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Jackson embarks on tough district journey
With a win at Poplar Bluff last week, the Jackson Indians improved to 6-1 and clinched a conference title and their first winning season since a semifinal appearance in 2001.
Jackson's sights are now set on a district title, with its path littered with challenges. The Indians' first two district opponents have a combined record of 13-1, with 6-1 offensive juggernaut Rockwood Summit up first tonight at Jackson.
"We've had several highly intense weeks, and we have a couple in front of us," Jackson coach Carl Gross said.
Summit features several college-caliber offensive threats and has scored 30 touchdowns this season. The Falcons have scored three touchdowns or more in all but one game, a 14-7 loss to Webster Groves. Last year the Falcons scored 40 points on Jackson in a 40-7 win at Jackson.
Falcons quarterback David Mazar has thrown for 1,345 yards and 10 touchdowns. He can also run the ball when necessary. Mazar has a trio of top-flight wideouts. Dante' Crockett leads the team with 25 receptions for 491 yards. Kor'Ree Manson (16 catches for 309 yards) and Eddie Calvin (13 catches for 409 yards) also add big-play threats at receiver.
"They have three receivers that will play college football next year and a quarterback that will," Gross said. "They've got the whole package. The quarterback, not only is he a solid thrower, but he's probably their best athlete."
Jackson's defense has been strong this season with the exception of the Jefferson City loss. Even in a game like last week's win over Poplar Bluff, in which the Mules threw for more than 300 yards, the defense limited the Mules' star back Todd Tinsley to less than 50 yards rushing and made the big plays when needed.
Gross said while the effort has been there all year, he feels the defense has been inconsistent.
"We've been hot and cold defensively. When we're good we're good, when we're bad we're bad," he said.
With the type of athletes Rockwood Summit will put on the field, Jackson's defense will be in for another challenge. Jackson will have to limit big plays which have cost it at times.
Gross said they have to play a strong, physical game and not let it turn into an offensive showcase.
"We don't want this to be a ballet, we want to turn it into a fistfight," he said.
Jackson's scoring offense is no slouch itself, putting up 221 points on the board. Much of the offense has come from the running game. The Indians got a strong solo performance from Austin Bock against the Mules, with Jason Meystedt out with an injury. Bock rushed for 198 yards on 38 carries against the Mules.
Gross said controlling the clock with the running game will be a key.
"Hopefully we're disciplined enough to put together long drives," he said.
Meystedt is questionable for today's matchup against Summit. While the loss of Meystedt takes away a weapon on offense, it's his absence at safety which really hurts the Indians. Sophomore Rex Meyr saw time against Poplar Bluff in Meystedt's place, and receiver Neal Grossheider will also likely see time on defense.
"We're at the point of the year right now where we've got to get our athletes on the field," Gross said.