High football district previews: Central, Jackson to play for district titles

Monday, November 5, 2012
Central's Chris Martin rushes against Sikeston during the third quarter of the Class 4 District 1 semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 in Sikeston, Mo. (Fred Lynch)

Class 5 District 1 Championship

(2) Rockwood Summit (7-3) at (1) Jackson (7-2)

Last week: Rockwood Summit 34, Fox 0; Jackson 54, Vianney 14

Last year: Rockwood Summit 66, Jackson 0

Outlook: Jackson can claim its first district title since the 2007 season with a win at home tonight.

Central’s Chris Martin rushes against Sikeston during the Class 4 District 1 semifinal last week in Sikeston, Mo. Central won 17-14. Martin has rushed for more than 500 yards over the past three games. (Fred Lynch)

Jackson overtook Summit in the district seeding in the final week of the regular season when it defeated Francis Howell Central and Summit fell to Parkway Central. The loss was the second straight for Summit, which lost to Webster Groves a week earlier. Summit also has lost to Kirkwood, which means its three losses have come against teams with a combined record of 26-3. All three of those teams will be playing for district titles tonight. In fact, the winner of tonight's game will face the Kirkwood-Webster Groves winner Saturday.

On the other side of the coin, Summit's only win against a team with a winning record was against University City (6-5) in Week 5.

Jackson has won its last two games after suffering its only losses back-to-back to Sikeston and Hickman.

The wins have come with sophomore Dante Vandeven at starting quarterback, a position he has held the past three games.

Vandeven has posted superior numbers the last two games. He has completed 74 percent of his passes (39 of 53) for 659 yards and seven touchdowns.

Jackson quarterback Dante Vandeven passes during last week’s 54-14 win over Vianney in the Class 5 District 1 semifinals. The top-seeded Indians play for the district championship when No. 2 Rockwood Summit visits tonight. (ADAM VOGLER)

"He's doing a good job," Jackson coach Brent Eckley said. "I think several of our players are doing well there -- as far as executing and competing to get on the field, and they're making the most of their touches."

Jackson's offense, which was averaging around 400 yards a game after being held to 233 yards by Hickman in Week 8, has averaged 551 yards over the last two games.

Junior Taylor Henson, who missed four games with mononucleosis, has posted career games the last two weeks. He has been the Indians' top receiver over the period with 13 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns. He's been a nice complement to senior Brannon Wright, who has a team-high 41 catches and 908 yards receiving.

"He's been a pleasant surprise for us," Eckley said about Henson. "That keeps the defense from keying on one guy, and that's been helpful."

Junior Colten Proffer, who enters tonight's game with 908 yards rushing, had one of his bigger games last week against Vianney with 159 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving. He is second on the team with 415 yards receiving.

The Indians have scored 54 and 56 points in their last two games.

Only two of Summit's opponents, Kirkwood (28 points) and Parkway Central (34 points), have scored more than 19 points against the Falcons' defense this season.

"They're a physical team and have good team speed," Eckley said. "They're pretty athletic."

The Falcons' defense is led by 6-foot-4, 238-pound senior linebacker Eric Beisel, who has verbally committed to play football at Missouri. Beisel broke a bone in his foot in a Week 3 win against Parkway North and did not return until last week against Fox. Summit has not lost a game in which Beisel has played.

"He runs well," Eckley said. "I'm sure he's going to be a physical presence. We'll definitely have to have it strapped on to compete with that defense."

Quarterback James Crockett, a 6-3, 185-pound senior, also anchors the secondary at cornerback and has a team leading four interceptions, according to stltoday.com.

On offense, Crockett has completed 61.8 percent of his 178 attempts for 1,658 yards. He operates out of multiple formations ranging from empty to two-back backfields that attempt to both power and spread defenses.

"They do have big-play ability," Eckley said. "They have three or four kids in their offense that can get on top and get loose on any play and put us in a bind, but at the same time they have a lot of faith in their offensive line. They'll hand it to their tailback and press you downhill."

Ian McIntosh is the team's leading rusher with 897 yards. McIntosh had 108 yards on 13 carries in last week's win against Fox.

McIntosh averages 6.6 yards per carry, and he is one of five players that average more than 5 yards per carry. Crockett is second on the team with 493 yards rushing (6 ypc), while Elijah Crockett is third with 209 (9.5 ypc).

Beisel is fourth with 149 yards, averaging 6.5 yards on his 23 carries.

James Crockett has three senior receivers with more than 400 yards on the season. Senior Nick Bamvakais leads the group with 518 yards (23 catches), while Luke Hartmann has a team-high 43 receptions (438 yards). Adrian Sanders is another favorite target with 27 catches for 418 yards and leads the group with six touchdowns. Bamvakais is right behind with five TD catches.

As a whole, the Falcons are an experienced, senior-dominated team that limits turnovers and mistakes.

"Offensively, I think they're going to be one of the better teams we've seen this year," Eckley said. "Their offensive line gets off the ball well and they're pretty diverse offensively. Their running back runs real hard and is athletic."

Eckley also said the Falcons have strong special teams that include placekicker Ben Tesson.

Jackson has lost to Summit in district play the last three years.

Class 4 District 1 Championship

(4) Central (5-6) at (2) Hillsboro (9-2)

Last week: Central 17, Sikeston 14; Hillsboro 34, North County 26

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: The Tigers did the dirty work by knocking off the district's top seed last week and can claim their first district title since 2006 with a win tonight.

The winner will face the Miller Career-St. Mary's winner in quarterfinal play Saturday.

Central has shaken the frustration of a five-game losing skid with a three-game winning streak. Back-to-back wins against Festus were followed by the upset of Sikeston, which had beaten Central during the losing streak.

"We got hot at the right time, kind of like the Cardinals and the Giants," Central coach Nathan Norman said. "We want to keep it going like the Giants did. We're healthy at the right time."

Central senior running back Chris Martin topped 170 yards for the third consecutive week after returning from a sprained ankle that forced him to sit two games. Martin broke the 1,000-yard plateau against Vianney and has 1,140 yards on the season (7 ypc). Senior Jacob Campbell, who has been hampered by hip and groin injuries, is second on the team with 873 yards (5.5 ypc). He's seen less touches on offense since Martin's return, but Norman said the five-day turn-around is tough on Martin, who has averaged around 30 carries a game since returning.

Norman voiced concern about Martin's physical condition but said he definitely will play tonight.

"We are very fortunate that Jacob Campbell is rested and fresh, because of Chris coming back," Norman said. "I anticipate a heavy dose of Jacob Campbell [tonight]. I'd like to say Chris can carry the load, but I just don't know if he can make it the whole time. Look for a heavy dose of both of them, but Jacob Campbell is going to have to be more of a threat. We're going to have to use him more. That's just the truth."

Both players present break-away speed, which the Tigers also have in leading receiver Garan Evans.

"We do have a little more speed in [some] positions," Norman said. "Their backs are fast, too. But we do have overall team speed that I'm counting on them not having seen before, and we'll have to utilize that."

Both teams have risen from the ashes after winless seasons in recent years. Hillsboro, which went 0-10 in 2007, won the district title last year and ended Sikeston's season in the regional round. The Hawks are seeking their second straight 10-win season under fifth-year coach Brian Robbins. They finished 10-2 a year ago after falling to Farmington in the sectional round.

Central went 0-10 in 2009 but began a revival in 2010 and that has continued under Norman, now in his second year as head coach.

Hillsboro is on a seven-game winning streak. The Hawks' eight-point district semifinal win also avenged a loss, as North County beat Hillsboro by four points in Week 4. Fredericktown accounts for the Hawks' only other loss, a 42-14 beating in Week 2.

The win against North County (7-4) represents the Hawks' lone triumph against a team with a winning record during its win streak, which started with a 17-14 win against Festus. Hillsboro has scored at least 34 points in each of its last six wins and has averaged 49.6 points during the span.

Hillsboro only has one other win against a team with a winning record, opening the season with a 28-15 triumph against Duchesne.

Hillsboro has a three-year starter in quarterback Justin Horn, who operates a double-wing offense.

"They run it well. They're very physical," Norman said. "They have a good offensive line and a good quarterback who runs the ball well. All of those positions [fullback, quarterback and two wing backs] run the ball well. That's them in the nutshell. They're going to run the ball and play-action pass you. They try to get you to suck up on the run and hit you with a good deep ball."

The Hawks graduated their top running back from last season, but have ingrained their system over the years.

"The best thing about them is their physicality," Norman said. "They're just a good hard-nosed, tough team and don't screw it up. They make very few mistakes, and they want to count on you messing up and they take advantage of turnovers."

Norman said his defensive line will have to step up in order to be successful.

"I don't think they've seen what we're fixin' to throw at ‘em, size and athleticism, but you never know how they're going to handle it," Norman said. "We're definitely hoping that's the case, that our D-line stands out to them and it's hard for them to handle."

-- Jeff Breer

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