Linebacker Akeem Brown said he knew the ability was there, but the Warriors were young and started 0-2 in the region.
After the tough start, coach J.B. Arnold said it was hard to teach about going through adversity.
But here they are.
Once 1-3, the Warriors have won seven games in a row to set up a contest against four-time defending state champion Buford in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, to get a chance to play the champs,” Brown said. “We all have one mindset.”
Instead of folding, Jefferson County (8-3) has flourished, going from an unlikely playoff participant to a No. 3 seed.
“We just decided we didn’t want our season to go down the drain,” Arnold said.
The run started with a change at quarterback, with veteran Lafayell Williams taking over the starting role. But that’s too shallow a read to suggest that made all the difference, Arnold said. He points to the 18 players on offense and more than two dozen contributors on defense as crucial components.
The Warriors also have parlayed favorable turnover margin into a winning streak.
In the first round against Putnam County, Jefferson County’s defense recovered a fumble and picked off two passes in a 49-26 win. The War Eagles scored only 14 points before adding two scores with less than three minutes to play.
On offense, the Warriors had 44 plays, 300 rushing yards and zero turnovers. The 49 points were a season-best.
This week figures to be different.
Buford (11-0) has won 24 games in a row, posting either a perfect or a one-loss season for seven consecutive years.
Arnold said the Wolves have up to nine Division-I prospects on the field at a time. That collection of talent has them outscoring opponents 515-58 this season.
“It’s the most unreal thing I’ve ever seen,” Arnold said.
Arnold quipped it might take something special like the sun, moon and Mars to align for Jefferson County to win, but the coach and the players aren’t conceding defeat.
They see Friday’s game as an opportunity and a chance to learn.
Looking back at the 1-3 beginning, defensive end Gerald Harmon and kicker/punter Thomas Pritchard said the early struggles could be expected for a team with so many young players.
But starting with Jefferson County’s win against Swainsboro on Sept. 23, the Warriors have been perfect.
“As soon as they got a taste of winning, they didn’t want it to end,” Pritchard said.