For most football teams, last Friday’s season openers were initial opportunities to diagnose strengths, before all important region games start in Week 3 or thereafter.
Friday’s matchup between Hazlehurst’s Jeff Davis and Pearson’s Atkinson County, however, was much more.
Initially scheduled as a non-region matchup by long-time friends, Jeff Davis coach Roger Metts and Atkinson coach Jody Stone, the game suddenly became one of Region 2-AA importance, once the GHSA granted Atkinson’s petition to move from 1-AA.
Too late for Jeff Davis to shuffle its schedule, the circumstance left the Yellow Jackets as Class AA’s only team playing a region game its first time out. And, entering this week, both teams are the class’ only ones to already have played in region — Jeff Davis’ first game and Atkinson’s second.
Metts said playing an important region contest right off the bat, oddly before this week’s non-region one against visiting Telfair County, was less than ideal. He considered his team the underdog on the road against Atkinson, especially with so many inexperienced players, but felt fortunate to prevail in double overtime.
Atkinson forced extra football by scoring with 39 seconds left in regulation, then both teams scored touchdowns and had extra-point kicks blocked in the first overtime. Jeff Davis’ Ross Dubberly ran for a touchdown and Hunter Beck cashed in a penalty-shortened conversion run in the second, then the Jackets held the Rebels.
“Our guys’ first test in a four-quarter game was one that, if we didn’t win, we might not make the playoffs,” Metts said. “We harped on that all week long, that it was big.
“That was a hard situation to face right out of the blocks.”
Jeff Davis won the last of its four region championships in 1997, the year it finished 10-2 under Tom Hybl. Now, in just Metts’ second season, after finishing 7-3 in his first, the Jackets have taken a firm first step toward another.
So much for indoctrinations by fire.