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Lightning, Panthers strike down Johnson, 14-8
Season opener shortened at halftime by threatening weather
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JEFFERSON — Jackson County is 1-0 this season, with only two quarters of football in the books.

The Panthers opened the 2010 season with a rain-shortened, 14-8 win against Johnson on Friday, playing only the first half before inclement weather ended the game early at Panther Stadium.

According to the GHSA, the team leading at halftime in non-classification game is declared the winner if weather remains unsuitable for two hours.

The Panthers, a Class AA team, were awarded the win over the Class AAA Knights after light rains and sporadic lightning loomed for two hours.

"We're going to take it, we're 1-0, but I don't like it anymore than anyone else likes it," Jackson County coach Billy Kirk said. "But to come out and beat a AAA team is huge."

Coincidentally, the Panthers had a similar situation happen to them in their 2007 season-opener against Banks County, when they lost 14-0 after the game was called at halftime.

Jackson County now has those two quarters back.
"We experienced the same scenario four years ago and we were on the short end of the stick," Kirk said. "I know what (Johnson head coach Paul) Friel is feeling right now. He's probably ticked off as I was four years ago."

Each time lightning was spotted by referees, the 30-minute wait to restart the game started over.

"I just wish they'd be a little more clear if it's based on sight or if it's based on a lightning detector," Friel said. "I don't know what the point of a lightning detector is if there's any flash and they restart the clock."

But one half of a game didn't yield one-half of a performance for everyone. The Panthers still managed to rack up 233 yards in the first half alone, 169 of them on the ground.

Three-quarters of the rushing yards were collected by Austin McDonald, who led Jackson County with 123 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

McDonald's touchdown with 10.6 seconds left in the second quarter ended up being the game-winner for the Panthers, who were down 8-7 before the 4-yard run by the senior.

"We would've lost if I hadn't scored," McDonald said. "The offensive line made the holes for me. I just run through them."

But it was through the air that Jackson County scored first, when Kevin Daniel found Davon Ledford in the end zone from seven yards to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.

The lead didn't last for long. Johnson scored on the very next play on an 81-yard touchdown return by Brandon Buncy.

The Knights elected to attempt a two-point conversion after the touchdown, successfully scoring on a swinging gate run anchored by Cedric Harris to give Johnson an 8-7 lead entering the second quarter.

A Jackson County fumble recovery in its own red zone also sustained the Panthers' lead before the half ended, which ended the eventual last offensive chance of the game for Johnson.

"We didn't play good enough to win the half we had," Friel said.


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