Jeff Doke

Dragon Slayers

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com 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.

 

Out Of No Where

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

If you had told me a year ago that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be two games away from the Super Bowl, I would have laughed.

Heartily. Out loud, full body laughter.

After the Urban Meyer era (or should we say “error”) of Jacksonville football, Jaguar nation was particularly disheartened…and that’s saying something, considering the soul-sucking levels of angst & frustration this fan base has had to endure since the Titans went 3-0 against us while we were undefeated against the rest of the league back in 1999.

From the barstool boogie incident to the disgraceful treatment of a beloved kicker, Coach Meyer proved above and beyond that he was 100% not ready for prime time. My OSU friends warned me. Oh, how I hoped they were wrong.

Spoiler alert; they weren’t.

The performance of rookie signal caller Trevor Lawrence didn’t help the cause. Heralded as a generational talent coming out of Clemson, his less-than-lackluster performance had more than one prognosticator questioning whether everyone was wrong about “Sunshine.”

Then came the long, drawn-out offseason. The seemingly unending wait for a replacement head coach, the cries of the Jaguars faithful to hire Teal & Black alum Byron Leftwich away from the Buccaneers, the in-the-moment questionable free-agent signings of Christian Kirk, Zayn Jones, and Even Engram.

All of these had many in the Jaguars fanbase to call for GM Trent Baalke’s head on a platter, and saw dozens – nay, hundreds – of Twitter profiles change their picture to the clown emoji sporting the distinctive Shad Khan handlebar moustache.

And yes, mine was one of them.

My, my, my, how the tables have turned.

Enter Doug Pederson. A head coach with not only pro experience but a Lombardi Trophy on his resume.

While the hire was not as flashy as what the Leftwich hire would have been, it’s obvious in hindsight how the results were superior.

Pederson brought the Jags their second winning season and playoff appearance in the last 15 years.

He coached the team to a six-game win streak to end the season, including an instantly canonized come-from-behind victory over the San Diego – I mean Los Angeles Falcons – I mean Chargers.

Trevor Lawrence showed not only flashes, but blindingly bright moments that showed that yes, Baalke made the right decision in drafting him. Kirk, Zayn, and Engram proved to be extraordinarily productive weapons, and Travis Etienne got the bounce back sophomore season we all hoped was in store.

The much-discussed selection of UGA’s Travon Walker as the team’s second straight #1 overall pick got some sideways looks, and while his performance has been…shall we say “unpolished” at times this year, it’s easy to see why he and Josh Allen (no, not *that* Josh Allen) will be cornerstones of the “Jacksvillians” defense for years to come.

Then there’s the trade deadline acquisition of suspended WR Calvin Ridley. If he’s even a shadow of the player he was before the suspension (which came, ironically enough, for betting *against* the Jags), he will go down as an all-time free agent steal. That’s some next-level management right there by any metric.

I made it official earlier, but I’ll reiterate it here; I hereby formally apologize for doubting Trent Baalke.

Byron Leftwich, on the other hand, was fired.

For once, Jaguar fans can say they dodged a bullet, and aren’t dismissed as delusional when we say “just wait til next year.”

2022 Crusade

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com 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.