JEFFERSON — Wet and soggy conditions tend to produce unpredictability in football games but no one could have predicted that Jackson County and Jefferson would only be separated by three points after three quarters Friday night.
Yet Jefferson showed why it is the No. 3 team in Class AAA, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Panthers 24-7 for their 20th straight regular season win.
“Give them (Jackson County) credit, they limited our possessions in the first half,” said Jefferson head coach Ben Hall. “I’m not going to blame the conditions, there is nothing to blame Jackson County just did a great job.”
The Dragons (5-0, 1-0) dominated Jackson County (3-2, 0-1) in time of possession in the first quarter but could only muster one touchdown on a 2-yard run by Wood. He ended the game with 162 and two touchdowns.
“He (Colby Wood) was a little slow getting going tonight, Jackson County did a good job disguising how they were stacking the box,” he said. “Wood ran hard, and he is just a steady player for us that continues to get better.”
The Panthers did not stay down long. They drove 65 yards with a pair of third-down conversions on the arm of Caleb Matthews. The one third down they did not convert led to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Jace Latty to Malik Tuck on fourth-and-6 to tie the game 7-7.
Jefferson and Jackson both had some success on their next possessions, but because of penalties they backed themselves up to third-and-20 plus situations that stalled drives.
The first 10 minutes of the third quarter were a stalemate between both teams, that ended when Hayden Kilgo made a 25-yard field goal to give Jefferson a 10-7 lead.
A 41-yard punt return by Zach Boobas set up the Dragons at the Panthers’ 9-yard line. All Wood needed was a couple of handoffs to find the end zone and increase the lead to 17-7 with 9:24 left in the game.
“In the off week coach was telling us to not let it be a four quarter game, but they (Jackson County) improved a lot from last year,” said Wood. “It was just a battle between us and them. We started clicking in the second half and started executing.”
Jefferson stopped Jackson County on just three plays on the ensuing possession. Darrian Hill carried the load on the next drive, finishing with a 5-yard touchdown run to set the score at 24-7.
“I think we got better tonight. We played our tails off and my hat is off to these kids, they fought for four quarters” Jackson County head coach Brandon Worley said. “We made a couple of mistakes late, gave up a punt return and we couldn’t get off their side of the field. It’s tough, but I’m proud of our kids.
“We stood up and went toe-to-toe with the No. 3 team in the state and never flinched. That’s what I wanted to do coming out here, that’s what I told the kids and they did.”
After compiling 347 yards last week, Tuck was held to just 18 yards against the Dragons. Most of the Panthers’ yards came from the passing game. Matthews and Latty combined completed 7 of 9 passes for 113 yards.
Besides Wood’s 168 rushing yards, Hill tallied 54 yards on 10 carries while Brace Moore completed 4 of 7 passes for 63 yards.
Jefferson travels to Elbert County next week in a region battle between top 10 teams. Jackson County hosts Oconee County looking for their first region win of 2015.