One of the biggest games of the high school football season is slated for Friday, with Jackson Academy and Jackson Preparatory School set to square off in their annual matchup.
The game is not only about playoff positioning, but also bragging rights.
In recent years, JA has been significantly outpaced by the Prep squad, something that head coach Lance Pogue, and countless fans and players, hope to change this year.
“We haven’t beaten Prep in a long time,” Pogue said. “It’s a deal to beat Prep, but we have to play our absolute best and be mentally ready and focused.”
The last time the Raiders defeated the Patriots was in 2013, during the regular season in a 24-14 contest. The Patriots got their revenge in the championship game, defeating the Raiders 10-7.
“I think we’re better right now than we were early in the year, but we have to be our very best to beat those guys,” Pogue said. “That’s why you coach and that’s why you play.”
The Patriots come into the game after what head coach Ricky Black said has been an inconsistent season.
Through the first five weeks of the 2020 season, Prep notched a 4-1 record, opening the season with back-to-back wins. However, the squad had to sit week three after Oak Forest Academy forfeited a game due to COVID-19.
Prep played the following week but had to forfeit a game of its own the week of September 18, due to concerns about an outbreak at the Lamar School.
Because the Patriots forfeited, they notched their first loss on the year.
For Black and his players, the loss is less frustrating than not being able to play.
“Any time you have people with the passion to get into the game and play in the game and work up to the game, it is devastating to them,” Black said.
Because of the two open dates, Black said his team has not had as many opportunities to get into a rhythm and correct mistakes as they would in a typical season.
“It’s really important the first part of the season to get into the rhythm of playing, correcting mistakes and putting in things you’re going to do,” he said.
Despite having to sit out two weeks, Prep has done well on the field.
“We’re waiting for the passing game to come around, but we’ve been able to move on the ground,” Black said. “The biggest thing this season, our field position and the way the defense has played.
“Our defense has scored two pick-sixes and a fumble return for a touchdown.”
So far this season, senior Braedon Mabry has notched 20 tackles, and 1.5 sacks; junior William Deas has 20 tackles of his own, along with one interception and one touchdown, according to Maxpreps.com.
Meanwhile, senior Seth Cook has put up 21 tackles and a sack, while senior Jeffrey Ince has had five tackles, three picks and a pass deflection.
Offensively, seniors Matt Jones and Riley Maddox are helping carry the load. Jones put up 232 rushing yards and five touchdowns through two games.
In three games, Maddox had 318 passing yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, he rushed for another 72 yards and two scores, Maxpreps.com states.
Through the first five weeks, JA has been markedly improved on 2019.
Senior quarterback Jackson Conn, who had to sit out the 2019 due to an injury, has made up for lost time, throwing for 316 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore quarterback Clayton White has tossed the ball for 183 yards and three touchdowns of his own.
Junior Marcus Harris picked up where he left off last year, notching 487 yards and 10 scores through the first five games. Conn has rushed for another 172 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks and they’re both doing a really good job,” Pogue said. “We’re getting to the point where we can throw the football some, and that helps us in a lot of ways. Harris is a good runner for us.”
The Raiders are a much-improved team over 2019, as evidenced by their season-opening win against Pillow Academy, and their 10-point loss to Madison-Ridgeland Academy. Last year, JA fell to the MRA Patriots in a 48-7 drubbing.
“We very easily had a chance to be 5-0 or 4-1,” he said. “It’s still early in the season or us and we hope to get better and better each week.”
JA and Jackson Prep will face off 7 p.m., Friday, October 2 in Flowood. The game starts at 7 p.m.
Raiders’ Keys to Victory
Play all four quarters: JA led through the first half of the MRA game, and through the third quarter in the Leake Academy game, but lost both matchups.
Use your weapons: JA has dual threats at quarterback and a strong running game with Marcus Harris, Jackson Conn and Deion Smith. Attack from every angle to throw off Prep’s strong defense.
At a glance
Class/Division: MAIS Class 6A, District 1
Head Coach: Lance Pogue
Assistant Coaches: Danny Robertson, Trey Bayliss, Bryan Madden, Tommy Ferrill, Justin Shannon
2020 Record: 3-2, 1-1
Patriots’ Keys to Victory
Find your rhythm: Canceled games have likely thrown off Prep’s offense. Use this game to find consistency.
Run the ball: The Patriots have a solid passing game, but its run game is by far superior. The offensive line needs to keep making room for Prep to run, and the Patriots need to take every opportunity they’re given to do so.
At a glance
Class/Division: MAIS 6A, District 1
Head Coach: Ricky Black
Assistant Coaches: Nick Brewer, Rusty Burke, Jimmy Nix, Marcus Thompson, Matt Butts
2019 Record 10-3