Perhaps it would be fitting for Indiana Jones to come roam the Jackson Academy sideline on Friday night against Jackson Prep. He is a natural at finding elusive things. The Raiders are in search of a “Lost Ark,” a win over their long time rival. The Raiders have lost 12 straight in the series, but they have a golden opportunity to not only snap that streak, but advance to the MAIS Championship game.
Coach Lance Pogue has his Raiders (9-3) coming off back-to-back dominating wins over Parklane Academy, the last being the first round playoff game. JA rolled by a score of 35-7 in the opening round on the legs of junior running back Marcus Harris. Harris had 17 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns last week. Senior quarterback Jackson Conn was nearly perfect completing 12 of 14 passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders defense held Parklane to a mere 137 yards of total offense.
On the other side, the Patriots finished the regular season at 8-2 overall, 3-1 in district play. They earned a first round playoff bye last week and come into this game rested and healthy. Prep has won four of its last five, including a 30-10 win over JA on Oct. 2.
“JA is a lot better than the first game we met,” said Jackson Prep Coach Ricky Black. “They are playing their best football of the season. We have got to find a way to be more consistent on offense if we hope to advance against a vastly improved opponent.”
In that first match-up, Prep’s Jeffrey Ince was a one man wrecking crew. The senior two-way player caught three passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, ran the ball twice for 27 yards and a touchdown, and also had an interception to end the game that he returned 77 yards for a score.
“He had a super game,” said Coach Black. “Great catches and runs, that interception too. He can do it all.”
The Patriots were solid all the way around in that first game. Senior quarterback Riley Maddox was efficient, throwing for 198 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also rushed for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Prep’s defense was dominant. Senior linebackers Seth Cook and Braedon Mabry had 13 tackles each and Junior linebacker William Deas recorded eight tackles, one for a loss. As a whole, they forced two interceptions by quarterback Jackson Conn.
“We were successful because of quick pressure on the quarterback, we forced him into mistakes”, said Black. “We will have to have tight coverage on the outside and keep that pressure on because he has gotten better.”
Prep was fortunate to hold running back Marcus Harris in check, for the most part. He carried the ball 24 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. On the season, Harris has been a workhorse, carrying the ball 160 times for 1,066 yards and 20 touchdowns. Harris averages nearly seven yards a carry.
“Harris is going to get his yards, he is such a good running back,” said Black. “Our biggest success is stopping the big plays, those 50-60 yard bursts. If we can stop those again, we will have a great chance to win.”
The Raiders defense was also very good in the first meeting. Senior linebacker Parker Ryan was lights out recording 12 tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Donovan Veasley racked up eight tackles, a sack and two for loss. Junior defensive end Max Walenta had two tackles for loss. They did a great job limiting big plays from Prep’s offense. The Patriots don’t hit many big plays and have been admittedly inconsistent this season.
For anybody thinking Jackson Prep is already looking forward to a state title rematch with Madison-Ridgeland Academy, Coach Black says no way. “Having a rivalry game like this keeps us focused on this game. We are not looking ahead to MRA, we would be naïve to do that.”
We were unable to reach Coach Pogue for comment at press time.
This should be a tremendous game on Friday night with the winner advancing to the State Championship game. Just keep an eye out on the Jackson Academy sideline for a guy in a brown leather fedora.
Keys to Victory:
JACKSON PREP: On offense: Hold onto the football. Turnovers have been the difference in each of the losses. Quarterback Riley Maddox needs to make good decisions which he’s been doing of late. Maddox has great targets in Thaxton Berch and Jeffrey Ince. Prep loves to control the clock with a sustained ground game. Matt Jones will be the key. He’s averaging nearly ten yards a carry.
On defense: Contain running back Marcus Harris. Prep’s defense did a nice job in the first game holding him under 90 yards and just one touchdown. Pressure the quarterback and force a mistake. The Patriots had two interceptions in the first game and took one back for a score.
JACKSON ACADEMY: On offense: Mix it up. Marcus Harris is a great running back but the Raiders are going to have to throw to get the Patriots defense to back off the line a bit. Quarterback Jackson Conn doesn’t have to throw for 300 yards, but just enough to keep Prep honest. If Harris gets 30 carries for at least 150 yards and busts a few for 20-30 yards, the Raiders will have a great shot.
On defense: The Patriots do not have a quick strike offense. The more plays you force them to run, the more opportunities for them to make a mistake. Prep had six turnovers in their game against Taylorsville earlier this season. The Raiders need to force Riley Maddox to put the ball in the air on third and long situations. That means stopping them on early downs, which players like Walenta, Veasley and Ryan have proven they can do
Last Meeting: Prep won 30-10, 10/2/20