14 carries.
East Jackson will try to even up its season next Friday as they host Lakeview Academy.

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Former Dragon ready to fly at Kennesaw State

Former Jefferson Dragon football player and 2012 Class AA Defensive Player of the Year, Wesley Simonton, was not sure if he would ever have a chance to play the game that he loves so dearly once he graduated from Jefferson High School in 2013.
However, after finding motivation during workouts with former Jefferson teammate and West Georgia football commit Tyler Cole, Simonton knew this chance was not far-fetched as he thought.
Simonton will trade in the blue and red he dawned while helping lead Jefferson to a Class AA state championship in 2012 and put on the black and gold of the Kennesaw State Owls, he announced on Aug. 18.

Check out the story in the Aug. 28 print edition of The Paper.