Jackets edge Patriots in football opener
NORTH AUGUSTA 12, PAUL KNOX 6
By Scott Rodgers
Season openers always bring a bag of mixed results. It’s especially true when rivals who know each other quite well are squaring off.
On Wednesday evening, North Augusta Middle School was able to hold off Paul Knox Middle School, 12-6. The Jackets were led by quarterback Landon Washington, who threw two touchdown strikes to Jarett Kelly. The Patriots’ score came from a powerful run by quarterback Derius Gibson.
“I felt like they had a good game plan for us,” Justin Medlock, North Augusta Middle’s head coach, said. “We made a lot of mistakes. I felt like we could of done things differently and done things better. They have a good team, too.”
North Augusta had an undefeated season last year. The rivalry with Paul Knox has, traditionally, been a bit one-sided toward the Jackets. However, the strong showing by the Patriots proved to be eye opening, and head coach Sheldon Higgenbottom knows he has a lot to build with going forward.
“We feel like our defense has a lot of good players on it,” he said. “We wanted to put the game in their hands. We accomplished that – we wanted them on the field, and we wanted them to control the game. We didn’t want to lose it with our offense and force the ball and end up with some turnovers. Even when we had the ball, if the field position wasn’t in our favor, we struggled a bit. We just wanted to give ourselves a chance to be in the game, and I felt like we had it.”
The Jackets’ opening score came with 6:35 to go in the first. Paul Knox responded with 44.2 seconds on the clock in the same quarter. The teams traded blows until Washington found Kelly with 1:32 to go in the third quarter. From there, both defenses pitched shutouts.
The Patriots did threaten to score deep in Jacket territory, but turned the ball over on downs around the 30-yard line in the fourth quarter.
“I was really happy with the effort our kids gave,” Higgenbottom said.
For his part, Medlock expects his team to continue getting better.
“We’ve been working on (the passing game),” he said. “I feel like it can be something that will help us. Defensively we did really well, we stunted when we needed to, and we played our defense. We had several big stops, which were huge when they got down on our side of the field.”
Given the rivalry between the two schools, however, he was also happy to escape with the win.
“This is a huge rivalry, and this is probably the biggest crowd we play in front of,” Medlock said. “The Paul Knox and North Augusta rivalry is a big deal, and I feel like this is a step in the direction we want to go. I feel very good about the team we have.”
Knowing the path that his team faced, Higgenbottom knew his Patriots were up against a tough task.
“The coaching staff at North Augusta Middle is great and they’re where we want to be,” he said. “We are trying to change the culture over here, and our kids understand what this game means. It’s very difficult to start in this type of game, but they weren’t scared, and I never felt like they had a bunch of jitters. They were ready to play and up until that long pass at the end of the game, we were right there with them.”
The two teams will both be back in action on Sept. 18. The Jackets will be on the road against LBC at Midland Valley High School. The Patriots will play host to Silver Bluff at North Augusta High School. Both games are scheduled to start at 6 p.m.