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Jefferson a familiar foe for TAE

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

DAWSON -- If this Terrell Academy-Thomas Jefferson trend continues, the two schools may as well build an Amtrak between Louisville and Dawson.

The Eagles and Jags have met every year in the playoffs the past four years and again in the season opener this year. The two meet for the fifth straight time tonight in the first round of the GISA Class A playoffs in Dawson.

The fact that one will be eliminated in the first round is a shocker.

"We never thought that," said Eagles' senior tackle Jonathan Farr, who is 2-0 as a starter against Thomas Jefferson, winning both state championship games the last two seasons.

In the season opener in August, Terrell and Thomas Jefferson tied, 13-13, and not much has changed, except for the loss of Eagles' quarterback Chris Rogers.

"They've got a speed and quickness advantage on us, but we've got a size advantage on them," Terrell Academy head coach Bill Murdock said.

The season opener epitomizes the series record, which is tied at 2-2-1. Before winning the last two state titles, one in Louisville and one at home, the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs by the Jags the previous two years.

"It's becoming a big rival game and they're going to be trying to get revenge on us for the state championship games," Eagles' senior Levi Griffin said.

Zach Hurst, who started the season at wide receiver, has taken over the quarterbacking duties with Rogers out for the season with a knee injury. The Eagles feel like Hurst has command of the wishbone offense and they're finally fully adjusted.

"It took a little while with the timing," Farr said. "(Hurst) played (quarterback some) in eighth grade I think, but he wasn't running the wishbone. He had to learn everything."

Terrell is still striving to complete the three-peat after winning GISA Class A titles the last two years. Current defensive coordinator Don Beard won three championships in a row in the mid-'90s. The 71-year-old Beard missed the season-opener in Louisville after offseason hip surgery but will be there tonight to run the Eagles' defense.

Griffin said he also thinks home field will be a big plus in the first-round playoff matchup, avoiding the dreaded four-hour bus ride to Louisville. The Eagles' road trip there earlier this season was a headache, too.

They had a flat tire that prolonged the drive and had to call to get it fixed.

"It was the worst experience," Griffin said. "It was difficult going over there four hours and having a flat tire. I figure they're going to have to travel four hours (today) and feel the effects."

Even after losing 19 seniors off last year's state title team, Murdock and the Eagles are still in the hunt and have been in every game this year, even taking undefeated GISA Class A No. 1 Westwood to the wire. Nobody expects tonight's game to be a blowout either way.

"Coach Murdock said he's won two state championships in a row, but he's never had a team that's played games as close as we have," Griffin said. "We haven't been blown out by anybody."

When Murdock and Thomas Jefferson head coach Chuck Wimberly scheduled their first regular season game this year, neither thought they'd see each other again this early in the playoffs. Now, one of the best teams in Class A will be sitting at home after the first round.

"We've got to see these teams sometime, but I feel like we can play with anybody," Murdock said.