For the second year in succession, Peach County will square off against Jackson with a region championship on the line when the Trojans visit the Red Devils at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the GHSA Region 2-3A finale for both teams.
“This is just a big game all around,” Peach County head coach Chad Campbell said. “Winning a region championship is what you play for when you set your goals out at the beginning of the year. It’s important for playoff seeding, playing at home and all of that stuff.”
Jackson (7-2, 5-0) prevailed 3-2 in a memorable defensive battle in 2015 on the back of a third-quarter field goal.
The Trojans (8-1, 5-0) squandered numerous scoring opportunities with penalties and turnovers that could have changed the outcome, but they were largely stymied by a Red Devils defense that allowed just one carry for more than 10 yards and held Peach County to 12 yards rushing overall.
“They don’t give up big plays, and they make you earn what you get,” Campbell said. “We had opportunities to make big plays last year, and we didn’t get it done. We stunk the place up offensively.”
Scoring points hasn’t been an issue for this year’s Peach County team.
Peach County has put up 40 or more points in four straight games, and it has done so by being stingy with the football. They’ve lost just one fumble all season, and quarterback Antonio Gilbert hasn’t thrown an interception since the first game of the year against Houston County, on his way to amassing 21 touchdowns through the air.
Place-kicker Mitchell Fineran, who transferred back to Peach County from Brunswick, has also been a weapon, converting on 9-of-14 field goal attempts with a long of 51 yards.
“We’ve been protecting the ball, and our kicking game has been really good,” Campbell said. “As long as we can continue to not make mistakes offensively, secure the football and be good in the kicking game, then I feel like we can be in ballgames, and especially big ballgames.”
The Trojans also have a dominant defense.
No opponent has managed to score more than two touchdowns on Peach County since Mary Persons accomplished that feat six games ago. Peach County has accumulated three shutouts since and was looking at a fourth in succession until Pike County put points on the board in the second half after being down 45-0 last week.
Jackson’s senior duo of Antavius Grier at tailback and Shaderious Crowder at quarterback present the next test for the Trojans. Grier has 14 touchdowns on the ground in seven games, whille Crowder has connected on big plays through the air, averaging more than 22 yards per completion.
“You’ve got to stop (Grier), and you’ve got to start there,” Campbell said. “He’s a good player, and he’s been playing a long time. He has a lot of game experience. They don’t get a lot of credit for throwing the ball because they don’t have to, but (Crowder) can get it there and he’s got some wideouts that go get it and have some range. They’ve got some very explosive play capability. You have to be where you’re supposed to be and play sound football.”