Key Takeaways from the Jaguars’ 34-9 loss to Jefferson

The Cedar Shoals Jaguars (2-2) entered their homecoming matchup against the Jefferson Dragons (6-0) on a two game win streak. Coming off an overtime win against Madison County, the Jaguars looked to pull of the upset against the #1 ranked team in Class AAAA. 

The Jaguars fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter after the Dragons rushed for 135 yards on their first two possessions. They would come rolling back on their next possession, however, as junior Mandrell Glenn hit his stride. Glenn completed all three of his passes for 53 yards and senior Jerdavian Colbert capped off the drive with a rushing touchdown from a few yards out to put the score at 14-7. The Jaguars would go on to add a field goal which was countered by a touchdown from the Dragons. The Jaguars were down 21-9 headed into halftime. The Dragon’s would pull away in the second half on the back of their running game and the Jaguars were unable to muster anything offensively. The Jaguars would fall to the Dragons by a final score of 34-9.

Here are four takeaways from the game that saw the Jaguars pick up their first region loss of the season.

Running game was the difference

The Dragons, who have relied on the run game the whole season, found success on the ground in Waters-Wilkins Stadium. The backfield combined for over 340 rushing yards and four touchdowns. In contrast, the Jaguars backfield was shutout as they could only muster 60 rushing yards and one touchdown. Head coach Leroy Ryals says the weather last week greatly impacted the team’s ability to work on the running game.

“Last week we were limited by all of the rain so we just need to get back to practicing,” Ryals said. “We have to continue getting better every day in practice which comes with reps and trying new things out.”

The Jaguar’s passing game showed glimpses of success

Not finding any success running the ball, the Jaguar offense turned to the air, especially in the first half. Glenn threw for 92 yards in the game including three passes of more than 20 yards. The Jaguars are now averaging 132 passing yards a game on just 11 receptions for an average of 12 yards a reception. Senior wide receiver Cayden Barnes says the passing game has improved since the beginning of the season.

“Our route running has gotten a lot better in the past few weeks,” Barnes said. “The passing game was able to find success against Jefferson because we made the necessary adjustments to what the defense was giving us.”

Miscues plague both teams

Both teams hurt themselves throughout the game with numerous penalties and turnovers. In addition to fumbling the ball and turning the ball over on downs, Jefferson amassed 9 penalties for 75 yards in the game, one of which negated a 17-yard touchdown rush. While the Jaguars were more disciplined than the Dragons in only picking up 3 penalties for 25 yards, they dropped an easy interception early in the game which would come back to haunt them as the Dragons scored a touchdown a few plays later. The Jaguars special teams also had problems as they missed an extra point, one of their field goal attempts were blocked and they fumbled a punt. Ryals emphasizes the need to be more disciplined moving forward.

“To limit the amount of penalties we are receiving, we have to become more in sync which comes with reps,” Ryals said. “When it comes to improving the special teams, we have to work on our blocking technique which is the reason why the field goal was blocked.”

No Stars, No Problem for the Dragons

Senior Malaki Starks, a 5-star recruit and University of Georgia commit, who plays quarterback and cornerback for the Dragons did not play Friday, his second straight game sitting out. In his place, Jefferson started sophomore running back Sammy Brown at the quarterback position. While Brown rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown, he left the game in the 2nd quarter with a leg injury after being sacked by senior Juan Silas and never returned. Even without their top two players, the Jaguars were able to get it done on the ground with a committee of running backs, led by junior Reece Hemphill who had two rushing touchdowns. 

Key Moment

The Dragons turned the ball over to the Jaguars midway through the 2nd quarter after mishandling a snap in their own territory. The Jaguar offense was able to advance the ball to the 4 yard line after the Dragon defense was called for pass interference. The Jaguars were then backed up 15 yards after they were called for a personal foul and were unable to reach the endzone. Junior Michael Hermitano, who made a field goal earlier but missed an extra point, set up for a 25-yard field goal that would pull the Jaguars to within two points. The Dragons were able to block the field goal and on the following drive, a 42-yard run by senior Reese Johnson was capped off by a 27-yard touchdown reception by junior Jacob Eubanks. This put the Dragons up by 12 and the Jaguars were never able to recover. Barnes says the adjustment made by the Dragon defense going into the 2nd half was successful in slowing the Jaguar offense.

“They were definitely able to catch on to what we were doing so we had a much harder time operating our offense in the 2nd half,” Barnes said.

Final Statement

The Jaguars hung in against the #9 ranked team in the state for much of the first half. While the run game failed to get going, the passing game showed signs of what could come from the offense going forward. The Jaguars now sit at 2-3 overall and drop to 3rd in region play, behind 3-0 Jefferson and North Oconee. The Jaguars hit the road next week to face off against the Flowery Branch Falcons who fell to North Oconee 14-7 this week. The Jaguars will then head to North Oconee before facing off against Clarke Central in the Classic City Championship on October 28th.

“As long as we take it one game at a time, we should be able to find success on the road. We have to keep playing hard and learn from our past mistakes,” Ryals said.

Jacob Weiszer

Senior Jacob Weiszer is the Sports Editor for BluePrints Magazine. Weiszer is interested in pursuing a career in business or pre-law. Outside of school, Weiszer enjoys playing soccer and spending time with his friends. This year he hopes to cover a broad range of stories related to sports and the entire Cedar community. Weiszer also looks forward to working with his fellow editors and staff reporters to develop meaningful stories. The thing Weiszer enjoys the most about being a member of the journalism staff is being able to collaborate with his peers to cover important issues in the community.