Another chapter in one of the Northside’s most storied high school football rivalries will be written this Friday, when the Jackson Prep Patriots take on the Jackson Academy Raiders.
The game has long been about bragging rights and now has significant playoff ramifications. The winner likely will have a better shot at earning a first-round bye or having home-field advantage in postseason play.
Last year, Jackson Prep won the matchup, eventually secured a bye and went on to win the state title.
This year a win will also give both teams a needed midseason boost. The Patriots come into the game with one of its smallest senior classes in recent memory. The Raiders enter Friday night after finally finding their identity as a rushing team.
Prep head coach Ricky Black says both teams have gotten better as the season has gone on. “They are like us. They got off to a slow start, but are getting better,” he said.
The division powerhouses each dropped their season opener. Prep fell to Heritage Academy, while JA lost to Pillow Academy. Since then, Prep has rolled off five straight wins, while JA has notched a 3-3 record, losing in a blowout loss to Madison-Ridgeland Academy earlier this season and in a close game last week to a strong Pelahatchie team.
“We’re better than where we started out - going from the jamboree to rethinking our offense because of injury,” Raiders head coach Larry Weems said.
The Raiders had to switch gears prior to the season opener, after starting quarterback Jackson Conn went down due to injury. JA’s offense finally found its sea legs in recent weeks, thanks in no small part to ground game has really taken off thanks to running back Marcus Harris. So far, the 5’9” sophomore rushed for 553 yards and seven touchdowns, including 214 yards and two scores in their win 31-24 win against Oak Forest Academy.
“He’s a young kid and a good player,” Weems said. “We’re trying not to force-feed him but let him learn naturally. We hope he gets better every week.”
Harris is complemented by junior running back Ryan Parker, who has rushed the ball for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Other standouts include junior quarterback Andrew Holmes, who had notched 496 passing yards and four touchdowns through six games.
Defensively, the Raiders are led by junior Caleb Hernandez, senior Chase Rush, and sophomore Porter Harrell. All three have recorded more than 40 tackles through. Harris, sophomores Wilson Eatherly and J.T. Thigpen, junior Drew Antici and senior Tae Stewart have each had fumble recoveries.
Prep comes into the game having overcome challenges of its own. This year, the Patriots entered the season with just 15 seniors. And like JA, sophomore and juniors had to grow up fast. “We have good senior leadership, but we have a lot of juniors and sophomores playing important roles on our team,” Black said.
After being held to just 15 points against Heritage Academy, the Patriots have put up three wins by double-digits, including two shutouts, against Simpson Academy and Adams County Christian.
Like JA, Prep’s offensive success has come in large part from its ground game. Junior Matt Jones has rushed for 543 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, followed by junior Jeffery Ince, who has 106 yards rushing and one touchdown.
“Matt Jones had a great game against Lamar - four touchdowns and over 100 yards rushing,” Black said. “You have to have an effective running game to have a successful offense.”
The Patriots have outscored opponents 194 to 57. Standouts on the defensive side of the ball include junior defensive back Braeden Mabry, with 43 tackles and junior defensive back Seth Cook with 35. Meanwhile, senior J.C. Polk, sophomore William Deas and junior Riley Maddox have each put up more than 20 tackles on the year.
On Friday, October 4, Jackson Prep will travel to Jackson Academy to take on the Raiders. The game begins at 7 p.m.
Jackson Prep’s Keys to Victory
-Stop the ground game: Running back Marcus Harris has been a big part of JA's success in the last few games.
-Work on the pass: Prep's passing game is normally top-notch. This year, the Patriots' air game has struggled. Get this in check to have a more
Prep at a glance
-Class/Division: 5A, 6A (MAIS)
-Head Coach: Ricky Black
-Assistant Coaches: Nic Brewer, Rusty Burke, Marcus Thompson, Jimmy Nix and Matt Butts
-2018 record: 12-1
Coaches Rusty Burke, Marcus Thompson, Matt Butts, Ricky Black, Nick Brewer, Jimmy Nix; (seventh row) Tyler McMurtery, Chase Galloway, Jagger Mooneyham, Louie Gatlin, Jack Baker, Walker Headley, Wesley Green, Cooper Moore, Jake Vineyard, Luke Ferguson, J.C. Polk, Haddon McLeod, Walker Poole, Manager Tanner Gough: (sixth row) George Pittman, Grant Simpson, Hunter Yelverton, Emily Metcalf, Isabella Hicks, Francie Heidelberg, Evelyn Thornton, Grace Greenwood, Sage Sharp, Elena Zouboukos, Margie Frye, D’Ambrah Watts, Kayla Craddock, KK Heigle, Holmes Maley, Peyton Dunn, William McHenry; (fifth row) Abby Mangum, Ramsay Jeffreys, Victoria Nowell, Isabella Scalia, Leigh Hardin, Sarah Scott Gideon, Liz Heigle, Sarah Douglas Craig, Blakely Amis, Miriam Cochran, Mara Liston, Anna Leigh Allen, Hawthorne Cleveland; (fourth row) Caleb Gay, Ben Atkinson, Ewing Milam, John Miller, Charles Stephenson, Ford Smith; (third row) William Deas, Luke Runnels, Mills Murphy, Braedon Mabry, Blake Martin, Shelby Brantley, Eli Berch, Jay Pounds-Vaughn, Trey Bridges, Eli Reichle, Mason Kimball, Josh Oden, Gavin Mullins, Win D’Antonio, Parker Griffis; (second row) Bennett Johnson, Mason Nichols, Seth Cook, John Kennedy Nowell, Reed Kellum, Luke Williams, Gibson Brown, J.T. Mardis, Sam Graves, Ben Futvoye, Talbot Fletcher, Ethan Williams, Sam McMullan, Walker Box; and (front) Jacob Perkins, Clark Kellum, Matt Jones, Garner Watkins, Riley Maddox, Jeffery Ince, Thaxton Berch, Ashton William Heath, Jake Lange, Will Gibbs, William Bronzi, Drew Laird, Seth Bagwell
Jackson Academy’s Keys to Victory
-Stop the ground game: Two Prep running backs have more than 100 yards rushing. The Raiders must stifle the ground game to win.
-Don’t get overwhelmed: Prep can score early and often. Don't let a couple of quick scores discourage you. Play one down at a time.
Jackson Academy at a glance
-Class/Division: Class: 6A, District 1 (MAIS)
-Head Coach: Lamar Weems
-Assistant Coaches: Brock Angle, Parker Harris, Bryan Madden, Lance Pogue and Danny Robertson
-2018 record: 9-3
Jackson Academy Roster
Jaree Myers, Tae Stewart, Chase Rush, Donovan Veasley, William Janous, Russell Hawkins, Brendan Gibson, Owen Ridgeway, Parker Ryan, Caleb Hernandez, Jackson Conn, Simms Baker, Land Gebhart, J.J. Banks, Drew Antici, Andrew Holmes, J.T. Thigpen, Davis Lee, Porter Harrell, Max Walenta, Mikey Elinski, Holden Benner, Trey Adams, Dillon Wade, Marcus Harris, Bennett Brooks, Ethan Archie, Banks Whittington, Cameron McMichael, Ridley Dehmer, Barton Boyll, Scott Swalley, Wesley Bowman, John Eric Clark, Coulson Mars, Daniel Adams, Alex Summerford, Nelson Thomas, Brent Butler, Joseph Adams, Wilson Eatherly, Reggie Rigsby, Kristian Clark, Walker Barnes, Thomas Nance, Nick Nail, Noah Sullivan, Alex Rushing, Harrison Johnston, Nick Brown, Anthony Jasinski, Steven Chustz, Gus Gordon, Hudson Bridges