1111JeffersonAUDJefferson coach Bill Navas talks about preparing for the first round playoff game against Coosa.
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JEFFERSON — Jefferson High football coach Bill Navas believed he had the right words on Monday to get his team motivated to practice this week. It’s the same message he delivers every season at this point.
With the team huddled around his shadow, the Dragons coach put it all on the line for this week’s first round Class AA state playoff game against Coosa at Jefferson Memorial.
"Guys, if we lose on Friday night, we’ll be here on Saturday morning at nine o’clock to turn in equipment," Navas said before practice.
It’s not like Jefferson (10-0) has to have incentive to keep its season going. After securing the Region 8-A title two weeks ago against North Oconee, the Dragons responded with a 48-0 win against East Jackson last Friday night.
Still, Navas found it helpful to be a constant voice in his players’ ears as they started preparing to play the Eagles (6-4), who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
"Enjoy this guys, there’s a lot of teams that wish they could still be practicing right now," Navas said as players started to stretch.
Jefferson’s coach understands his team’s history in the playoffs. The Dragons almost always qualify for the postseason, but getting past the first round has been a tall task. They’ve got only two playoff wins since 2000.
Jefferson’s players seem to understand their coach’s sense of urgency. Many of the Dragons’ four-year starters like Jay Fowler, Sasser Conner and Tab Martin have already played in five playoff games in their careers. Now they’re ready to put together a postseason run that will put Jefferson football on the map.
"I love football, and I don’t want this to be the last Monday practice of the year," Jefferson junior linebacker Lucas Redd said. "I want to have more and more, and keep on going.
"Football is so much fun, and we’ve got a really good team, and I just feel good with what we are doing and our team chemistry."
Preparing for the weeklong grind of getting ready for a playoff game is nothing new for this program. What is new is the level of competition.
The Dragons moved up to Class AA this season, after an extended stay in Class A. With the new classification comes an entirely new set of circumstances. Jefferson has traded in its traditional Class A playoff rivalries with Bowdon, Bremen, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy and Trion for an entirely new set of teams.
As a result, Navas knows little about first round opponent Coosa. Navas also has a limited frame of reference for possible second round opponents, Lovett or Macon County.
He welcomes the challenge of scouting a new set of programs.
"There’s a big difference going from Class A to AA," Navas said. "The quality of the 32 teams in the AA state playoffs is a lot better than single A."
Jefferson senior center/linebacker Patrick Allen thinks one reason that the Dragons have continued to improve is the new goals they set each week. After winning the region title, the final goal of the regular season was to finish it out 10-0. It’s the first 10-0 start to a season in the schools history, and no Jefferson team has ever won more than 10 games in a season.
"We feel blessed to have this opportunity to represent our region as the No. 1 seed," Allen said. "Now we just have to step it up to the next level."
Navas says one of the main reasons the Dragons are in the top spot from 8-AA heading into the postseason is healthy players. Jefferson has been without any injuries that kept starters off the field since the season started.
"We’ve had kids get dinged up and nicked up," Navas said. "But we haven’t had anyone get hurt and miss a game, and that’s big because we have some areas where we don’t have a lot of depth with mature kids."