A rival is officially defined by Webster’s Dictionary as, “a person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; competitor.” Few things in sports are as intense as football rivalries. They are simply magical, especially here in the Magnolia State. In college, it’s Mississippi State and Ole Miss. In MAIS high school football, it’s Jackson Academy and Jackson Prep. This Friday night at 7 p.m., the Raiders and Patriots will add a new chapter to an already compelling novel at Jackson Academy in the Brickyard. Rivalry week definitely puts a little more pep in the step of fans, players and coaches.
This will be the first time for Jackson Prep’s Head Coach Ty Turner to experience the rivalry, but the moment is not lost on the Patriots new coach. “This is undoubtedly a big game, a huge rivalry for not only our folks but the whole state,” said Prep Head Coach Ty Turner. “Prep and JA are a close community, we are great friends, except for this Friday, for 60 minutes. Once the final horn sounds we will return to our friendships, but in-between, a battle.”
Jackson Academy and Coach Lance Pogue finally broke through and snapped a 12-game losing streak to Jackson Prep with a 28-21 win in last year’s playoffs in the MAIS semi-finals. The Raiders have an excellent shot to make it two straight. JA comes into this match-up with a 5-2 overall record, 1-1 in district, and riding an emotional wave with last week’s close 21-17 win against up-and-coming Hartfield Academy. Coach Pogue’s mother passed away during that last week and his players responded with an inspired effort for their coach.
“We really needed this win tonight,” said Coach Pogue. “I know my mom had the best seat in the house for this one too! I am so proud for these kids, how they fought back and never quit. This is a special group of young men and that was a great football team on the other side tonight,” Coach Pogue told reporters after the Hartfield game.
Jackson Academy bounced back into the win column last week with the return of senior running back Marcus Harris. Harris had been sidelined with an injury and did not play in the previous week’s game against Greenville Christian, a game the Raiders dropped 30-9. Harris returned to the line-up against Hartfield with 22 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Tate Collins added 51 yards on 17 carries. Those two are a dynamic rushing duo as they’ve racked up nearly 900 yards for the season, in spite of injuries and two games where the passing game had to take over after falling behind.
The win against Hartfield brought some great accolades to Raiders on both sides of the football. Sophomore defensive back Denym Mitchell had an interception and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown. Late in the game Coach Pogue went into his bag-of-tricks. Senior Trey Adams took a handoff from Collins and tossed an 87-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Merritt Nations, who made some tough moves to seal the victory.
Jackson Prep comes into this week’s contest winning five of its last six games. The Patriots are fresh off a 38-6 win over Yazoo City this past Friday night. It was a great night of rushing the football as Owen Ishee led the way with 18 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown. Ishee’s biggest run of the night was a 51-yard scamper for a score. Lake Womack was equally as impressive rolling up 121 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. Coach Ty Turner believes his team has turned a corner offensively.
Turner’s desire was to ease his way into a passing game this year to complement his running back by committee approach. Injuries and some game situations in their three losses prevented that from happening, but slowly but surely the Pats are getting healthy, which in turn opens up the playbook.
“Our quarterback, Paxton Thompson is averaging over 300 yards a game with no experience. He is learning so much and getting better each week. We have got to get back to running the ball consistently without falling behind. Running the spread you count the numbers in the box and you take what the defense is going to give you,” said Coach Turner.
Turner is most proud of the story being written by junior wide receiver Will Upton. Upton has come from nowhere to the cusp of a school record for single season receptions. Upton had 38 catches going into the Yazoo City game, needing just seven more to break the record of 46. There’s a great chance he could break that record this week against JA.
“He’s only 5’7” 150 pounds soaking wet, but is flat out the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. He’s not impressive in stature getting off the bus, but he makes up for it with desire. It is so great to have him and a great surprise given he’d never played a down of varsity football. If you want anybody to break a record it’s Will who absolutely deserves it,” said Coach Turner.
Turner is also excited to have gotten his best defensive back and another receiving weapon healthy in senior Luke Williams. Williams can be the difference maker on both sides of the football against the Raiders.
The Patriots are holding out hope they will get senior linebacker Will Deas back this week as well. Deas has battled a bad shoulder for several weeks now and is the physical and psychological leader of the defense. Another senior in running back Sam McMullan is expected back soon as well, which would bring the back-field up to full speed alongside Ishee and Womack.
Rivalry games. They are meant to be intense and memorable. There is no doubt this Friday night will provide both in what appears to be one of the most evenly matched games in this storied novel known as Prep vs. JA.
Keys to Victory for Jackson Prep:
On offense: Score early. This Prep offense is gaining confidence each week. If the Patriots score early on the Raider defense it would go a long way for the confidence of Paxton Thompson.
On defense: Make the Raiders beat you with the pass. Running back Marcus Harris and quarterback Tate Collins are super dangerous with their legs. Stack the line and spy the QB.
Keys to Victory for Jackson Academy:
On offense: Mix it up. Use the play action to freeze the linebackers and there should be some great opportunities for big plays down the field. Tate Collins has both a strong arm and legs to get loose.
On defense: Stack the line and blitz. The Patriots quarterback is prone to make mistakes and the more pressure he sees, the greater the possibility of forcing a turnover.
AT A GLANCE
Class/Division: Class 6A, District 1 (MAIS)
Prep: 5-3 overall, 1-1 in District
Head Coach: Ty Turner (First Season)
Assistant Coaches: Nick Brewer, Rusty Burke, Matt Butts, Graham Eklund, Derek Rang, Zander Romano, Marcus Thompson, Marcus Canoy, Brent Heavener, Les Triplett.
JA: 5-2 overall, 1-1 in District
Head Coach: Lance Pogue (2nd year as Head Coach, 5th at JA)
Assistant Coaches: Danny Robertson, Bryan Madden, Tommy Ferrill, Ken Chandler, Justin Shannon, Nick Louvier
Last Meeting: JA won 28-21 in the 2020 MAIS 6A Semi-Final
The Series: Prep leads 20-10 since 2004.