Heading into last Friday’s contest against Halls, Jeff County coach Spencer Riley noted that he still didn’t really know what type of team his squad was going to be this season.
The Patriots came into the contest on a two-game win streak, doing different things right at big times but not completely showing Riley what their strengths and weaknesses were.
However, on Friday night against Halls, he found out what his team was made of.
While the Patriots lost the game by a point to the Red Devils, Jeff County fought hard and gave Riley a little more clarity as they head into a big region game against Morristown East.
“I knew Halls would be a test to our physicality and make us play tough for four quarters, and we did exactly that,” Riley said. “I thought we were a pretty tough team, but I didn’t for sure know until we got tested. Everyone thought Halls would beat us bad. And I knew better than that. I knew we put people on notice with such a physical football game.”
Despite the loss, there’s a difference in the Jeff County football program and the way they carry themselves. Riley said that his team has shown him that they are only focused on themselves and the task at hand and shutting out any outside noise.
“It’s positive vibes only around this place,” Riley said. “In our world, what goes inside these walls, we know what we are going to be. We don’t care about the outside noise. We don’t care what the naysayers say. We know what we are going to be, and we know that we are going to be hard for people to deal with. If we clean up the small things, we’re going to win football games. Because these kids are so determined right now.”
Jeff County enters the rivalry game against East leading the series 29-9 and on a three-game winning streak against the ‘Canes.
The two teams normally play every year; however, because of COVID the game last year was cancelled. That year long break just adds more to the excitement of the contest.
“It’s a big ball game in general,” Riley said. “Anytime you play a Morristown school, it’s going to be a big ballgame for the Jefferson County people. Hoping for a big crowd and big turnout.”
Riley noted that the key for the Patriots defensively will be the need to stop wide receivers Micah Simpson, Skylar Hubbard and Trevor Malone.
After struggling last week defending the pass, that will be what Riley works on with his defense in practice this week.
“We have to figure out a way to get pressure on the quarterback and make him make some decisions that he may not feel comfortable with,” Riley said. “They’re definitely going to try and run by you with Simpson, Hubbard and Malone. They end up throwing the ball a ton. Caleb (Slover) is going to try and establish the run and then try and throw it over your head.”
Offensively for Jeff County, they will look to continue to establish the run game. Omarian Mills has been the lead back so far this season but the emergence of Dallas Williamson last week has added another threat in the backfield.
Williamson, just a sophomore, ran for over 170 yards and three scores against Halls.
“Now you have to figure out how to defend two guys,” Riley said. “It makes us a little more unpredictable. You know we’re going to run the ball but now the question is where are you going to try and stop us. If you want to stack the box too, we can throw it by you.”
Kickoff for Friday night’s contest is set for 7 p.m.