Twenty years ago the supporters of the Jackson County football team were saying “wait ‘til next year.” They were coming off the best season in school history and had put together three consecutive winning seasons. Somehow next year never arrived.
Jackson County disappeared and became the whipping boy in whatever region they were assigned for two decades. During that time the Panthers had no winning seasons and no state playoff appearances.
That changed this year. With first-year coach Benji Harrison at the helm, the Panthers have erased a lot of bad memories. Jackson County enters the final week of the regular season with a 6-3 record. The Panthers will finish third in Region 8-AAA if they beat Morgan County this week. Even with a loss, Jackson will make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years by virtue of last week’s 33-28 win over Elbert County, its first victory over the Blue Devils.
Jackson beat Elbert on Senior Night, which was fitting since it was two seniors, tailback Dustin Scott and quarterback Kyle Daniel, who did most of the damage. Scott ran for three touchdowns and caught another one for the Panthers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise; Scott ran for 318 yards earlier this year against Oconee County.
Here’s the way it looks for the other region playoffs going into the final week:
Region 1: Pierce County is the champion and Appling County is second. Tattnall County will be No. 3 if it beats Johnson this week. Johnson will be No. 3 if it beats Tattnall, otherwise the Atom Smashers will fall into a tie for the final spot with multiple scenarios.
Region 2: Carver is No. 1 and Peach is No. 2. Pike County will be No. 3, unless Jackson finds a way to upend Carver. Jackson will be No. 4.
Region 3: Thomson beat Washington County head-to-head, leaving those two giants to finish one-two. Jefferson County will be No. 3, even if it loses to Thomson this week. The winner of the Dodge County-Swainsboro game will be fourth.
Region 4: Callaway will win the championship, with Chapel Hill guaranteed second place. Rockmart will be third, based on its victories over Central and Jackson. Central will be fourth, based on its win over Jackson.
Region 5: Cartersville has been the class of the league and will be No. 1. Adairsville, Gordon Central and Ringgold are tied for second at 4-2 and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe is one game back at 3-3.
Region 6: St. Pius will win the region if it beats Decatur. If that happens, the winner of the Blessed Trinity-Cedar Grove will finish second. Woodward Academy will be No. 4.
Region 7: North Hall will win the region championship, regardless of the outcome of this week’s game against Buford. If Buford loses and White County beat Banks County, Buford would fall to third place and White would be No. 2. Dawson will take fourth place if it beats West Hall.
Region 8: North Oconee plays Hart County this week, with the winner claiming the region championship. Morgan County and Jackson County, currently tied for third, meet this week. If Morgan loses and winds up tied with Elbert County, it would lose the tiebreaker.