“Ahead of schedule.”
That was Jackson coach Dary Myricks’ assessment of the Red Devils after their 34-21 victory over Alcovy in last Friday’s scrimmage at Red Devil Hill.
They aren’t waiting for newly minted starting quarterback Josh Scott to get acclimated to his offense, or Jalen Medlock to get accustomed to blanketing opposing receivers. They’re not waiting for Alex Patrick, who had 103 yards on 14 carries, to get used to running the ball.
“And I didn’t even play the fourth quarter,” the junior said. “This was a good team win.”
The Red Devils seem to have all their key elements in working order as they prepare for their season opener Friday at home against Locust Grove. If the way they attacked Alcovy, a Class AAAAAA team, was any indication, the Red Devils are ready for the season to begin as soon as possible.
They were noticeably better and more disciplined than they looked in the spring game against Morgan County, when they seemed to jump offside every other down on defense. There were a few glitches here and there, but no deal-breakers.
The Red Devils pounced on the Tigers from the outset. Patrick scored on a 16-yard run with 6:15 to play in the first quarter, and though Peyton Zimmerman would miss the extra point, he only had to wait 53 seconds for a second chance.
That’s because Medlock took advantage of Alcovy sophomore MJ Stroud, who is converting from receiver to quarterback. Stroud overlooked an open receiver and tried to connect with another wideout on Medlock’s side of the field. Medlock read the play perfectly, intercepted the pass and sprinted 45 yards into the end zone untouched. Zimmerman converted on his next attempt, and Jackson led 13-0 with 5:22 to play in the quarter.
“He was headed to the flats like he was supposed to be and tailing his guy like he should,” Myricks said of Medlock. “He was being where he was supposed to be.”
Scott, moving into the role vacated by Dequarius Johnson’s graduation, was effective as well. After Alcovy got on the board with 9:30 left in the second quarter, when Stroud scored on a 1-yard dive, the Red Devils were quick to restore order. Scott lofted a 30-yard pass to a leaping Dennis Foster only 68 seconds after the Tigers scored, and the Red Devils reclaimed their 13-point advantage with 8:22 left in the half.
Anthony Henderson, the Lovejoy transfer, showed why Jackson coaches are excited about the speed and athletic ability he brings to the team. Scott connected with Henderson on a third-and-9 play at the Tigers 20, and Henderson made it successful by spinning free of the defender. The resulting touchdown put the Red Devils ahead 27-7 with 3:29 left in the first half.
“We threw the ball decent tonight,” Myricks said. “[Scott] took his time to make some reads and the offensive line gave him time to make some reads and adjustments.”
Myricks also was pleased about the way the Red Devils looked in the trenches.
“We were the more physical football team tonight, which is what we want to be,” the coach said.
They got out of the game with what they hoped and believed there were only minor injuries. Defensive lineman Trevon Starr injured his left shoulder, and spent the second half of the game with an icebag applied to it. Linebacker Trey Butler dinged up his leg. Neither injury appeared serious to the untrained eye, but Myricks said they’d keep watch on both players. Antavious Fish played solidly at linebacker alongside them, and especially when they were out.
Myricks was especially encouraged by the play of freshman cornerback Okemus Grier and by the progress of the underclassmen — a point of emphasis with the coaching staff for the last three seasons.
“I thought he did a heck of a job,” Myricks said. “I mean, I really love this freshman class. They’ve got a chance to be really good.”
The Red Devils looked good against a larger-classification team — even one that has struggled like Alcovy has, with 19 straight region losses, two winning seasons in 13 years, and a new head coach trying to right the ship. But Myricks is more concerned about looking good at the end of the regular season, when he fully expects his team to be rolling into the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
A tough schedule is his idea of preparing for that, even if it results in some early-season losses. The Red Devils hope to gain some measure of revenge against Locust Grove, which whipped them 42-6 in last season’s opener.
“We want to be good in November,” Myricks said. “That’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes when you lose to Mary Persons six times like we have, and you lose to a Locust Grove, and you’ve got a Westside and Peach. We know if we can get to a Westside and a Peach and we can compete there, that we can compete anywhere. And we know those guys are pretty good right now.”