By Michael A. Lough
The Sports Report
The home team is seventh in one poll and eighth in another in Class 5A.
The visiting team is seventh in both polls in Class 6A.
Both head coaches were on the losing ends of close state championship results a year ago, the home coach at a different school.
The last three meetings – 2018, 2015, and 2014 – have had an average score of, well, 34-33. Jones County has scored two more points in those games.
Yes sir, it’ll be like a night at the fair when Jones County hosts Northside.
Northside is 1-1, falling 21-13 to Peach County, while Jones County improved to 2-0 after a 27-0 win over Baldwin.
Northside’s home crowd last week was notably below average, although playing on a Saturday night on a holiday weekend with assorted college teams in action no doubt had an impact. The Eagles will need full stands on the visitors side to counter the expected overflow crowd on the home side.
The Greyhounds are 13-4 at home since the start of the 2016 season, with all four losses coming to top-10 Class 5A teams. And they’re 3-1 – including a 2013 win over Alcovy – in their last four games against higher-class teams.
Jones County won’t look much different than last year’s Greyhound team, nor much different than the last two Warner Robins teams, led by new Jones County head coach Mike Chastain.
“There’s a ton of similarities on offense,” Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said. “Both of those guys basically do the same type of things on offense.”
The Greyhounds of then-head coach Justin Rogers won 35-27 at McConnell-Talbert last year, and Chastain went 2-1 against his alma mater while leading the Demons to a pair of Class 5A state championship berths in three seasons.
Chastain was the pick to succeed Rogers because of very similar offensive philosophies: wide open. Chastain inherited an experienced quarterback in Hunter Costlow, who completed 64.1 percent of his passes last year for 2,413 yards, 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
And the Greyhounds returned an elite receiving group with Jontavis Robertson, Maleek Wooten, and Caden Mutchler, as well as John Walton. That foursome teamed for 26 touchdown catches, with the first three averaging 17.4, 18.5, and 22.4 yards a catch.
“It’s something our guys are sort of used to,” Kinsler said, noting a scrimmage against pass-heavy Westside and season opener against pass-heavy Centennial before facing the Trojans, whose 12 passes were fewer than expected. “It’s not like it’s new to us.
“Even though the coaches came from Warner Robins, they’re still going to do things based on the personnel they have. Those are things that our kids … had to recover from last week and still try to make improvements on things.
“This time of year, you have to scheme things up, but you have to keep improving on the things to make yourselves better. The big thing is is where are we going to be in about two or three weeks when we go into region play.”
A win gives Kinsler 99 for his head coaching career, all 98 coming at his alma mater, against 22 losses, an 81.7 winning percentage.
He’s more interested in younger players having learned from mistakes last week that pretty much stymied chances to win.
“People, basically, they’ve just got to do their job,” Kinsler said. “We had some breakdowns early on last week. We’ve got to be more disciplined. That’s something we’ve been working on in practice, about people being where they’re supposed to be and doing those little things.
“We don’t have the kind of team where we can just overcome a lot of mistakes.”
Northside struggled with the passing game, completing only 9 of 21 passes. But the defense threw a shutout in the final three quarters to keep the Eagles in the game.
The Greyhounds have another advantage. Northside played on Saturday night, and against the No. 1 team in Class 3A, in a typically physical game and won that came down to the final minute, while Jones County was in control in a 27-0 win over Baldwin.
“Our kids had very little time to turn around and get over a physical game. This time of year, it’s more about us addressing the things we weren’t doing well.”
Games of the week
Lee County at Peach County (8 p.m.)
What a dazzling matchup. Lee County head coach Dean Fabrizio was an assistant briefly under Peach County head coach Chad Campbell. Both teams have been to the state title game in their classes the past two year, Lee County going 2-0 and Peach County going 0-2.Last week, Lee County’s game with a team from Virginia was stopped late in the fourth quarter, Lee County up 27-0 on Life Academy, whose antics on the field and sideline led the refs t0 end the game.
Peach County is off a 21-13 win over Northside, who gave Region 1-6A foe Lee County plenty to deal with in last year’s 6A title game as well as in the regular-season meeting. Lee County is No. 1 in both polls in 6A, Peach County No. 1 in both polls in 3A. Last year’s game was stopped for weather at the 9:02 mark of the fourth quarter, Lee County up 33-0. Maybe the only team Peach County wants to play more right now than Lee County is Calhoun, the winner of the 3A championship game two seasons ago amid officiating controversy. Last year’s shutout – Peach County was hovering around 100 yards in total offense when it ended – was the local Trojans’ first in more than a decade. The countdown for this game in the field house in Fort Valley started not long upon the team’s return home from Leesburg. Conditioning and depth in the fourth quarter – and one accompanying mistake – will be huge.
West Laurens at Dodge County
A drive of less than a half hour for the 25th meeting means an early arrival is wise, since this should be a standing-room-only gathering. The 4A Raiders are on a three-game losing streak to the AA Indians, all since 2016. The last WL win was the last time the teams played for awhile, 20-14 in 2005. Dodge County leads the series 19-5, and the margin regardless of the winner has been 15 points or less in the last 10 meetings. But West Laurens brings a more diversified offense to Eastman, led by QB A.J. Mathis, now atop the Raiders’ all-time list for career touchdown passes. Dodge County’s 17 pass attempts in its opener no doubt stunned Indian fans, for that made up 36.2 percent of last year’s pass attempts.
Swainsboro at Dublin
Get ready for an old-school, line vs. line slugfest. Swainsboro, though, is more prone to put it in the air, having thrown 27 times in its opener. Lately, that about a month’s worth for Dublin, which had 144 yards on the ground after little more than a quarter two weeks ago in its opener before weather finished off the win over ECI. Both defending champs are ranked, but the Tigers have plenty to deal with from Dublin, which starts nine seniors on offense and six on defense, although some play both ways. Dublin won 20-13 last year, and this one should be as drama filled.
Central vs. Howard, Ed DeFore
The Huskies are a win away from going 2-1 for the third straight year. Junior Jaylon Clark is off to a good start as the new quarterback, completing 56.8 percent of his passes for 132.5 yards a game (predecessor Quinton Sewell averaged 102.9 yards a game and completed 52.7 percent). Having Jeremiah Kelly (206 yards) and Javarsia Meadows (116) back is certainly a benefit. Howard has a nice mix of size and athleticism on defense, where it’s filling plenty of gaps. Howard won 46-26 last year.
Baldwin at Veterans
Last year’s wacky 38-30 Veterans win is unlikely to be repeated, at least score-wise, since both teams lost key players on offense. Still, both teams are in the same situation entering the game. Worth noting is that Veterans head coach Milan Turner is a win away from 100 for his career, standing at 99-25 overall. Baldwin’s Jesse Hicks is in sight at 107-85. The Warhawks are a little more run-oriented this year, led by Julian Barnes and his 123 yards a game.
ACE at Lamar County
Lamar County won 48-3 last year.
Bleckley County at Telfair County
Bleckley County won 35-26 last year.
Crawford County at Central Talbotton
Crawford County won 35-0 last year.
Dooly County at Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald won 27-26 last year.
East Laurens at Jeff Davis
Jeff Davis won 20-14 last year.
FPD at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian
MVP won 41-17 last year.
Greene County at Putnam County
Greene County won 31-14 last year.
Hancock Central at Josey
Hancock Central won 54-13 last year.
Macon County vs. Southwest, Henderson
Southwest won 14-8 last year.
Monticello at Bowdon
Monticello won 13-12 last year.
Morrow at Mary Persons
Mary Persons won 62-12 last year.
Rutland vs. Houston County, McConnell-Talbert
Houston County won 62-17 last year.
Stratford at George Walton
George Walton won 35-0 last year.
Trinity Christian at Tattnall
Trinity Christian won 45-27 last year.
Turner County at Taylor County
Turner County won 30-0 last year.
Twiggs County at Treutlen
Treutlen won 20-0 last year.
Upson-Lee at Harris County
Upson-Lee won 33-28 last year.
Wilcox County at Hawkinsville
Wilcox County won 23-0 last year.
Wilkinson County at Aquinas
Aquinas won 34-12 last year.
Briarwood at John Hancock
Briarwood won 39-6 last year.
Gatewood at Trinity Christian
Gatewood won 43-0 last year.
John Milledge at Brentwood
John Milledge won 41-7 last year.
Thomas Jefferson at Piedmont
They tied at 20 last year.
Westfield at Southland
Southland won 15-14 last year.
CFCA vs. Calvary
Fullington vs. Lafayette