On Friday, the East Jackson Eagles beat 3A’s Franklin County 53-10 on the road to move to 4-0 on the season. It’s the first time since 2009 the Eagles have won their first four games, and that was the only winning season for a program founded in 2007. That was also the year they won their only playoff game.
Last year, after a nine-year stint in 3A, the Eagles returned to 2A and qualified for the playoffs for just the second time, finishing 5-6 in coach Cameron Pettis’ fourth season.
The Eagles have one more non-region game remaining, Friday at 4A’s Johnson (1-3), before closing the season with their 8-2A schedule, beginning next week. They won their first two games against a pair of A Division I schools, Oglethorpe County (14-7) and Social Circle (42-14) to open the season, and last week beat 3A’s West Hall 42-7.
“(The) staff and players are great, (and) there is electricity in the air,” Pettus said. “They are enjoying the process and taking it day by day. They have worked really hard to get where they are at but also know that we have a long way to go to get where we want to be.”
The Eagles turned a corner last season after going 7-22 in Pettus’ first three seasons, and they appear to be continuing their upward trend so far. Pettus doesn’t believe that’s a coincidence.
“The hardest thing to do in life is to work hard daily and our players and staff have done that,” Pettus said. “Great effort and attitude everyday are what we believe in here. Consistency with our admin, staff, coaches and players...We love each other, we push each other and we always have each other’s back.”
As for Friday’s win, Pettus said the difference was, “Playing with that discipline, swagger and confidence which has come from some very hard work in the offseason.”
Another factor that will help the Eagles’ upward trend is most of their playmakers aren’t yet seniors.
Eagles sophomore quarterback Drew Richardson has 691 yards and six touchdowns to no interceptions on 51 of 73 passing, and his leading receiver is sophomore Braxton Goolsby, who has 297 receiving yards and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Junior Quay Hill has 374 yards and seven touchdowns on 80 carries.
The defense has allowed an average of just 33 yards passing, and 97 yards rushing. The Eagles have also blocked four punts so far.
Toombs County earns 2nd shutout in a row
The Toombs County Bulldogs continued their hot start with a 37-0 win over A Division II’s Truetlen, which comes a week after beating Jefferson County 44-0. The Bulldogs (4-0) have gone from unranked to No. 9, and open Region 3 play at Tattnall County (1-3) on Friday.
It’s gone as well as most in Lyons anticipated with first-year coach Buddy Martin, who has been the Bulldogs’ athletic director since last year, and who served on his predecessor Richie Marsh’s staff the previous seven seasons.
“The transition into the head coaching role at Toombs County has been extremely smooth,” Martin said. “Having been on staff here for the past seven seasons, knowing the kids, knowing the administration, and knowing the community has all helped.”
On Friday against Truetlen, Martin said the difference was execution.
“The biggest difference was our ability to run the ball on offense and then in turn stop the run on defense. Our offensive unit has gotten more physical each week, and our defense is playing fast football right now. We will need to continue in this direction as we enter region play.”
Pierce County gets another lopsided win
The No. 4 Pierce County Bears beat A Division II’s Charlton County 48-6, completing a dominant run of their non-region schedule in which they outscored four opponents, including Jeff Davis, A Division I’s Metter and 3A’s Liberty County, a combined 187-22.
Against Charlton County at home, Jah Evans got the Bears’ offense running with two touchdowns, with Joe Drew catching another. Bears coach Ryan Herring said momentum was established by the defense, which is a big strength so far.
“This season we expected to be better on defense than we were last year and compete for a playoff spot,” Herring said. “We’re playing steady right now we just need to keep improving as region play begins this week.”
The Bears have reached the playoffs ever year since 2011 and won 3A in 2020. They’ve had at least 11 wins in each of the past five seasons. They begin their 3A schedule Friday at Brantley County (3-1).
Sources: Georgia High School Football Historians Association, MaxPreps, GHSF Daily