Though Jackson County came out of its Region 8B-AA game against new cross-county rival East Jackson with a 29-14 loss, the Panthers may have found their quarterback in the process.
After spending Jackson County’s first three games and the first half of Friday’s at receiver, Panthers coach Billy Kirk decided to make a switch at quarterback for the second half against the Eagles. The Panthers had thrown for an interception returned for a touchdown, only completed three first downs and were scoreless heading into halftime, trailing 19-0.
Jalen Banks, a junior, relieved Kyle Daniel, and the Panthers’ offense picked up steam. In the second half, Jackson County had 11 first downs and 14 points on two passing touchdowns from Banks, who completed 18 of his 25 passes for 129 yards.
Banks also led the Panthers in rushing with 82 yards on 8 carries.
“Kyle won the starting job early (in the preseason) and Jalen did a good job of taking that and moving to receiver,” Panthers coach Billy Kirk said, referring to Banks’ attitude.
However, after Banks’ performance, he will start next week in a road game against subregion foe Elbert County, according to Kirk, but wouldn’t say if Banks is the permanent starter.
“I don’t want to say that right now, to be honest with you,” Kirk said. “We’ll go back and look at the film, but he certainly played up to par with starting on Friday nights, there’s no question about that. We’re going to try him and find something that works for us.
“We tried the no-huddle and huddle offense to slow it down about. The bottom line is we have seven sophomores on offense that really and truly shouldn’t be on a football field on Friday nights. But that’s what we’ve got, what we’re coaching and what we’re playing with, so we’ve got to do a better job of coaching them up and that’s my responsibility.”
STEPPING OUT OF JOHNSON’S SHADOW: When discussing Gainesville’s linebacking corps, middle linebacker A.J. Johnson’s name is likely the first to come up. But outside linebacker Mantevius Rucker, a senior, is slowly making a name for himself as well.
The 6-2, 220-pound transfer from Johnson High came to the Red Elephants after starting at running back the past three seasons for the Knights — he was Johnson’ second leading rusher in 2009 with 648 yards and four touchdowns.
“He told me he wanted to play defense,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “And he’s doing an excellent job. He’s one of the most eager (to learn) young men and he’s a lot like A.J. in that aspect. He just wants to learn and he’s so coachable.”
Rucker intercepted his first past of the season in the second quarter of Friday’s game against North Hall at The Brickyard.
Miller said at this point in the season, the main goal is to get Rucker acclimated on defense, where Miller said he’ll make a solid player in college. But as the season progresses, the Big Red may use Rucker on offense much in the way Johnson has been used in the “Wildcat”.
“He’ll probably get some touches before the year is over,” Miller said. “One of our jobs as coaches is to take the talent we have and do the best we can to fit it into a team.”
DOWN, CERTAINLY NOT OUT: Jefferson entered its Region 8B-AA opener at Hart County missing three starters — another was limited — and still nearly came out with a victory, leading 17-12 at halftime before eventually falling 27-17 to the Bulldogs.
Hart County has made the state playoffs the past 18 years.
“It was a tough loss, but we probably shouldn’t have even been on the field with them,” Dragons coach T. McFerrin said. “I was proud of them.”
The Dragons were without starters Hoytes Damons (TE/DE), Dylan Simmons (OL/DL), Collin Anthony (OL/DE), while Cole Givens (WR/LB) played at 75-percent strength, McFerrin said.
McFerrin said Damons (ankle) and Anthony (MCL sprain) are questionable for next week, while Simmons is probable.