Jeff Doke

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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.

To The River City

By: Jeff Doke news services

Much like the end of the 2023 season, the lead up to the 2024 NFL Draft is not what Jaguar fans were expecting even as recently as six months ago.

Prior to the late season collapse that saw Jacksonville lose five out of their last six games and miss the playoffs thanks to a final week loss to their hated rivals from the Volunteer State, your average Jags fan thought the team was trending in the right direction.

Now, not so much. While the team is still considered upper tier, they’re not as close to “legitimate contender” status as we were hoping leading into the 2023 season. Once again, this year’s draft will prove to be vital, and that’s a situation Jacksonville fans are tired of being in.

At first glance, one would think the Offensive Line would be a top priority. Thirty-five sacks of your generational-talent quarterback would lend credence to that assumption.

Notre Dame’s Joe Alt is the top-rated prospect this year, but he’ll likely be long gone by the time the Jags finally get on the clock at #17.

Same thing for Penn State’s Olu Fashanu. UGA’s Sedrick Van Pran would likely be available, but he’s a Center, and Luke Fortner is looking pretty solid coming into his third year in the league. O-Line help, though desperate, may unfortunately be a second- or third-round target.

Crazy enough as it seems, Wide Receiver is another top concern for Baalke & company.

Calvin Ridley wasn’t as quick to recover from his suspension as some had hoped, and there’s still a chance he doesn’t get re-signed.

Personally, I think that would be a mistake. Thanks to his recent legal issues, Zay Jones might get cut, and Christian Kirk is on the last year of the deal that no one thought he could live up to but somehow did.

If they do go the receiver route, look for the Jags to call Bulldog-turned-Longhorn Adonai Mitchell’s name, possibly Brian Thomas Jr. out of LSU. If he’s available in 2nd or 3rd round, I absolutely would not complain if they brought Ladd McConkey to the banks of the St. Johns.

Cornerback is another area of need, and there’s a pair of Alabama products that wouldn’t be out of the question with the 17th overall pick.

Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold are both first-round worthy considerations, and to be honest, either of them falling to 17th would be hard to turn down.

If they go a different direction in the first, hope against hope that Clemson’s Nate Wiggins or Iowa’s Cooper DeJean are still out there in the second round. Admittedly this is a homer pick, but I’d love to see them bring Auburn’s Jaylin Simpson back this side of the Chattahoochee.

The one area that shouldn’t be a concern – but yet somehow is – would be the Edge/LB.

Josh Allen was tied for second in pressure rate, second in sacks and third in quarterback hits in 2023, and yet there’s still the chance he gets hit with the franchise tag.

Seriously, Mr. Khan, just pay the man. He’s earned it. Same for Travon Walker, who saw his sack total jump from 3.5 his rookie year to 10 in his sophomore effort.

If we’re going to look to the future, Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper would be solid, as would the twin towers of the Bama defensive backfield, Dallas Turner & Chris Braswell.

In short, the Jaguars’ needs are more plentiful than we hoped at this point.

While the marquee players are pretty much in place, the needs in the trenches are still noticeable. General Manager Trent Baalke sees this and has commented as such in recent pressers.

Hopefully with the new assistant coaching staff in place and their eyes on the future, this year’s draft haul will be one that is seen as the difference maker, not one that sets the franchise back as so many in the last 20 years have done.


The Collapse

By: Jeff Doke news services

I’ll be honest; this is not the time of year I expected to be doing a Jacksonville Jaguars “year in review” article. In previous years, sure. Perfect timing.

But after last year’s record-setting come-from-behind playoff win over the Chargers, followed by the closer-than-most-people-expected loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, I honestly expected to be doing this in late January, maybe -if we dared to dream- mid-February. That’s the kind of expectations Jag Nation had coming into the 2023 season.

Those dreams were still within reach late in the season. After 11 games, the boys in teal were 8-3 overall and in first place in the AFC South with a 4-1 divisional record. Looking pretty strong.

That’s when the wheels came off.

Going into their first Monday Night Football game since 2011, the Jags were ready to fly high. Instead, the inevitable Duval crash occurred.

The Bengals, a week removed from losing superstar QB Joe Burrow for the season, beat Jacksonville 34-30 in overtime. Worse still was the ankle injury suffered by QB Trevor Lawrence that would arguably hinder his performance for the rest of the season.

This would be the first of four straight losses. Defeats at the hands of the Browns, Ravens, and Buccaneers not only had fans questioning their team’s playoff readiness but left the Jags on the brink of missing the playoffs.

The 27-0 thrashing of the hapless Panthers was satisfying, but the final week playoff-denying loss to the hated Tennessee Titans was a true gut punch to the Duval faithful. Almost but not quite as bad as 1999.

With the postseason suddenly no longer on the agenda, GM Trent Baalke wasted no time in firing Defensive Coordinator Mike Caldwell and his entire staff.

This was an understandable move, considering the defense allowed 28 or more points in four of the five stretch-run losses, wrapping up the season.

On top of the late-season collapse, the end-of-season stats didn’t do Caldwell any favors either. Defensively, the Jags came in 22nd in the league in Total Defense, 26th in yards allowed, 25th in scoring, and 17th in points allowed. Not playoff-worthy numbers, much less for a team that had Lombardi aspirations to start the year.

The defense, although aptly receiving most of the blame, are not by themselves. Trevor Lawrence made some big strides over last season, throwing for 4,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also threw 14 interceptions – nine of which came in his last 5 games, and quite often while playing from behind.

His high ankle sprain and an additional shoulder injury down the stretch were more than likely contributors to that troubling stat.

Calvin Ridley in his first year back from a gambling suspension made his first season with the Jaguars a fairly productive one. He hauled in 8 TDs on 76 receptions and a little over 1,000 yards. Shy of what most were expecting, but nothing to sneeze at either.

TE Evan Engram, although limited to only 4 trips to the end zone, had a massive year with 114 catches and less than 40 yards from a 1,000 season.

Starting RB Travis Etienne was another bright spot, cracking the thousand-yard mark on the final week of the season, adding another 400+ in the passing game.

Offseason concerns include replacing the defensive coaching staff primarily and upgrading the offensive line to cut down on the ridiculous 35 sacks allowed this year.

And, of course, anything to make Trevor’s life (and ours) easier.

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.

Law of Averages

By: Jeff Doke news services

As I write this, we are getting closer to the 102nd edition of the Georgia/Florida game (101st if you go by Florida’s lackluster standards).

Close to kickoff of one of the most anticipated editions of the WLOCP in recent memory, and I’m as jittery as a hyper-caffeinated hummingbird. I’m sure most of my fellow Dawgs are feeling the same way, but not for the same reasons.

I mean, sure, the temporary loss of Brock Bowers has all of us walking on eggshells, but that’s not it. With Oscar Delp Lawson Luckie, and Pearce Spurlin still in the TE room, we’re still above the curve in that position.

Never mind the fact that Georgia’s WR corps is the strongest it’s been in…well, arguably ever. Dominic Lovett, Rara Thomas, and a finally healthy Ladd McConkey are finally coming into their own. In fact, receivers not wearing the #19 for the Dawgs have amassed almost 1800 yards so far this season.

The defense isn’t it, either. Sure, they’re not as legendary as the last two years’ squads, but they’re not Division II scrubs either. In fact, going into the bye week, the 2023 UGA Defense is ranked first in the SEC in:


Rushing yards allowed

Passing yards allowed

Total yards allowed


3rd Down conversions

Passes defended

Plays of 20+ yards

The disappointing Vandy game, maybe? Nope, not that either. Let’s be honest. Kirby Smart and company took on that game like a scrimmage. They ran a noticeable number of plays and formations that they’ve been having problems with just to work on them while they could.

And don’t get me started on that field. The fans noticed players slipping all over the place, and the players confirmed it during postgame. The Commode Doors stadium quite aptly lived up to their nickname.

I bemoaned the “sky is falling” mentality of Dawg Nation in cyberspace in my last article. You would think that would be it, but TwitterX seems to have cleared it’s head, and as for Facebook…let’s just say the “Snooze for 30 Days” feature is one of the few things that future lizzid people overlord Mark Zuckerberg has gotten right in the last decade. No, I’m in a good headspace there as well.

What’s got me nervous is two things from what I can tell.

First, Florida is bad. REALLY bad. They lost a spring game to themselves and their head coach was the quickest Gators head coach to reach 8 losses since Jim McElwain. Yet, they continue to win games that they shouldn’t. I was sure Tennessee was finally going to break their losing streak in Gainesville this year, and the Orange & Blue had absolutely NO BUSINESS coming back to beat USC jr like that.

Second, things are just lining up too nicely for Georgia if you look at the numbers. I once again quote the Floridian singer/songwriter Delma Suggs when I say, “when everything’s coming up roses, I get suspicious.”

And as a bonus, there’s the sinking feeling that these are the last few WLOCPs in Jacksonville.

The Jags are going to have a massive stadium overhaul that’s going to take the better part of 2026-2027, and the current GA/FL agreement with the city of Jax runs out in 2025. I know Dawg Nation is pretty bitterly divided about this one , but I fear the game’s days in DUUUVAL are numbered.

Enjoy it while you can, my fellow 912 Dawgs. The end of our halcyon days may be approaching.

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