Marty Jackson wishes he could see how his team responds this week.
The Evans High School football team did not have a game like Friday's all season. The Knights' seven turnovers were more than their total during the season.
But the coach won't get his response this week. Friday's 36-10 defeat to Mt. Zion-Jonesboro booted Evans from the Class AAAA playoffs in the first round.
"We really didn't have a game like this all year," Jackson said. "I would have liked to have seen that. We'll just have to see how we respond in the off-season."
More than 20 seniors will graduate in the off-season for the Knights. The departing class was part of 19 Evans wins during the past two seasons, a region runner-up and a region championship.
The region title and undefeated season were the first for the Knights since 1987.
"We worked as a team, that's why we went undefeated during the regular season," Evans defensive lineman Brandon Ketchup said. "It was just a mishap. All this was just a mishap."
The Knights turned the ball over only six times during the regular season, with Jackson pointing to protecting the ball as the key to his team's success.
On Friday, Evans gave the ball to the Bulldogs seven times on two fumbles, three interceptions, a muffed punt and a turnover on downs.
The freebies allowed the Bulldogs to jump ahead early. Of Mt. Zion's six first-half drives, four began inside the Knights 15.
It started with a line-drive punt.
That Knights' punt was caught just past the line of scrimmage and returned to Evans 12. The Bulldogs scored on the next play.
An interception on the Knights' next drive gave the Bulldogs possession at the Evans 14. It took them three plays to punch it in.
Another interception set the Bulldogs up on the Knights 13 in the second quarter, but Evans' defense held.
A Bulldogs punt from their own 28 was touched by an Evans player and recovered by Mt. Zion. The Bulldogs scored again with 1:09 left in the first half.
The Knights outgained the Bulldogs 101-63 in the first half. They ran 14 more plays. But when the first two quarters were over, Evans was well on its way to loss No. 1.
"We weren't in rhythm," Evans running back Jonathan Finch said. "We weren't paying attention. Missing assignments. Everything just went wrong for us."
For one game.
The first 10 games will be what the Knights try to dwell on as they head to the off-season. After losing his starting defensive front from the 2007 team, Jackson wondered who would replace them.
After standout seasons from Nigel Charles and Reuben Faloughi and probably a better defensive effort than the 2007 team, Jackson will face similar questions.
But the Knights will have two successful seasons to build from.
"We had a good season," Charles said. "I wish love and peace to all my Knights. They just got to take the torch and run with it. We set the standard."
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