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Close call at Titletown brings new found swagger for Jonesboro

For many years, they've been an afterthought in the region, and for good reason.

However, after going down to Titletown, USA and almost pulling off the biggest upset in perhaps the history of high school football in Georgia against the Valdosta Wildcats, the Jonesboro Cardinals are toast of the town in the Southern Crescent.

Kudos to them!

With the exception of the players and their families, everyone and the mamma picked Valdosta to walk away with an easy victory.

Here at the paper, my fellow colleagues and I in the sports department gave them no chance, calling for the Wildcats to win 42-21.

Obviously, we all were way off base.

Late in the fourth quarter, while covering Creekside versus Mundy's Mill at Twelve Oaks Stadium, the public address announcer grabbed the microphone and startled the crowd by saying Jonesboro was ahead 10-7 in the final period.

The news created a mass buzz as you heard a collective 'WHAT?!?' exclaimed by the fans in unison. Some people, even a few assistant coaches from Creekside, thought it was a scoring error or they heard wrong.

Even my boss was floored when I called him with an update as he scrambled to verify the score.

Not like anyone was disrespecting Jonesboro, but recent history has shown that football hasn't been a strength of the school.

It's been a rough stretch for Jonesboro over the past five seasons. The Cards have compiled only 13 wins over the past five years. Their last playoff appearance occurred in 2002 when they went 7-4 under Tommy Webb. To find their last 10-win season, you have to go in a time machine and travel back to the segregation days of 1949.

However, their heart-breaking defeat/moral victory against Valdosta has apparently given them some added props throughout the region. Although they lost 14-10, they received four votes in the Associated Press Georgia Class AAAA poll released earlier this week.

I had the chance to watch the Cards practice twice this week, and for the first time since moving to the area, I noticed a new swagger on the field with the players.

Even though there's a new pep in their step, Jonesboro head coach Clint Satterfield won't let them believe the hype.

Like any good parent, when he saw his kids starting to slip or show a lackadaisical attitude, he interrupted practice, pulled his players aside and quickly nipped the problem it in the bud.

"We came back to school and they had a little welcome back party for the kids, we don't want to have a hangover from that," he said. "These region games is what it's about. We haven't beat anyone in the region yet."

It's no secret that there hasn't been much to get excited about in terms of football in Clayton County. There's been more loses than wins in the district and the follies of the county's Board of Education hasn't helped to portray a positive image.

But at least for now, Jonesboro's close call in Valdosta has done a lot to reverse the outside perception of the school and the overall level of football in the county.

This week, Jonesboro takes it's new found fame across the county line to Dutchtown for the Southern Crescent Game of the Week. While the swagger is nice, it means nothing if you can't back it up with style points on the scoreboard.

(Rory Sharrock is a sportswriter for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at rsharrock@news-daily.com)