Jefferson County has already been through a tough schedule, going up against playoff-caliber foes seemingly every week.
Now the Warriors have to do it again.
Because of a tough nonregion schedule and a difficult five-team region that featured two state quarterfinalists, Jefferson County went 4-7 a year ago but still made the state playoffs.
This season again opens with Fitzgerald and Baldwin, two perennial playoff programs, before region play. Even then, a non-region game against Cook comes after Washington County and three weeks before Thomson.
“It taught us, with the kind of schedule we had, it’s a week-to-week playoff-type atmosphere situation. If you’re not sharp, you’re not going to win against very good teams,” Warriors coach J.B. Arnold said. “You can’t have one off night in a region like that or you find yourself trying to dig yourself out of a hole you probably can’t get out of.”
With a rough schedule, Jefferson County has to cut down on the minus-6 turnovers and almost 100 penalties accumulated in 2012.
But talent-wise, the Warriors are in great shape, especially on defense.
Veteran starters populate the secondary. With LaDerrick Hammond, T.J. Clark and Coco West, the defense is ready to carry the team if needed. Last year, Jefferson County posted back-to-back shutouts against Wesleyan and Dodge County.
The offense is going to be young again. The Warriors lost only a pair of players with running back Cartabius Quarterman returning.
Jefferson County doesn’t have much margin for error this year as it looks to make the state playoffs for the 12th season in a row.
“It’s tough. But we’re one of the best teams in it. We got to prove it,” Hammond said about the region.