When Jackson running back Stuart McIntosh discusses the last two games, his words sound much like you would expect from any Indian in the locker room.
"I didn't know I had that in me," McIntosh tells of a sudden life found by himself and the Indians.
Just two weeks ago McIntosh, a hard-running 6-foot-1 senior, had 427 yards rushing through six games. Jackson (2-6), with a listless offense, stood 1-5 and looked to be going nowhere.
But as quick as a running lane can open and close, McIntosh is suddenly a 1,000-yard rusher entering tonight's district game at Parkway West (5-3).
Two weeks ago the Indians shook a season of frustration with a surprisingly easy 27-7 pounding of Poplar Bluff. McIntosh led the way, breaking loose for a career-high 221 yards.
McIntosh and the Indians opened more eyes last week in a 34-27 loss to Parkway Central, unbeaten and ranked fifth in Class 5. McIntosh had a second consecutive career best, tearing into the Colts for 352 yards and four touchdowns.
The math on McIntosh in the last two games makes for respectable season for some runners: 573 yards, 59 carries and six touchdowns.
"We've always know Stuart is a great back," Jackson offensive guard Matt McComas said. "He runs hard. You can always expect him to get that extra yard when somebody is in his way."
Noted more for his physical, determined style of running rather than for speed, McIntosh has been breaking off big runs. He scored on runs of 62 and 78 yards against Poplar Bluff. He added scores from 33, 76 and 98 yards against Parkway Central.
"He wanted me to keep feeding him the football," Jackson coach Carl Gross said. "He's really stepped up and showed that he's got good speed. To be real honest, I was shocked that he was able to break those long ones he had against Parkway Central. Not downplaying Stuart, but I knew they had all that speed in their secondary."
All of this after an auspicious start to McIntosh's senior season. The Indians were counting heavily on him after the graduation of Mario Whitney, who rushed for more than 2,700 yards last season. Even in Whitney's season, McIntosh managed a 177-yard game in the playoffs, which bode well for life after Whitney.
But midway through the Indians' season-opening loss to Sikeston, McIntosh suffered a mild sprain in his shoulder, originally believed to be broken collar bone.
"We thought he was cooked," Gross said.
McIntosh, who had 130 yards at the time of the injury, sat out an 18-0 loss to Rockwood Summit the following week.
He returned in Week 3 and split time with sophomore Jason Meystedt. With the Indians struggling against an upgraded schedule, he topped 100 yards only once more before Poplar Bluff.
Since then, the Indians have been a different team.
"Before, we had a lot of individual talent, but where we were struggling was coming together and putting all our talents together," McIntosh said.
McIntosh credits his offensive line, which has been in a metamorphic state all season.
The Indians experimented with moving one of their only two returning linemen, Justin Rollet, to fullback at the start of the season. Rollet was eventually returned to bolster the line, and the Indians' only other returning starter, tackle Colby Lohman, missed time with a sprained ankle. After the loss to Rockwood Summit, the Indians also shuffled the line in an effort to platoon. They quickly scrapped that plan and returned to two-way play.
It all led to miscommunications and inconsistent play.
"Early in the season we were having trouble with our blocking schemes a little bit," McIntosh said. "Now we've started talking up on the line. That's one of the reasons we're starting to block so well because everyone know exactly where they're going."
"We really expected our offensive line to be as dominant as they have been the last two weeks, all year long," Gross said.
The Indians have also got better blocking out of their fullbacks and junior first-year quarterback Tyler Profilet has gained confidence, completing over 50 percent of his passes the last two games.
"It's been a big factor and kind of helping us move the football on the ground," Gross said.
It's all led to a renewed sense of optimism for the Indians, who entered district play with more losses than their three district opponents combined.
"Now I'm starting to look at some of the films and we realize we can play with these guys," McIntosh said. "Playing Parkway Central as close as we did -- we should of won the game -- really boosted our confidence level. We really have a lot of confidence going the next two games."
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