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JCHS ready for playoff push in 08
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    When Chuck Conley arrived in Millen in 2005, the Jenkins County football team was struggling.
    Coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Conley was given the task of turning a program around that has had just two winning seasons in the last 20 years.
    Three seasons later, the Eagles are looking like a sleeper in Region 3-A.
    After starting the region schedule 0-3 in 2007, JCHS stormed back to win two-of-three and pick up some momentum heading into 2008.
    Conley’s record improved to a modest 7-23, but he feels the program is headed in the right direction.
    “We’ve progressed light years,” he said. “The scoreboard doesn’t show it — but the character of the kids, and the work ethic — the commitment level has grown greatly.
    “I just trust that all the harvest is going to start paying off at some point in time — the kids have worked hard.”
    Like most successful seasons, coaches will tell you it starts in the summer.
    “We had a great summer,” said Conley. “The kids have worked extremely hard. We had an average of 53 kids a day come and work all summer work. It was a pleasant surprise.”
    The Eagles have a tough road to open the season, hosting Hawkinsville and rival portal before traveling to Savannah Country Day and defending state champion Emanuel County Institute.
    If they can get through that brutal stretch, JC may be in good position to make the playoffs. Right?
    “I wouldn’t say that quite yet,” Conley laughed. “When you got the defending state champions as your first region game... I’ll just say we’re ready to get better.”
    Senior quarterback Houston Bowers, a 6-foot-2 gunslinger, leads the offense. Bowers has started for for years and if the Eagles are to succeed, he must have a good year.
    His targets include Trevor Weathersby, Steven Holley and Dag Gay, among others.
    Dontavious Young will get the brunt of carries out of the backfield. Young tips the scales at 200 pounds and Conley said he has high hopes for the senior.
    Both Bowers and Young will have to make plays behind a young offensive line.
    “A lot question marks up front,” Conley explained. “We got a lot of sophomores we’re asking to step forward and play on Friday nights. Thursday afternoon and Friday night are two different worlds — only time will tell.”
    On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles will be hard-pressed to replace linebacker and team-leader Zac Clark.
    Two juniors, Spencer Clark  (LB) and Quarmaine Lane (DE) are expected to play key roles. Two of Conley’s senior linebackers have never started a high school game before, but will be thrown immediately into the fire.
    “There’s certainly a lot of new faces, but there good kids and they’ve worked hard,” Conley said.
    After the first fives games of the season, Jenkins County will face five teams with a combined record of 9-42 in 2007.
    Momentum could be on the Eagles’ side come season’s end.
    “We have to make first downs,” Conley said. “Last year our defense really grew as the year went on and played well, particularly at the end of the season.
    “Offensively we really got bogged down and didn’t put enough points on the board. If we can move the chains — and at least create some better field position, and keep the defense out of harms way — we at least got a sporting chance.”
    In six losses last season, Jenkins County scored 13 points and was shut out four times.