Jackson County did not want to get into a shootout with East Hall, but that’s exactly what it got.
The Panther offense could not keep up with East Hall’s despite Noah Venable rushing for 275 yards on 36 carries. They fell to the Vikings 45-26.
“Their offense is really good, they make some big plays and like I said to the kids, we’re off next week so we have to get back to fundamentals,” said head coach Brandon Worley. “Turnovers and flags, we can’t do that. That’s not who we are, we have to protect the football. We’re going down field to go up and the next thing you know, we’re behind.”
Jackson County (3-2, 0-0) had everything going their way early. They received the opening kickoff and took over from their own 26-yard line. A heavy attack of Venable with a 36-yard run by Grey Akins put the Panthers at East Hall’s one-yard line. Venable punched it in two plays later.
The Panthers then forced East hall to settle for a field goal to give Jackson County a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter. However, Jackson County could not replicate its success and had to punt after three plays.
After another punt, East Hall’s potent offense finally put together a drive complete with a pair of long passes from quarterback Austin Parker. His last pass went 19 yards to Sedrion Morse to give the Vikings a 10-7 lead.
“Sometimes, you have things happen that don’t go your way, you miss a block, you get a penalty, you get behind the chains,” Worley said. “With our offense, it’s one of those things where you just grind it out, obviously, we had some big plays, but it’s not going to always be like that.”
But Jackson County answered with another long drive that was all Venable. The drive got going after he was tackled by his facemask on a 24-yard run. That gave the Panthers an extra 15 yards. A few snaps later, Venable carried the ball another 24 yards to the end zone to reclaim the lead.
The lead wouldn’t last though. East Hall took over the Panthers 33-yard line and Parker completed a pass for a 67-yard touchdown. However, a holding penalty way behind the line of scrimmage brought the play back. When all looked right for the Jackson County defense, it allowed Parker to complete a 75-yard touchdown pass, again to Morse. That gave East Hall a 17-14 lead at halftime.
Jackson County regained the lead early in the third quarter with an 88-yard drive, again led by Venable on the ground. He started the drive with a 54-yard run. Tyler Payne gave Venable a rest on the following play and took the ball to end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. Evan Mershon missed the point after attempt, so the Panthers led 20-17.
Once again, East Hall wasted no time in taking back the lead. Parker scrambled until he found room to run. Eventually he took of up field for a 78-yard touchdown.
Jackson County began a drive to answer the score, but Payne fumbled around midfield to hand East Hall the ball back. Although it looked for a moment like Jackson County’s defense could get East Hall off the field, Parker took advantage of an aggressive blitz to throw a short screen to Cambren Harrison who then 54 yards to the end zone for a devastating touchdown. That gave the Vikings a 31-20 lead.
East Hall added one more after a stagnant Panther possession with a 15-yard pass from Parker to Morse.
“They have the most underrated quarterback in northeast Georgia, he does a fantastic job and if he gets to run around, he’s going to find somebody,” Worley said. “And they have the athletes and that hurt us, we got lost in space. They have to know where the ball is at and make a play on it.”
Jackson County added one more midway through the fourth quarter with another one-yard run by Venable which was set up by a 22-yard pass from Akins to Chad Pittman.
But East Hall had one more touchdown drive left in them to finish the Panthers off.
Jackson County is off this week. It opens play in Region 8-AAA next week on the road against Monroe Area.
“We’re going to work on us, same thing I’ve been saying after every week, we’re going to continue to focus on what we can do to get better,” Worley said. “Especially going into our first region game which is going to very similar to what we saw tonight. They’re going to be very athletic and very tall and we’re going to have to stop them.”
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