The Legend Of The Dirty Thirty
By: Jeff Doke
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
It would be the epitome of understatement to say that the 2020 season for the Frederica Academy Knights was a surprising one.
Any season that ends in a trip to the state title game is a superlative one, no doubt.
Although the season was still somewhat up in the air due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the global pandemic was the least of Coach Brandon Derrick’s worries.
Defensive Coordinator Alex Mathis left the squad to join fellow FA coaching alum Geoff Cannon on the Brantley County Herons.
The already thin roster saw several contributors either opt out of the season or transfer to other schools, most notably the starting quarterback.
When the dust settled, the Knights would look to start the season with a meager 30 varsity players – “The Dirty Thirty” as they would come to be known.
And then, as the Knights approached their season opener versus longtime rival Valwood, COVID made its presence known. A positive test two weeks prior to the season opener required a 10-day shuttering of the program. After four days of game prep, the team headed to Hahira, GA to take on the Valiants.
After their first four quarters of the season, the Knights had given the first peek of what could be ahead in 2020 in the form of a 36-13 win.
Senior RB Kyle “Meatball” Perez put up 149 yards on the ground with 3 touchdowns, while freshman soon-to-be phenom RB “The River” Jordan Triplett notched 2 more touchdowns, while piling up 167 yards.
What turned out to be the tipping point of the season came in week three, when the team traveled to Chula, GA for the first time in six years to take on Tiftarea Academy.
The Panthers mounted a 4th quarter comeback and won the game 21-18, knocking the Knights to 1-2 on the young season, but more devastating was the loss of Kyle Perez. A broken leg would cost the running back most of his senior campaign.
The injury to Perez would mean an opportunity for Jordan Triplett to shine – and shine he did. The freshman back took on the weight of the starting role impressively, and the Knights wound up going 6-1 over the rest of the regular season, with the lone loss coming to Bulloch Academy, 20-16.
That loss would be avenged a month later in the first round of the playoffs, a game the Knights won 34-27.
In that game alone, Jordan Triplett carried the ball 24 times for a gaudy 278 yards and 4 touchdowns. Payback for another regular season loss came in the second round of the playoffs.
In a low-scoring affair, Frederica punched their ticket to the state championship with a 14-7 victory over Tiftarea.
Alas, the season ended where the Knights wanted it to end, it just didn’t end how they wanted it to end. The Goliath of John Milledge Academy got some payback of their own against the David of Frederica, flipping the script from 2018 and winning the trophy, 49-0.
When all was said & done, Jordan Triplett wrapped up the season with a noteworthy 1865 rushing yards on 237 carries, racking up 22 TDs on the ground and 2091 all-purpose yards.
Triplett’s opening salvo of his high school career saw him ranked as the #1 freshman running back in the nation, and the #2 back across all classes in the state of Georgia.
Post-season superlatives for #4 include selections to the GISA All State & All Region teams, Southern Sports Edition All-Area team, and an invitation to try out for the U.S. National Team.
While the freshman was making waves on the stat sheet, his 16 teammates from the Class of 2021were making their presence known as well. DEs Will Thompson and Will Counts (otherwise known as “the Wills”) combined for 94 tackles and were both named to the GISA All-State, All-Region, and All-Star teams.
Joining them on all three squads was LB Josh Meadows, who contributed significantly on both offense (his seam route was near unstoppable all season) and on special teams (blocking two punts in one game while playing without full use of one of his arms).
Senior MLB Joshua Elliott also got the nod for All-State and All-Region recognition, and three more Knights seniors were named to the All-Region squad as well; Eli Fritchman, Jaiden Rose-Scally, and Garrett Squire.
True, there are holes to be filled on the roster, but as any team coached by Brandon Derrick shows, talent follows talent, and more importantly, heart follows heart.
The 2020 Knights had plenty of both.