Jefferson at North Oconee
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Titans Stadium, Bogart
Coaches: Jefferson, T. McFerrin; North Oconee, Terry Tuley
Records: Jefferson (8-0, 7-0 Region 8-AA), North Oconee (7-1, 6-1)
Key players: Jefferson, QB/KR Darius Minor (5-11, 180 Sr.), RB/DB Lucas Redd (6-1, 200 Sr.), RB/DB Caleb Meek (5-7, 155 Sr.). North Oconee, RB Brandon Whitlock (5-11, 190 Sr.), DE Jesse Webb (6-0, 200 Sr.), DE Ryan Smith (6-3, 195 Sr.).
Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons win with their trademark running game. Now only one game separates Jefferson from back-to-back region titles.
JEFFERSON — Preparing for tonight’s game at North Oconee has caused T. McFerrin some sleepless nights.
McFerrin, Jefferson’s football coach, knows the big-play potential that North Oconee (7-1, 6-1 Region 8-AA) brings to the table and has four pages full of play formations the Titans typically run to prove it.
The Dragons (8-0, 7-0) first-year coach has also watched game tape of North Oconee endlessly trying to establish any tendencies as to what it does best.
“I’ve never played any of the teams, so I’m nervous every week,” McFerrin said. “North Oconee is a very solid football team.
“They have a really good defense, and on offense they have big-play potential and are not at all one-dimensional.”
That in itself is probably enough to make the Dragons coach toss and turn.
Then you have to consider the mammoth playoff implications floating around this game in Bogart. Jefferson is currently in a first-place tie in the region with this year’s surprise program, East Jackson (8-0, 7-0).
Jefferson’s final game of the regular season comes next Friday at Memorial Stadium against, you guessed it, East Jackson.
With all that is still left on the table in the final two weeks of the season, the Dragons could wind up anywhere from No. 1-3 in playoff seeding from the region. However, the Dragons could lock up no worse than a No. 2 seed with a win against North Oconee.
Then, Jefferson would have the chance at winning back-to-back region titles against East Jackson on Nov. 6.
“We’re just staying focused on playing North Oconee right now,” Jefferson senior Lucas Redd said. “Everything we do is focused on playing one game at a time and not looking too far ahead.”
North Oconee lost its first game of the season last Friday to East Jackson. Still, the Titans could win the last two games and secure a home playoff game.
Clearly, it is turning into a compelling battle as the region’s top three squads battle it out for playoff pecking order.
“I think it is fun to face the best teams at the end of the season,” Dragons junior linebacker Kyle Mosley said. “We’ve matured a lot this season and I feel like we’ve gotten better as a team.”
Mosley says that Jefferson has adjusted well and put their personnel in the best places to succeed as far as defense is concerned.
Hoytes Damons, a junior, was moved from outside linebacker to defensive end against Riverside Military, which added a good pass rusher to bookend fellow end Zach Allen.
It is no secret that North Oconee is going to run the football. Brandon Whitlock leads the Titans with 1,018 yards (127 yards per game) this season and 15 touchdowns.
Jefferson and North Oconee have only played once previously, but the meeting which took place last season was under almost identical circumstances.
Both teams had the same record then as they do heading into tonight’s meeting. And the Dragons’ win helped secure their first region title for the school in more than 30 years.
However, Jefferson will do anything in its power to keep the game from being as close as it was last season. In 2008, the Dragons won 17-16 as a result of a Titans’ missed extra point in the final minutes of the game.
Redd says that North Oconee players have a chip on their shoulders thinking about how last year’s game could have ended differently.
“We just have to do what we’re supposed to do and perform the way we should,” Redd said. “We feel like we match up well against North Oconee.”
Redd is Jefferson’s leading rusher with 544 yards and 11 touchdowns and senior quarterback Darius Minor has run for 484 yards and five touchdowns. On defense, Redd is the team leader with 58 tackles.