VIDEO: Coach Tim Floyd addresses his team after Friday’s 17-15 upset win over No. 5 Sandy Creek.
By Gabriel Stovall
TYRONE, Ga. — Jonesboro went on the road and did it’s best basketball team impersonation.
Of course, Cardinals senior cornerback Jordan Griffin won’t want to hear that comparison.
“We’re tired of people calling us a basketball school,” Griffin said Thursday before Friday’s win.
Of course many of you are aware that the Jonesboro boys basketball team is the reigning two-time Class AAAA champs. So when you think Jonesboro athletics, you are most likely to think basketball.
“I feel like if we win this game, it’ll put Jonesboro on the map,” Jonesboro quarterback Zerrick Cooper said Thursday.
And the first Jonesboro dot on the Georgia High School football map is in Tyrone.
Here are a few things we learned from Friday:
ON JONESBORO’S DEFENSIVE LINE: It’s stout. We knew about the senior defensive tackle Kali James. But fellow DT Kannon Banks was a beast. As good as James was, the emergence of Kannon Banks was a game changer, and even freed up guys like defensive end Joshua James to get loose on certain plays. And that was no slouch offensive line that the Cardinals were facing either.
ON SANDY CREEK’S RUNNING BACKS: I know Patriots coach Chip Walker wants to use his three-back tandem of Jaelen Greene, Marvin Hubbard and Drezyn Parson with regularity, but if he HAD to choose one, perhaps Greene would be the safe bet. The junior has been dubbed the power back of the bunch, but in both the Creekview opener and in Friday’s Jonesboro game, Greene showed special vision, good burst through the line and some breakaway speed, as was evidenced on his first quarter 70-yard jaunt to the end zone. Greene burst through the middle of the Jonesboro defense, made a cut to the left and ran past every Cardinal linebacker and DB he could find. It may change down the road, but at least for now if there were a tailback Sandy Creek needed to tote it 20 or 30 times a game regularly, Greene would be it.
ON ZERRICK COOPER: Clemson fans may want to check out the film on this one to be reminded on why they should be excited about Cooper’s arrival next fall. You can tell Cooper is still feeling his way a bit, playing in just his second game since his sophomore year. But he’s savvy. He’s a gamer. And he showed magician-like elusiveness in the pocket against a very solid Sandy Creek defense. One of those moments came during the eventual game clinching touchdown toss to Griffin that put the Cardinals up 17-15 late in the fourth quarter. Offensive coordinator Nate Wardlaw said he sees Cooper rounding back into pre-injury form, and Cooper himself said he’s getting more and more comfortable and confident with each bit of action.
“I took a couple of hits (Friday), but I was able to bounce back,” Cooper said after the game. Those hits were probably the best thing that could’ve happened to him, as each time he emerges unscathed from contact, it will erase a little more of that psychological apprehension that comes to virtually every athlete after getting back on their feet from an injured wheel.
ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Don’t think special teams are important in high school football? Watch Friday’s film on this one. Four plays in the kicking game perhaps won or lost this game, depending on which side you were on.
First, the missed extra point after Greene’s 70 yard touchdown run that could’ve put Sandy Creek up 7-0. Then, the big 22-yard field goal that Jonesboro connected on that cut the lead to 13-3. Those three points were crucial because, later Jonesboro would give up a safety on a blocked punt. So if the Cardinals don’t connect on that field goal, they may come up a point short in this one even after all the Cooper-to-Griffin heroics. But perhaps the most obvious kicking game miscues were the two missed Sandy Creek field goals — either of which if made probably salts the game away.
The first field goal attempt was thwarted by a bad snap. The second, a 34-yard attempted with just 11.5 seconds left in the game, was blocked by Jonesboro. The fact that Sandy Creek even attempted a field goal in that situation caused a few groans from the Sandy Creek faithful, and here’s why….
ON KOREY BANKS: Listen, this kid is the truth. And on almost any given Friday, the North Carolina commit will be the best player on the football field, period. Banks got loose on a fly route for a 50-yard touchdown catch during the first play of the second quarter to give Sandy Creek a 13-0 lead, and position the Patriots to what, at the time, looked to be the makings of a route. But Jonesboro did about as good a job as you can do in blanketing Banks during the middle parts of the game. But Banks did exactly what you expect big time players to do — he showed up when it counted.
On that final Sandy Creek drive that started at the Jonesboro 35 thanks to an out of bounds kickoff, Banks snagged five balls and singlehandedly put the Patriots into scoring position. Most of the catches were on hitch and slant routes and short passes where he turned it into yards after the catch. And this is why, on 4th and relatively short, some where calling for Sandy Creek to put the ball into quarterback Bryant Walker’s hands so he could give Banks a chance for a winning score. Which made sense, given the Patriots’ field goal struggles. But you can’t hate on Coach Walker for expressing faith in his kicking game, even with the game on the line.
NEXT WEEK: There’s no time for Jonesboro to do much celebrating and not much time for Sandy Creek to do much sulking. The Cardinals will go to coach Tim Floyd’s home town of Albany to face Westover Friday while Sandy Creek should get a much easier test when it hosts second-year program Hampton. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on these two teams throughout the furtherance of the season to see if they can possibly play their way into a postseason rematch.