Season Preview: Jackson football team look to turn up the power

Thursday, August 25, 2011
Jackson's Colten Proffer gains a few yards before being brought down by Central defenders during the Farmington High School Jamboree Friday, Aug. 19, 2011 in Farmington, Mo. (Fred Lynch)

Jackson's offense will return to its smashmouth ways

Junior quarterback Lowgn Wren wants to use Jackson's two-year slump as motivation for a turnaround season.

"I believe it takes a lot of hard work, first of all," he said. "And the bitterness of having those two seasons plays a huge role in that. You don't want to see that again. There's no part of losing that I like. It puts a bitterness in you that makes you really want to work hard."

Jackson's offense switched to a pass-oriented offense for the last two years, but the Indians experienced little success. They went 3-7 last season and 1-9 in 2009.

The Indians will switch back to their ground-based offensive attack this season.

"We're going back to our old style, what we used to play," running back Damien Cook said. "We're going back to more of the runs. A little bit less on the passing. We think we can do better in the backfield. We have more speed back there this year."

Jackson coach Van Hitt said he has the personnel to return to the Indians' old style of attack.

"We feel like we have some fullbacks who can block and some decent running backs," Hitt said. "Hopefully we can move some people off the line of scrimmage up front. We're going back to the old smashmouth style of football."

Junior Stephen Dunn said the switch in offensive philosophy has changed the team's attitude.

"Ever since we switched from the hard smashmouth to spread, we've been soft," he said. "We just have to get tougher on the line, definitely be able to move the ball more on the ground than passing."

Wren takes over for two-year starter Bobby Clark, who completed 110 of his 241 passing attempts for 1,636 yards. Wren was the Indians' leading receiver with 27 catches for 447 yards last season, but the junior has played quarterback in the past.

"I'm not a stand-in-the-pocket type of quarterback," he said. "I like to be on the move and throw on the move."

Hitt said Wren is progressing well as the offense's leader.

"Lowgn has a good arm," Hitt said. "He has a strong arm. He can throw the ball deep if he needs to. He does a good job of throwing the ball on the move, too."

Cook will replace Ethan Ruch, who led the Indians with 1,010 yards on the ground.

"If the line blocks up front, give the guy the ball and he finds a hole, we've got a touchdown," Dunn said. "It all starts up on the offensive line. If we can get that moving, we'll be a good football team."

Jackson allowed an average of 34 points a game last season, and that included one shutout. But Hitt said he's noticed a big difference in his defense in the preseason.

"We're tackling 100 percent better than we tackled last year," he said. "We still have some question marks at some positions as to who is going to play those positions because the kids are pretty even up. We'll set a defense, but that's subject to change day-to-day based on how they practice. But our effort on defense has been tremendous. The main thing we want to do on defense is get focused, read our keys and react."

Matt Zeller, who intercepted a pass last season, returns at linebacker. He said there have been growing pains for the young defense, but it is learning quickly.

"We have a lot of sophomores playing this year on the varsity defense," the junior said. "They were kind of rough when we first started, and I've watched them myself and they've all picked it up a lot. They're starting to understand what to do on the field and when to do it and know the different plays. I think everyone is trying real hard on defense."

Jackson reached the Class 5 state semifinals in 2007 and 2008, and the Indians posted five consecutive winning seasons before the last two. They are ready to erase the memory of the recent struggles.

"We have a few new guys on the line, so that may need some improving," Wren said. "But all the backs, they're all brand new. No one played last year. It's a start from scratch kind of deal. I think it's good. From having the bad last two years, I want to be able to have a fresh new start and restore the Jackson Fighting Indians."

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