Brandon Derrick

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On The Other Side Of The River

By: Jeff Doke news services

How do you follow up history?

The Frederica Knights football team is facing a 2024 season that will be missing a huge part of their identity for the last four years; the Air Force Academy-bound Jordan Triplett.

Where does the team go without the player who was responsible for three out of every four rushing yards over the last four years?

That would be a good question for Coach Brandon Derrick. He’s faced with that task of dealing with a significant talent drain for the second time in his career under the oaks.

“We’re trying to see what we’re gonna have and what we can do this year” the 12th year head coach told me recently. “It’ll all depend on how fast our young guys step up. We’ve only got four seniors this year and only about 4 or five juniors. How quick are our kids going to grow up & get ready, that’s the big question.”

There wasn’t a lot of time for the underclassmen to get any growing up done last year. With Triplett rushing for an all-time state record-tying 3,172 yards and 41 total touchdowns, there weren’t a lot of snaps for anyone else to make a significant contribution.

That’s not to say that there weren’t any other bright spots that made the Frederica faithful wonder what’s in store.

Jaylin Baldwin is one example. When asked his future plans for the rising sophomore, Coach Derrick was understandably noncommittal.

“We’re in limbo with him, but we’re gonna use Jaylin at a lot of different areas – WR, RB, QB. We’ll use a lot of different packages with him. Try to get him the ball out in space.”

When pressed about whether or not Baldwin would see significant time at the quarterback position, Derrick had another name in mind when it comes to who might be the signal caller this season – fellow second-year player Stanton Beverly.

“Stanton might be a little ahead of everybody. There’s a few others in the mix as well.”

Another member of the Class of 2027 that is expected to make a big jump this year is WR/DB Jayden Gibson. Coach Derrick sees both Gibson and Baldwin to see significant playing time on both sides of the ball.

“Both will be playing both ways. A lot of guys will need to be ready to come in and play 140 snaps per game.”

As usual, Coach Derrick is already stressing the importance of conditioning, and once again a roster diminished in numbers is a key factor.

“We’re gonna hit (the conditioning) pretty hard in June and July because numbers are going to be a factor. I’m guessing we’re only going to have 25 maybe 30 kids this year. We’re going to have to be in shape and we’re going to need to get as many quality reps in as possible early in the season.”

In addition to feeling the loss of The River,” Coach Derrick recognizes the loss of the team’s defensive heart-and-soul, the graduating Hamp Thompson.

“Back in 2018, we last 4 or 5 guys from that group that won the state championship. Then we had a lot of injuries in that 2019 season, and that 2020 group responded. Back then, it was Jordan and Hamp that led the charge. Now it’s up to (rising Senior) Hayes Carter and (rising Junior) Gavin Grantham that will need to handle that inside LB spot. They’re gonna have to stay healthy.”

Regardless of the losses, Coach feels pretty solid about his defense.

“(Hayes and Gavin) have a ton of experience, our D-line is returning, 3 out of 4 of our DBs are returning. The big question is going to be OLB. I’m pretty excited. We’re gonna have a chance to sneak up on people.”

If they do, it won’t be the first time – and that’s one of the things we love the most about the Knights.

The River

By: Jeff Doke news services

Sometimes football has an artistic flow to it. A rhythm, a rhyme. “Slam poetry,” if you will. Almost like a song.

Thus, is definitely the case with the high school career of one Jordan Bryce Triplett. His time as a Frederica Knight began and ended on the same field; Goddard Field on the campus of Valwood Academy. The opening and closing stanzas one might say.

And oh, what an anthem came between.

For those of us there in Hahira, Georgia on September 11, 2020, we had no idea what would follow that 167 yard/2 TD performance. Most of us were wondering who this freshman was that outran Senior RB Kyle “Meatball” Perez by almost 20 yards.

When Perez went down a few weeks later with injury, the wonder turned to concern as to whether the (as Coach Brandon Derrick called him) “racehorse with blinders” could handle the load.

The 1852 yards and 22 touchdowns he amassed by the end of his freshman campaign belayed those concerns. This was obviously a talented young man that knew where he wanted to go – the NFL.

“I’ve always had dreams of playing college football and eventually going to the NFL,” said Jordan to me recently via TwitterX. “The Lord was gracious and has kept me healthy to get me to where I am now.”

The Lord (with an assist from Frederica’s Head Athletic Trainer Adam Norman) did indeed keep him healthy for his four-year run. Ironic that his career was jumpstarted by the injury to his teammate and friend.

“(Kyle) was one of the best mentors you could ask for,” Jordan recalls. “He was hard on me when he needed to be. It was critique that I desperately needed so early in my career. He showed me a lot in my one year with him.”

That freshman season wound up with a trip to the GIAA State Championship against long-time foe John Milledge Academy, who Jordan surprisingly doesn’t list as the most formidable opponent of his tenure.

“I think two teams that stand out are Calvary Day and Savannah Christian,” says Jordan. “Yes, JMA has been tough over the years, but those two teams truly were dominating their leagues when we played them.”

Regardless of the competition, Jordan continued to produce throughout his time ‘Under The Oaks’. He put up 1699 yards his sophomore year and 2305 as a junior, adding 26 touchdowns in both seasons. Those numbers set him up for what turned out to be a historic senior campaign.

This past season, Jordan broke or tied several prestigious records in the State of Georgia. The most notable being the career rushing record of 9,028 – the only player in state history to break 9,000 yards for his career.

To do this, it took 3,172 yards for the season – which tied the all-time single-season record for yardage. Both records had stood for 23 years.

In addition to those, he clocked in at #3 all-time career rushing TDs at 115 and became the only player in state history to have three 400-yard games.

“Never did it come to mind that we would be able to break the all-time rushing record. That’s something that seemed untouchable, but we did it and when I say we I mean the coaches and offensive unit.”

Triplett has always heaped praise and shared glory on his teammates and coaches. Even though he says he was closest to Tucker McClain, Sam Norris, and Sutton Ellis, one of his favorite memories involves a Frederica alumnus he never played with; the NFL-bound Jaylin Simpson.

“On the way (to the state championship), he called me and gave me some great advice. It consisted of how to be a leader on a team, which he knew I needed because of how young I was.’

Like Jaylin, Jordan has fielded speculation about how playing at a small school would be a detriment to his career. Neither Simpson nor the Tripletts have any regrets.

“There is always the ‘unknown factor,’” according to his mother Becky Triplett. “Would he have more offers? Would he have had more opportunities? But, Frederica Academy is family. He has the best coaches, a top-notch education, an incredible support system, and the advantage of the small-town atmosphere.”

And we had the advantage of watching him make history.

The Knights’ Journey

By: Jeff Doke news services

Coach Brandon Derrick is pretty confident for a guy with a combined .500 record over the last three seasons.

But confident he is, and so are his players – players who trust the process. It’s a process that goes by the philosophy that you can’t make yourself a better team playing against lesser competition.

Steel sharpening steel, iron sharpening iron, buzzsaw scheduling – whatever you want to call it, the results are tangible.

Said results would need to be evident quickly this season. With QB Sutton Ellis graduated, Coach Derrick made the bold decision to move to a full-time wildcat formation with rising senior RB “The River” Jordan Triplett under center.

The big question would be how the change in offensive scheme would affect Triplett’s pursuit of history. Triplett would start the year with 5,856 rushing yards and 92 TDs. Those numbers meant that with an average (by his standards) season, he could easily find himself in the top 20 all-time for both categories in the state of Georgia.

The season opener let us know that “average” was not to be expected this year. Going up against a Brookwood team that beat the Knights by 4+ touchdowns in a quarter and a half of play in 2022, Frederica showed that this is absolutely a different team by notching a 56-41 win.

Week 2 wound up being more of the same, with The River running for another 349 yards and 5 TDs, as well as a TD pass to senior WR Kwon Vaughn en route to a 39-35 squeaker against Tiftarea Academy.

The original Week 3 game against Valwood Academy was canceled due to Hurricane Idalia, so a pickup game against Class 4A (SC) Bluffton was added. It was an ugly 44-13 loss.

Bluffton would prove to be the first of 4 straight losses against powerhouse teams. The high point of the run was arguably limiting John Milledge Academy to 17 points (their lowest output since the 2018 state championship game), whereas the low point was the 41-13 loss to Tatnall Square.

A victory the following week against longtime rival Robert Toombs wrapped up non-region play by a score of 42-21.

Region play started at home versus hated rivals Bulloch Academy. Not only was the game a loss, but eventual All State LB Hamp Thompson was lost for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Junior LB Hayes Carter filled in quite admirably, and the Knights were able to run the rest of the region table. Frederica ended the year tied for second in the region and secured a first round playoff bye.

The Knights dispatched Terrell Academy in their quarterfinal matchup, before falling 56-30 to eventual State Champions Valwood.

In addition to the All-State honors to Triplett and Thompson, All-Region laurels were bestowed upon LB Hayes Carter, RB Rico Holmes, Kickoff Specialist/Punter Blake Holloway, and OL/DLs Tucker McLain & Will Johnson.

In addition, K Mary Ford Fitzjurls wound up #2 in GIAA Class 3A in Kick Scoring, and RB/DB Colt Howes was #4 in 3A for Kickoff Returns and #5 in Punt Returns.

As far as the freshman class goes, I get the feeling we should expect big things from QB Jaylen Baldwin and RB Jayden Gibson.

Teachers Of Men

By: Kipp Branch news services

I have lived in Glynn County my entire life.

I have a passion for football; that maybe my parents, wife, and close friends understand.

I was blessed as a youth to play high school football for a man that I idolize; recent Glynn County Sports Hall of Fame inductee John Willis.

Other than my father who turned 80 years old this week I consider John Willis the greatest influence in my life. The life lessons I learned playing for him prepared me for life. In my mind the things I learned from John Willis are bigger than football he helped develop me into a man.

As I look at the state of high school football in our community today, we are blessed to have three outstanding football coaches charged with developing men in our community.

Brandon Derrick/Frederica Academy: You talk about a coach who can take a little and turn it into a lot, then look no further than Derrick who has consistently developed winning teams at Frederica Academy.

With a State Championship in GISA and numerous region titles, Derrick takes teams that have low numbers and competes with schools with twice the number of players.

A trademark of Derrick football teams is tenacity. The Knights play with a mettle, spirit, and resolution that many of their opponents do not possess and late in ball games that shines through at clutch time.

The values that Derrick teaches will carry with these kids for the rest of their lives. Name me a more tenacious football team than the Frederica Knights? You have Brandon Derrick to thank for that.

Rocky Hidalgo/Glynn Academy: Coach Rock has been at Glynn Academy since 2014 and the fortunes of the program turned immediately.

By the end of the 2015 season Hidalgo had Glynn playing for a State Championship. A trademark of Hidalgo teams is that they are fundamentally sound, which speaks to discipline.

Discipline is a character trait this is seriously lacking among our youth today. Hidalgo teams are prepared down to every little detail.

All Glynn Academy teams I have witnessed are sound in all three phases of offense, defense, and special teams. If a game is tight then it is hard to bet against a Rocky Hidalgo team down the stretch.

Discipline is a trademark of Glynn Academy football and that is because of Rocky Hidalgo.

Garrett Grady/Brunswick High: You talk about a young dynamic coach who knows how to motivate his kids, look no further than Grady.

Grady is a grinder who has a work ethic that is second to none.

Since Grady was named the BHS coach in 2022, he has had the magic touch with the program. Community service, player exposure, everything Grady does he does at 100%.

The key character value I see at BHS currently under Grady is commitment. Grady is committed to these kids at BHS and the kids see that and are totally committed to him.

I’m a Pirate until I die, and Grady is the perfect man to head the BHS football program for years to come. There is a commitment to be great a BHS currently because of Garrett Grady.

Tenacity, discipline, and commitment. Strong core values. Values that are taught to young men on the football fields of Glynn County.

If you don’t think we are blessed on the head coaching front for high school football in Glynn County, then you are not paying attention.

Come out and enjoy a high school football game in Glynn County soon where you will see a collection of head football coaches that I would not want to trade for anyone.

Core values are being taught and all you must do is pay attention. For $10 you can see the hope of our future locally on Friday Nights. That is not a huge investment.


Dragon Slayers

By: Jeff Doke news services

The last time Coach Brandon Derrick started the season with a senior committed to a Division 1 team was 2018.

Jaylin Simpson and Jashawn Sheffield were ready to head to the plains to play for the Auburn Tigers, but first they had a State Championship to bring to St. Simons.

Fast forward to today. Record-setting running back Jordan Triplett is ready to embark on his final campaign in green & grey and is doing so as a future Air Force Academy Falcon.

After helping take the Knights to a state championship appearance in his freshman year, “The River” has his teammates ready to finish the job in 2023.

“They’ve committed themselves early on to come in, bust their butts,” says Head Coach Brandon Derrick, set to start his 11th season at the helm of Frederica Academy Football.

“They worked really hard in the off season, and then when I say off season, we started in January, when we started working out, we’ve had 125 possible days in the weight room. Everyone has been there for at least 120. They’ve worked really hard.”

The preseason roster sits at close to 40 players, which is higher than most seasons. The ability for the team to scrimmage against itself as opposed to the coaches will be a big relief, as will giving some in-game relief for some players that have been every down players on both offense & defense for the last few years.

Replacing graduated quarterback Sutton Ellis will be either Davis Durkin, Stanton Beverly, or Jalin Baldwin. According to Coach Derrick, it’s a three-way race between them at the moment, and Jordan Triplett may slide in and play some as well.

Here’s what the game-by-game results should look like for what should be another historic season in Frederica lore.

8/18 Brookwood School – Facing Brookwood at home and hopefully not during a multi-hour lightening delay should make a difference this year. The Knights open with a win, 31-13.

8/25 Tiftarea Academy – The Panthers are always a challenge, but a second straight week of home cookin’ takes the Knights to 2-0 to the tune of 28-17.

9/1 @ Valwood – Frederica gets it’s first of four road games on the season, heading over to Hahira. The Valiants play hard at home, but the Knights are already rolling & notch their third in a row 17-14.

9/15 John Milledge Academy – Holding fast to the 2018 parallels, Coach Derrick has his squad up against the reigning state champs under the oaks. Although the team finally lets one in the L column, the on-field performance proves to be a confidence builder. Knights lose a barnburner 42-38

9/22 @ Clinch County  – The score is closer than last year’s 45-6 drubbing, but the Green & Grey can’t quite break back into the win column, falling 31-27.

9/29 @ Tattnall Square Academy – The Knights hit the road and bring home a signature win, getting the upset win over Tattnall 28-17.

10/5 Robert Toombs – It’s a happy homecoming as the Knights string together another win over one of their oldest rivals. Jordan Triplett has a massive game and a 49-9 blowout.

10/19 Bulloch Academy – The heated, hated rivalry with the Gators fires up once again. The road team historically has the advantage in this series, but the Knights are too focused at home. The March to Mercer begins with a 35-24 win.

10/27 Pinewood – It’s Senior Night, and the class of ’24 leaves their mark. The Patriots fall to the Knights big time, 41-28.

11/3 @ St. Andrew’s – The Lions still have a long way to go before they’re competitive in the region. Knights wrap up the regular season in a 45-9 slobber knocker.

FINAL RECORD – 8-2, Region Champions, deep run into the state playoffs.


2022 Crusade

By: Jeff Doke news services

Whether intentional or not, it would seem that every Frederica Academy football season has a theme.

2018 championship season was the fastest, the 2020 was the smartest, and it seems the 2022 was the steadiest.

If you had to describe the 2022 season in a single word, it would be weird.

The season started three hours late, when the opening game versus Brookwood was delayed by lightning. Thankfully, the game ended early as well, the Knights losing the abbreviated opener 41-12.

Week two was a much more favorable result, with the Knights leaving Chula, GA with a 34-27 victory.

Frederica went to an all-time record of 4-4 versus the Panthers and brought themselves to a .500 record on the early season.

The next four games proved to be as difficult as expected.

Head Coach Brandon Derrick knew that his team would not get better playing lesser teams, so he scheduled a buzzsaw of a lineup for this year’s squad.

The following four games against Valwood, John Milledge, Clinch County, and Tattnall Square would prove to be losses but valuable ones at that.

Invaluable they were, indeed. While the team was not registering wins, junior running back Jordan Triplett and classmate LB Hamp Thompson were putting up statistics that would place them in the top of the standings in the state of Georgia.

By the end of the year, Triplett would have 2,305 yards rushing on 315 carries with 26 touchdowns, while Thompson would wind up #10 in the state across all divisions with 123 total tackles and 70 solo tackles on the year.

After a 1-5 start to the year, the Knights ran out the schedule in championship style.

The last four games of the year saw the Green & Grey put up an identical 42-point score, and their offensive powerhouse RB Triplett put up a minimum of 300 yards and 3 touchdowns per game, apexing with a 400-yard 6 touchdown effort in the final game. That secured a region championship for Frederica.

The regular season championship would grant the Knights a first-round bye and a second-round matchup against Deerfield Windsor Academy out of Albany, Ga. Frederica had only faced the Deerfield Windsor Knights once before. That was a second-round playoff upset at home ‘Under the Oaks’ in 2016.

The game looked to be a tale of two halves; unfortunately, the first half was the better for Frederica.

The opening drive was a clinical one. The Knights drove 80 yards in 13 plays, cumulating with a Jordan Triplett touchdown 7 ½ minutes into the first quarter.

After a three and out, Jordan ‘The River’ Triplett picked up a punt on two bounces and took back a blissful 88-yard return for a touchdown, taking the Knights to a 14-0 first quarter lead.

Unfortunately, that would be the end of the offense on the night.

Deerfield Windsor would put up three touchdowns over the final three quarters while shutting out Frederica, ending their March to Mercer two weeks early by a score of 18-14.

While any season that doesn’t end on the field at Mercer University seems like a letdown for the Frederica faithful, the 2022 season seems almost like a warmup to what should be another championship run.

2023 should prove to be just as memorable as 2022, regardless of the outcome.

The River

By: Jeff Doke news services

It has been said that you won’t get recruited to play college ball if you play at a small private school with less than 400 students.

Jordan Triplett’s texts at 12:01am on September 1st would say otherwise.

“We had been sending out stats and video clips for years, knowing that no one could reply,” says the Junior phenom running back from Frederica Academy. “At the end of last year, I was really wondering if anyone was watching. (Frederica Head Coach) Brandon Derrick just said to be patient. When midnight on Sept 1st hit, it exploded. It was such a relief.”

“Coach Derrick just said ‘told ya so.’”

Nicknamed “The River,” the Class of 2024 offensive star of the Knights has been putting up staggering numbers since his freshman year. Thrust into the starting role in the fourth game of the year, he never looked back.

In his first start against Brantley County, Triplett put up a staggering 163 yards on 26 carries. By the time the year was over, Jordan was the #1 RB in the nation for his graduating class.

“All this time, I knew I was putting up the numbers but I wondered what I was missing?”

It seems all he was missing was time. September 1st was the first day that college coaches could reach out to high school juniors in regards to recruiting. As soon as the clock hit midnight, Triplett had a good idea his work was going to pay off.

“The first message that came at midnight was from Mercer,” says his father, Mark Triplett. “Then came Princeton, then Dartmouth. Florida Atlantic invited him to Junior Day & their invite only camp. The next morning there were a dozen schools in just the first day.”

As of three weeks later, a total of 15 schools have reached out, including Georgia Southern, Vanderbilt in the SEC, Iowa State in the Big 12, UConn from the AAC, and a laundry list of Ivy League & service academy squads; Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, Penn, Air Force, and Army.

Of the schools that have reached out so far, Jordan, his dad, and his mom all have their favorites (although they won’t be revealed here).

“Yes, I have a preference, but honestly I don’t think past the scholarships,” according to his mom Becky, a teacher at Frederica Academy. “Jordan wants to play, and mom doesn’t want to have to pay for it if she doesn’t have to,” she said with a smile.

The Ivy League schools aren’t a stretch for Jordan. He currently has a 4.2 GPA with a full load of AP classes.

“I’ve got to give that credit to mom and dad. We knew I wasn’t going to be the fastest or the biggest, but they knew that if I was a little good at football but had the academics, I’d have a chance to go play at the next level at some of the finest schools in the country.”

His father has been not only his biggest supporter and chauffeur, but his social media hype man as well.

“I’ve been doing this for a while,” says Mark. “Frederica has a small staff, no designated recruiter like some schools. I was really excited that over the last year that we sent out all these questionnaires and film, not knowing what they think about it since they couldn’t reach out. Then on the first day to finally hear from 12-15 teams that did like it, it was confirmation.”

Jordan obviously appreciates the effort.

“It’s funny, when I heard from Iowa State, I was like ‘how did THEY hear about me?’ and Dad said ‘I filled out a recruiting questionnaire.’ I said ‘when?’ He said ‘Ninth grade.’”

Jordan does have an as-of-yet unnamed dream school. They’ve made no official contact with him, but they have spoken to Coach Derrick about coming to a game.

The final goal is, of course, setting himself up for a chance at the NFL.

“I remember sitting in my bed in Montana with my six Cam Newton FatHeads, telling mom I was going to play in the NFL while jumping into a Carolina Panthers bean bag. I’ve always had that dream. Mom and Dad have driven me to all these camps, spent all that registration money. I’m going to have to eventually mow the lawn a lot.”

If the next six years go as planned, he’ll be able to buy them a new house to go with that lawn.

Frederica Academy Knights Coach’s Show w Brandon Derrick August 10

Frederica Academy Knights Coach's Show w Brandon Derrick August 10


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