Jackson ready for another trip up Interstate 55

Monday, November 10, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com
Jackson quarterback Marcus Harris looks to run while running back Adam Zweigart blocks during the Indians' game against Central earlier this season.

Today could be the last time the Jackson football team has to board a bus and ride two hours to a game in the St. Louis area.

But coach Van Hitt wouldn't mind one more after today.

"I would like to make that last trip right after Thanksgiving," Hitt said, referring to the Show Me Bowl at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. "If we make it that far, we won't mind getting on that bus at all. But it's like everything else we do. It's become routine for us. It's not a big factor to jump on the bus and ride two hours, get off and play a game. It's become a matter of fact for us."

The Indians (6-5) will make what has become a common drive up Interstate 55 to the St. Louis area for tonight's Class 5 sectional game at Parkway North. It's the sixth time this season the Indians have played a game in the greater St. Louis area.

The Indians must overcome a short week of practice. Today's game, scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m., is the third game in 12 days for Jackson. The Indians' last game, a 38-30 victory over Chaminade, went to double overtime Wednesday.

"It's difficult for everybody this time of year," Hitt said. "Within a span of 12 days, three ballgames in that length of time ... it's tough on the kids. But we've been down this road before. We had to practice Saturday, Sunday, and you don't get any time off for the kids. It's tough, but our kids are looking forward to the game."

The Vikings (8-2) enter well-rested. They enjoyed a bye week Wednesday, and haven't played since a 44-0 drubbing of Kirkwood on Oct. 31.

The Indians' offense will have its work cut out for it tonight. The Vikings haven't allowed a point in their last 17 quarters and one overtime session, including four straight shutouts.

The Indians have turned to the pass a little more recently, especially in their victory over Central. Marcus Harris went 8 of 13 for 136 yards and three scores against the Tigers.

"We were inexperienced at a lot of positions at first," Hitt said of the passing game. "Those kids played more ballgames now and they're getting better at it. Marcus and his receivers are connecting better. And, actually, Marcus is throwing the ball better now than he was earlier. I think him playing on offense and defense helps him stay in the ballgame."

The passing game likely will be important tonight to take some pressure off Jackson's running game. Adam Zweigart leads Jackson's rushing attack. He gained 1,270 yards during the regular season and scored seven touchdowns. The Indians will need him to be at his best against Parkway North's stingy defense.

The Vikings feature their own outstanding running back, Gabe Caine. He's rushed for 1,229 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, according to stltoday.com. The Vikings also have the ability to throw the ball, as Tylor Brock and Culver Plant have combined to throw for 831 yards and 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

"They're pretty decent at both, really," Hitt said. "They throw the ball when they need to. Their quarterback has a good arm, good, strong arm. He throws the deep ball real well. And the shorter routes, he can put it on the money, too. If they can beat you running the football, they will not throw a down.

"They're an I-formation team. They're like us, they like to block down, kick out. They run the football right at you."

One factor that won't be in Jackson's favor is that it will be without senior Kevin Pridemore, who must sit out tonight's contest. He led the Indians with nine quarterback sacks during the regular season.

"It's definitely going to be a factor not having him on offense or defense," Hitt said. "When you lose a starter off both ways, it hurts. We're going to replace him on offense with Eli Gohn and on defense probably with Jake Wolpers."

A look at common opponents gives both teams reason for hope heaading into tonight's contest.

The Vikings beat up Central 42-6 in Week 1, while the Indians struggled against the Tigers before finally earning the 27-14 victory.

But the Vikings fell to Eureka 46-21, and sneaked past Rockwood Summit 35-28 in a game that went to overtime.

Jackson fell to Eureka 17-10, but led into the second quarter, while trouncing Rockwood Summit 27-3.

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