GREENSBURG – When the Frankfort Panthers lost super sophomore Jalen Washington to an apparent foot injury near halftime Friday night, with FHS locked in a sluggish 6-6 game with the Green County Dragons, it was time for super senior Aaron Jackson to step up.
And, oh my, step up he did.
Jackson had just one catch at halftime, a 22-yard strike from quarterback Chris Hawkins. But in the third quarter, Jackson put on a clinic against a young but talented Green County defense, sparking Frankfort to a 34-20 victory.
Hawkins and Jackson hooked up three times in the third quarter for touchdowns, on plays covering 34 yards, 43 yards and 48 yards.
Those scores extended the Frankfort lead to 28-20 after three quarters, and the Panthers went on to extend their record to 3-0 heading into a big rivalry game at Franklin County this week.
Teantre McGee and Hawkins scored the other two FHS touchdowns Friday – McGee on a 16-yard run in the first quarter and Hawkins on a game closing two-yard plunge early in the fourth period.
Sandwiched in between those two scores was the Aaron Jackson show. He finished with six receptions for 206 yards.
It was Jackson’s third TD, the 48-yarder, that was the signature play in what Jackson called a signature win for the Panthers.
Jackson caught a short pass from Hawkins around the Green County 40 and headed down field towards the right hash mark. At the 25, three Green County defenders appeared to have Jackson hemmed in. All three looked like they couldn’t possibly miss Jackson
Well, two of the Dragons did. The third defender tried an arm tackle that Jackson easily broke, leaving the three Dragons on the ground with arms and legs flailing as Jackson pranced into the end zone.
“I saw an opening, and I saw the three defenders,” Jackson said. “But I knew I had grass to the outside, so I had to go to the outside so I could score. I broke that one tackle, and I wasn’t going to be stopped.”
“He is a great athlete,’’ said Green County coach Mike Griffiths of Jackson. “He made a lot of great plays. He’s just a special player.”
Frankfort coach Craig Foley indicated that two factors contributed to Jackson’s second half outburst. 1. The FHS coaches moved Jackson from the slot to wide-out to give him more room to maneuver. 2. Jackson simply stepped up to meet the moment.
“We had to move Aaron around because they were doing some good things to take him away,” Foley said of the first half.
“They were double teaming me in the slot, so they switched me out wide so I could get man coverage,” Jackson said.
“That’s what we expect out of Aaron,” Foley said. “Sometimes he can get a little lazy and we have to challenge him and get on him a little harder, and he steps back up.
“He showed what he can do in the second half.”
Foley was clearly relieved to get this hard-fought victory. It did not look so promising for his Panthers early on as FHS came out clearly flat.
“This was a crazy week for us,” Foley said. “We were out of school a half day today, and our kids are such creatures of routine, and that threw them completely off routine. Then you add the long drive here ... there were just multiple things.
“But they’ve got to be mature enough. We’ve got enough seniors on this team that they can’t let things like that throw them off their game.”
“We came out very flat,” said Jackson, who contributed a late interception from his defensive secondary spot that helped seal this win. “We were slow and sluggish.
“I think it was because we were still hyped about our victory last week (42-27 at Rockcastle County). We were too excited about that. In the second half tonight, we just had to play.”
The Panthers rolled up some 415 yards of offense, and most of that came in the second half.
The FHS defense also was solid, getting superb play from senior lineman Trevon Washington and a host of other Panthers.
“Fifty-two is a great player,” Griffiths said of Trevon Washington. “He really impressed me. He’s solid.”
Green County (1-2) mustered only some 161 yards of offense. The Dragons scored two of their touchdowns on short runs and a third on an 82-yard kickoff return by Evan Jaggers.
Frankfort converted two of five two-point conversions. The first came on a pass from Hawkins to Dre Scott that made it 14-6 early in the third quarter, and the other came on a run by Hawkins following Jackson’s third TD.
“This was a signature win, even though we came out slow,” Jackson said. “We picked it up and played well in the second half.”
“We’ve said all along that we have a good group of kids,” Foley said. “They are a resilient bunch. They are going to fight and claw and do everything they can not to lose a game. Anytime we can travel down here and pick up a win, especially after losing one of our players, it’s even a little sweeter.”
Foley said after the game that he did not know the extent of Jalen Washington’s injury.