Jefferson County faces strong test

Published 12:07 am Thursday, November 6, 2008

FAYETTE — Sure, they’re tough. You don’t get a 9-1 record by being soft.

That much coach James Herrington knows about Jefferson County’s first playoff opponent, Newton County.

The Cougars shut out four of their opponents this season and allowed less than 10 points to two others.

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“To be No. 1 from Region 5 they have to be playing pretty good ball,” Herrington said. “They don’t get that just handed to them.”

But the Tigers, who have been striving toward the playoffs with close wins and losses all season, are just excited to get into postseason play.

“To be honest, Newton County is an outstanding football club, but we were more worried about Wilkinson County,” Herrington said. “(The players) are anxious to play. It’s been the longest week we’ve had this year.”

The Cougars, whose only loss came against Forest, 38-22, boast two returning all-state players in running back Floyd Graves and center Kalvin Smith.

Herrington said based on film, the running game is going to be tough to contain, with Graves, Gabe Loper and Michael Granger leading the charge.

“No. 24 (Graves) is really the heart of their offense,” he said. “And No. 6 (Loper) has looked good on film. He’s bi,, about 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3, and they like to go to him early.

“No. 20 (Granger) is a track guy. He beat our guy (Darryl McGee) in the state championship last year in the 100-meter, so they do have some speed at their running back position.”

On defense, Herrington said Newton County runs a five-man front and is adept at keeping pressure off its linebackers.

Jefferson County’s strategy, he said, won’t change much.

“It’s going to boil down to what we do up front, if our offensive line can do a good job of taking over physically, and vice versa for our defensive line. Play on the other side of the ball, get penetration and cause problems in the backfield, get to (the quarterback) before he gets started.”

The Tigers are lucky to be in the playoffs after losing three consecutive Region 7 games.

Two of those losses were by less than 3 points, although Tylertown blew them out 35-0.

“We feel like, looking back on our season, we could’ve easily finished 8-2 this year. We had a couple close calls this year against some very good teams, and we had a tough schedule, which might play into our favor.”

But wins against North Pike and Wilkinson County secured Jefferson County a spot in the postseason, albeit on the road.

Yet Herrington isn’t worried about not having the home crowd when they travel to Decatur Friday.

The Tigers are 4-2 on the road this season and 1-3 at home.

“It’s going to affect us, but in a good way because in the last two years we have been pretty stout on the road. Last year we went undefeated on the road, and most of those guys are back from that team.”