Thus far, the Panthers are playing like a team that wants to return to the state tournament. The focus isn’t on the postseason just yet, however.
“No we do not bring it up at all,” Jamison said of the playoffs. “We try to take it one week at a time. Of course, once season ended last year and all offseason, that is what we preached and talked about, because we were so close last season. At the beginning of season, of course we talked about playoffs, but we try not to let that be the focal point during season. We handle our business each week and see where it takes us.”
The Hornets (1-4, 0-1) entered as 8-point favorites, and are the three-time defending Region 6 champions, reaching the quarterfinals each of the last two seasons. Despite losing AJC Super 11 selection and all-state running back Keyjaun Brown to graduation, the Hornets are still a running team, and the Panthers prepared accordingly.
The Panthers allowed just 10 yards rushing against South Atlanta. Senior tackle and linebacker Jeremiah Hardeman led the defense with 10.5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss a sack and an interception.
“Our plan was to stop the run,” Jamison said. “They have some athletic guys, and we didn’t want to give them a chance to run. Offensively, (the plan was to) continue to do what we do great, and get the ball to our playmakers. Our guys believe and play with confidence and discipline. Everyone did their job, which allowed us to have a fast start. My coaches also did a great job of game planning and getting the guys ready to go.”
The win was a rebound to the prior week, when the Panthers lost 21-14 to North Cobb Christian. Up next is another key 6-2A game against Washington (1-5, 1-1) on Friday at Lakewood. It’s a game that could go a long way in shaping the playoff picture.
Just like last week, expect the Panthers to be prepared.
“My coaching staff does a great job with the guys,” Jamison said. “They make sure they are ready to go each week. The commitment from the guys since last season end has helped also. This is a great group of guys and they play for each other.
“Our goal each week is to continue to get better, go 1-0 and, ‘Commit to the T.’”
North Cobb Christian shuts out Washington
Staying in Region 6, the North Cobb Christian Eagles shut out Washington 28-0 to improve to 4-2, 2-0 in league play. After beating Therrell the week before, the Eagles are in position to win their first region title in a program that dates to 2007.
Like the Panthers and their playoffs possibilities, the Eagles prefer to focus on the moment.
“As a team, we haven’t spoken much of a region championship,” Eagles third-year coach Matt Jones said. “It’s been all focusing on the next game, one week at a time. We’ll continue that mantra every week. Our kids are growing and learning so much every week. It has been fun to see the growth of our team these first six games. We have a week off here to get rested up and healthy, and (to) get back in gear for the second half of our season. It will take a total team effort to continue to win. Turnovers will be key.
“We were plus-2 Friday, and that led to much of our success. We scored 14 points off turnovers. If we can protect the ball and play within ourselves, I believe we can give ourselves a chance to be successful down the stretch.”
Freshman quarterback Teddy Jarrard led a balanced attack in which the Eagles threw for 256 yards and ran for 207. Jarrard was 24 of 36 passing for 256 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His top targets were senior Will Hewitt (nine catches, 97 yards, one touchdown) and sophomore Coker Ormsby (7-86-2. Sophomore running back Denim Stevens led the rushing attack with 67 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
The defense pitched its second shutout of the season. On Aug. 25, they won 34-0 at 3A’s Ridgeland.
“The plan was just to rally to the ball defensively,” Jones said. “We knew they were fast and had some playmakers. Our kids just ran to the ball well the whole night, and limited their big plays. (The shutout was) because of a total team effort. Spears Martin, our (middle) linebacker, really led us with getting to the ball, play after play.”
The Eagles are on bye this week, then host KIPP (3-3, 1-1) on Oct. 6.
Fellowship Christian topples 4A power Lovett, faces Rabun County next
The Fellowship Christian Paladins continue their strong start under first-year coach John Thompson, beating 4A power Lovett 30-24 on Friday at home.
The win pushes the Paladins, ranked No. 6, to 3-1.
They got a big night from sophomore running back CJ Givers, who had 198 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.
“We ended up just having to run the ball so much,” Thompson said. “With CJ, we controlled the ball and took over the game that way. The best thing we did, is we responded after we jumped off sides and lost a fumble (on the Paladins 15). The defense held them to a field goal, and we went down and scored a touchdown on the other end and took the lead. Both teams were physical, and it was a back-and-forth game, so we hung in there.”
Thompson credited the defense, and senior kicker Nathan Chapman for winning the field position battle, as factors to the win.
“As they say, we played complimentary football,” Thompson said. “I don’t like that term usually, but our offense helped our defense, our defense helped our offense and we did good in the kicking game. Each team had only one turnover, so it was a well-played game.”
Though the season is six weeks old, Thompson still sees Lovett as a barometer game because the Paladins haven’t played much. Also, the Lions have been in the playoffs ever year since 2002, and they’ve advanced in the 4A tournament each of the last two seasons after being reclassified from 2A.
“Going into the Lovett game, we’d had two byes the last three weeks,” Thompson said. “We had no idea if we were getting better or not, but we played a solid game. Now, we go to Rabun County.”
Rabun County (4-1) is another powerhouse that competed in 2A until the most recent reclassification. The Wildcats are No. 5 in A Division I.
“They’re a good, fast, talented team, they have a great culture and they fully expect to win,” Thompson said. “Our hands will be full this week...This is a big game, going up there, and they beat us last year (21-16 in Roswell). They just reload every year, and they’ve got a lot of seniors on their team. Again, this will be another exceptionally well-coached team.”
The Paladins open Region 8 play Oct. 6 when they host East Jackson (5-0, 0-0).