During a stretch of four seasons in recent years, Warner Robins and Jones County clashed each year within region play.
Now both are carrying the flag for Middle Georgia in the GHSA Class 5A playoffs. What’s more is that with a win by each on Friday, both would meet in next week’s semifinal round.
Jones County (11-1) travels to Carver-Atlanta (11-1) with Warner Robins hosting Carrollton. Warner Robins (12-0) meanwhile will once again have the home field advantage with the Trojans (10-2) being this week’s opponent.
Aside from being nestled within Middle Georgia, both teams have common threads. Practice this week had to be sandwiched in between Thanksgiving plans, and both teams are also feeding off second-round victories in which both showed off a will to win.
“Anytime you can still be playing on Thanksgiving week, you know you’ve had a pretty good season,” Jones County head coach Justin Rogers said. “You’re obviously optimistic about what the next week has.”
The Demons advanced to this week’s quarterfinals by way of a 26-23 win against Eagle’s Landing in overtime, prevailing in a back and forth affair against an explosive Eagle’s Landing offense. This week, the task turns to containing a Carrollton squad that toppled region champion Arabia Mountain last week. One of the Trojans two losses was to Rome, last year’s 5A state champion who is also unbeaten this year.
“It just says volumes for our kids, that when their backs are against the wall, they are out there fighting tooth and nail and getting after it to get a win,” Demons head coach Mike Chastain said. “In every phase of the game, our kids step up and find a way, and that speaks volumes in the playoffs going forward.”
Jones County thrived in its “next man up” mode, getting a 26-21 win Nov. 17 at Wayne County despite two of its most focal offensive weapons being out with injuries — running back Drake Bolus and quarterback Teldrick Ross. Bolus was injured within the game’s first few plays. Stepping in were quarterback Hunter Costlow and running back Semaj Ingram. Costlow tossed a pair of touchdowns in the win. The success, however, didn’t surprise Rogers.
“We have a program where we try to develop our younger kids as well as starters. But we also have what we call banked reps, the summer work, all the stuff you do from January going into the season, all the stuff you do,” Rogers said. “So some of stuff we went in in the throwing game, it wasn’t like it was the first we put it in. We had done it during the summer and have even done it in the (junior varsity) schedule because that’s what Hunter did.
“You build the offense around the strengths of your players, not the other way around. In his JV seasons, it was based on what he did well. Knowing (last) week was his game plan, we were able to build it around his strengths.”