In his third season at the helm of Jackson Academy, head coach Larry Weems has returned the Raiders to their winning ways.
Last year, Weems posted a 9-3 record and took the Raiders to the second round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) AAAA playoffs.
In that game, the Raiders fell two points short of making it to the MAIS championship in a nail-biter against Parklane Academy.
“We should’ve won 11. We had a two-point and a six-point game at Parklane. You look at the ones you felt like you could’ve won, the ones (that slipped) by,” he said. “That’s the nature of coaching.”
Weems doesn’t know how much of a factor those losses against Parklane will play this season. Despite that, expectations are to build on last year’s success.
“Every team is unique, and you never know how things will work out,” he said. “But you hope to improve from year to year.
“We’re just like anybody else – we practice every day and try to win every time we play,” Weems said. “Our goal is to be successful every time we go onto the field.”
JA will have a number of new guys on each side of the ball this year, but has seniors returning in key positions.
“Our offense is quarterback-driven. Kinkead Dent – he started for us last year and is back. If he has a good year, we have a chance to have a good year,” Weems said.
Last year, Dent, a Division One college football prospect, completed 51 of 121 pass attempts for 1,123 yards and 13 touchdowns, according to Maxpreps. On the ground, Dent rushed for another 503 yards and four touchdowns.
He was backed up by sophomore Asher Morgan, who also had a strong season, with 437 passing yards and two touchdowns, Maxpreps states.
Also returning is senior running back Webb Strickland. Strickland had a breakout year as a sophomore but was sidelined midway through the 2017 because of an injury.
“He’s back healthy, so we’re hoping he’ll have a big year,” Weems said.
The offensive line this year will be anchored by senior right guard Noah Berry, who will be counted on to lead a young offensive line.
“We have younger kids who will have to step up and fill in other spots. That will have to happen at receiver and at other spots at the line of scrimmage,” Weems said.
On defense, the Raiders are returning defensive tackle and nose guard Travis Myers. Last year, Myers had two solo tackles and 38 assists, including four tackles for a loss, according to Maxpreps.
Myers will be joined on defense by junior cornerback Tae Stewart, who put up 11 tackles and 19 assists as a sophomore, and senior safety Cruse Heath. Last year, Heath had 16 solo tackles, and 25 assists, according to Maxpreps.
(photo) Jarvon Gaines, Tae Stewart, Cruz Heath, E. Jai Mason, Kinkead Dent, Max Harmon, Owen Fracchia, Tanner Robertson, Eli Ridgeway, Thad Bishop, Asher Morgan, Ja’ree Myers, Simms Baker, Land Gebhart, Jackson Conn, Drew Antici, Russell Hawkins, Owen Ridgeway, Christian Turner, Webb Strickland, Jack Crisler, Preston McWilliams, Holden Benner, William Janous, Aden Lang, Turner Willson, Sean Lackey, Dillion Wade, Rob Mcdowell, Braedyn Noel, Brooks Howie, Andrew Holmes, Carneilus Powers, Chase Rush, John Porch, Parker Ryan, Gus Gordon, Dylan Ramey, Mikey Elinski, Hyde White, John Phillip Beard, John Eric Clark, Donovan Veasley, Henry Hall, Caleb Hernandez, Nelson Thomas, Brent Butler, Joseph Adams, Sam Walenta, Hunter Wilkirson, Alex Summerford, Walker Barnes, Will Laird, Thomas Nance, Travis Myers, Tristan Foster, Nick Nail, Gregory Johnston, Noah Sullivan, Alex Rushing, Preston Reinhardt, Jackson McHenry, Langston Anderson, JJ Banks, Brendan Gibson, Daniel Courtney, Steven Chustz, Daniel Clarke, Hudson Bridges