MADISON – The Jackson County football team fell a win short of the best start in school history after suffering its first loss of the season Friday at Morgan County, 14-7.
It was a bitter loss though for a Panthers squad that lost 34-6 to the Bulldogs in 2008, yet held their own for most of the first half before giving up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Bulldogs quarterback J.D. Hawkins to Nnaji McDaniel with 14 seconds before halftime.
Jackson County (3-1) pulled even early in the fourth quarter on a 36-yard touchdown run by Charlie Waycaster.
Morgan County (1-3) answered with a 1-yard touchdown run by Terrance Heard with less than five minutes remaining for the deciding score.
The Panthers got the ball back, but on the ensuing drive, Alex Crawford’s pass was intercepted. But their defense came up big, forcing a fumble on the Bulldogs’ next possession.
"I can’t say enough about our defense," Panthers coach Billy Kirk said. "For us to win, though, we have to play great on both sides of the ball."
Crawford connected with Rob Williams to move the ball inside the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. But the Panthers’ luck finally ran out as Crawford’s third interception of the game ended any chance of a comeback.
"We gave ourselves a chance," Kirk said. "We just didn’t put it together tonight. Now we’ve got a big game coming up with Hart County and we’ve got to get ready to play next week."
Afterward, Kirk told his players to keep their heads up while reminding them there is plenty of time left to reclaim the success they enjoyed through the first three weeks.
"We’re going to fight until we can’t fight anymore," Kirk said. "We have to be able to get back up after getting knocked down. I tip my hat to Morgan County because they took it to us. Our defense was on the field all night and they did a great job."
The Panther defense executed early on, stuffing the Bulldogs on fourth-down conversion attempts twice in the first half before giving up the late score. But key mistakes hurt Jackson’s chances of pulling off the road victory.
"The bottom line is, I knew it was going to be tough coming into region play," Kirk said. "Our defense played their butts off, but our offense just didn’t execute. We knew coming in that if we didn’t execute, we wouldn’t have a chance to win."