Gridiron Preview 2021: Jefferson
Fresh off a State Championship game appearance and 10th consecutive playoff run, the expectations are as high as they’ve ever been for the Dragons. Especially when the roster contains a number of Division-I players, including 5-star UGA commit Malaki Starks.
Head Coach: Gene Cathcart, 5th Season
2020 Record: 14-1; State Championship Game; #1 State Ranking
“Our goal is to remain selfless, be great teammates, stay hungry and healthy, and hear the voices that they should be focused on and not the noise that comes with such expectations,” says coach Gene Cathcart. “This senior class has been back-to-back Region Champions for only the second time in school history, and has a 10-2 record as sophomores and 14-1 record as juniors. To shy away from that would be disrespectful to their potential legacy and accomplishments. If we stay humble and our leadership continues to be what it has been, there is no goal too high for this football team. As special a team and players as they are, they are even more incredible young men and our coaches and I are so excited to be on this journey with them. To say we will get everyone’s very best shot that we play against is rhetorical, so the key is to worry less about the ‘them’s’ and more about our team and our improvement and stay mindful and in the moment. If we win each day, and focus on being where our feet are, and not get caught looking at how high we couple possibly climb – but rather where the next hand, foot or climbing anchor is to go and not look up or down and fully focus only on that – we will see just how high we are able to plant our flag.”
AUG 14 (Scrimmage) – Hart County
AUG 20 – Rabun County
AUG 27 – @ Central Gwinnett
SEP 3 – Southside (SC)
SEP 10 – @ Mountain View
SEP 17 – BYE
SEP 24 – Flowery Branch*
OCT 1 – @ East Hall*
OCT 8 – @ Cedar Shoals*
OCT 15 – BYE
OCT 22 – @ Chestatee*
OCT 29 – North Oconee*
NOV 5 – Madison County*
*Region 8-AAAA Game
Personnel & Schemes
Key Departures: Kam Robinson, Paxton Corkery, Jaheim Hardy, Rem Maxwell, Kolton Jones, Colton Dufresne, Carter Stephenson
Key Returning Players: Malaki Starks, Jordan Perry, Kadin Bailey, Sammy Brown (transfer from Commerce), Spencer Neese, Dylan Ryoul, Dawson Crawley
Up & Coming Players: Sammy Brown’s addition to the offense and defense.
“We were blessed to hire Coach Michael Brown, one of the top football coaches in Georgia and an even better person, and he brings his extremely gifted family, and national recruit Sammy Brown with him to our Dragon Family,” says Cathcart. “Sammy is an extreme talent and will have a very positive impact on our football team, both on and off the field. His versatility will allow him to play both fullback, as well as slot offensively, along with providing depth at quarterback – which he did so well at Commerce. Defensively he will play linebacker and also make his impact felt on special teams. In the short time he has been with us he has immediately become one of our team leaders and we and so proud that Coach Brown, Sammy and the Brown family are Dragons!”
Offense: Lethal. Multiple attack. Malaki Starks is the go-to as a dual threat at QB, though he doesn’t throw the ball much. But watch out, because you have Sammy Brown now in the backfield as well as Jordan Perry. Cathcart loves to share the love in terms of carries. Spencer Neese and Dawson Crawley will likely headline the WR corps.
Defense: Look for Starks, Kadin Bailey, Jordan Perry, Sammy Brown, Austin Redmon, Spencer Neese, Jamarcus Hill, Isaiah Copeland, and Bowman Horn to be the names you hear the most on this side of the ball.
Trenches: Returning 3 out of 5 offensive linemen. There is great depth here. The interior of the D-Line will see new faces, but the talent is there to make sure there is no drop-off from last season.
Strengths & Areas of Focus
Strengths: Skilled players returning.
“We return many skilled players, obviously led by Malaki Starks, Jordan Perry, and Kadin Bailey — all nationally ranked prospects,” states Cathcart. “We return 3 of 5 starting offensive linemen, our leading receivers and all but one running back, among them our team’s leading rusher. Defensively we return several linebackers and defensive ends as well as returning most of our kicking game and return players. Clearly the expectations for this football team are extremely high and we are excited about the opportunities this season presents.”
Focusing On: Defense.
“Graduating 3 of our 4 starting defensive backs as well as leading tackler and region Defensive Player of the Year in Rem Maxwell, our concerns for a football team are on that side of the ball.,” says Cathcart. “We have some talented players in those positions who just need to step up and increase their learning curve. We also graduated some talented defensive linemen on the interior but feel good about the young men we have there. Offensively, the two offensive linemen are big losses but last year allowed us to develop quality depth. Everyone in high school football in quality programs has to deal with graduation, but again we are very excited about the players we have and their potential to fill these roles.”