By: Alex Mathis
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The Frederica Knights got a much needed bye week this week before round 1 of the playoffs start next week.
Last week, the Knights lost their last region game of season against Edmund Burke. This could be a blessing in disguise for Brandon Derrick’s Knights.
There is no doubt that Frederica has one of the most talented teams in GISA. Sometimes it takes losing a game you are not expected to lose to bring out a team’s full potential.
The Knights have had a great week of practice while preparing for their first round matchup at home next Friday. They have prepared for two teams this week, but they will know their first round opponent some time on Saturday.
Their first round matchup will be against Tiftarea or Southland. The Knights got their first ever AAA win against Tiftarea 3 years ago.
Tiftarea is a strong and physical team that is led by a physical running back. Southland is also a well coached and physical team.
Regardless of who steps on the field, Frederica’s first round matchup will be a physical one. The Knights have been tested though. If you ask Coach Brandon Derrick he will tell you that he scheduled Parklane Academy and Wesleyan to prepare his team for this very moment.
Frederica will go into the playoffs with a 5-3 record. Looking back on the season, The Knights have still not played their best football yet.
Their 3 losses could have easily been wins. Early turnovers against Parklane Academy cost them there. The same can be said for the Wesleyan game. Their 3rd loss could be attributed to simply turning it “ON” a little too late. These losses should and will help keep the Knights motivated for the playoffs.
The offense of the Knights this season has been impressive at times. It has averaged over 300 yards a game this season. Over 200 of the yards have come on the ground.
Jaylin Simpson and Isaiah Jackson have helped lead the Knights in that category. Simpson has rushed for over 600 (passed for over 650) and Jackson has rushed for over 500.
Michael Tindle and the rest of the offensive line has done an amazing job helping lead the Knights rushing attack. They have done a great job under first year offensive line coach, Bill Stafford.
The Knights defense has played well this regular season too. Harry Veal has been the anchor for the defense. Veal leads the team with over 60 tackles on the season. I do not think there is a more physical linebacker than Veal in Southeast Georgia.
Deke Jernigan has also done a great job playing linebacker. He and Veal have been a difficult duo to manage for offenses, Cameron Gardner, Rett Thompson, Cole Hinson, Trace Dorminy, and Tyler Pierce have done a great job on the defensive front on the season.
After the rough start at Parklane, they really zoned in and helped make things difficult in the trenches.
The secondary also played well. Jaylin Simpson, JT Elliott, Avery Cobb, Jackson Wetzler, Isaiah Jackson, Santana Clark, Eric Tatum, and Jashawn Sheffield have done a great job making it difficult for team to hurt the Knights over the top.
Frederica’s defense has forced over 20 turnovers on the season. Defensive Coordinator, Ben Burkett, hopes to add to that total when the playoffs start.
October 27th is win or go home. There are no more guaranteed games.
The next time the senior Knights touch the field could be their last. Brandon Derrick told his team at the beginning of the season that the goal was to be standing at Mercer University on November 17th holding the state championship trophy. Now is the time to make that goal a reality.
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Last year, the Frederica Knights found themselves somewhere unexpected; at home for the first round of the GISA Playoffs.
After a tough rebuilding 2014 campaign, the surprising 3-1 region/7-3 overall record in 2015 was good enough to land the Knights with home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The run for the State Championship ended early, losing to Gatewood 14-3 in the first round.
2016, however, is a VERY different year. This year’s Knights more than made up for the previous year’s loss, opening up the playoffs with a decimating 52-14 victory over Bethlehem Christian.
Head Coach Brandon Derrick has spoken numerous times throughout the year as to when he hoped this team would hit their stride. He was worried about hitting the peak too early, that he would prefer his squad to start firing on all cylinders by week 8, fully hitting their stride for the playoff run.
And fire on all cylinders they did this week. The Knights defense opened the game with a three & out. Once the offense took the field, it looked like they were going to pick right back up where they left off two weeks prior (a 34-7 victory over Edmund Burke Academy). The drive ended, unfortunately, with an Isaiah Jackson fumble just inside the red zone.
This would be Jackson’s only “lowlight” of the game. Following the fumble, the sophomore running back put together one of the finest two quarters of high school football I have ever witnessed, scoring three times on runs of 1, 54, and 55 yards.
Twenty four minutes of play, over a hundred yards rushing, and three touchdowns. Not a bad night’s work, to put it mildly.
It wasn’t all Jackson in the first half, however. Fellow sophomores Patrick Brunson and Jaylin Simpson also found the endzone; Brunson on an iconic crossfield 65-yard punt return and Simpson on a 9-yard pass from Sophomore QB Gaven Williams.
Senior CB Chris Myrick also got in on the action, adding a 54 yard interception return for a touchdown. at halftime, the score was already 45-0, and the Knights were fairly confident of the victory.
The night wasn’t done for the offense, though. After sitting out the first two quarters, Sophomore RB Jashawn Sheffield tacked on a 50-yard touchdown run on the second play of the 2nd half. For those of you scoring at home, that’s five touchdowns of 50+ yards on the night. Electric doesn’t begin to describe this team.
“These kids are very focused, very in to what we’re trying to do,” said Coach Derrick after the game. “We’ve got a bright future.”
The future continues next week under the oaks against Deerfield-Windsor out of Albany, GA.
“They’ve got a lot of skill kids,” speculates Coach Derrick. “They’re gonna match up well with us at times, it’s going to be a pretty even game.”
Final thought; while the playoffs continue, it’s hard not to look ahead for this squad. When you realize that you’ve got five amazing sophomores in Williams, Sheffield, Simpson, Jackson, and Brunson, it’s hard not to feel a giddy sense of anticipation about the next few years.
There is a core of players on this Knights team that would make any coach jealous, regardless of if we’re talking GISA, GHSA, or otherwise. It’s difficult to look at this team and discount them simply because of the league they are in. They’re focused, they’re executing, and they are driven.
And in three more weeks, hopefully we’ll be able to add “they’re champions” to that list. The March to Mercer continues…