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FCS vs. JCS: a matchup of speed vs. speed
Dec 02, 2006 12:00 am
Friendship Christian has won 14 straight largely by being faster than most of its opposition.
Jackson Christian is on a nine-game roll for much of the same reason.
In fact, the combatants in Friday's BlueCross Bowl Class 1A state championship game are eerily similar in many ways.
"The first glance I got at the film, they remind me of us," Commander coach John McNeal said of the Eagles. "Similar in size, run similar stuff. Defense is strong for them. They run well to the football, they'll hit.
"They're really an image of us."
McNeal said the Eagles (11-3) have gone with the spread offense more later in the season as senior left-hand quarterback Clay Fowler has thrown for 2,119 yards and 22 touchdowns on 133-of-251 passing. Senior wideout Rashad Rayner leads Jackson Christian with 37 catches and nine touchdowns and is one of three Eagles with more than 500 yards (555) receiving. Blake Taylor has 557 yards and three scores on 26 receptions while Tanner Perkins has 524 yards and seven TDs on 35 grabs.
Sophomore running back Will Johnson leads JCS with 492 yards and eight touchdowns on 56 carries while junior Patrick Taggert has 454 and four scores on 83 rushes.
Trying to stop that offense is a defense led by senior middle linebacker Wade Mitchell (5-10, 205), whose 142 tackles, two sacks and an interception helped earn him Mr. Football Lineman finalist honors. Teeter has six sacks at defensive end while senior cornerback John Doak (5-10,165) usually gets the opponent's best receiver to cover and has nine interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Junior defensive end Josh Aldridge (6-2, 240) leads the Eagles with 130 tackles, including 13 for loss and eight sacks. He has an interception, a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown. Senior linebacker Seth Doyle (6-2, 175) has 110 stops while cornerback Rayner has eight interceptions.
That defense shut down Mt. Pleasant's Mr. Football Back Marco Dailey in the Eagles' 42-14 semifinal win last Friday.
"They pursued the football," McNeal said of that game. "They didn't just have one guy trying to tackle him, they had more than one. That was what they were trying to do.
"It was a team effort."
Now the Eagles will set their sights on Friendship (14-0) junior running back Jeremy Rickaway (5-10, 175), who has 1,680 yards and 22 touchdowns on 221 carries. Senior quarterback Jon Miller has 1,368 passing yards and 20 touchdowns on 60-of-115. Senior tight end Michael Teeter (6-3, 195) has 16 catches for 393 yards and six touchdowns while senior wideout Garrett McKnight (6-0, 165) has 13 grabs for team highs of 402 yards and eight scores.
—The 3:30 p.m. game is the first state football final for either school. But Friendship, which has come close but short in other sports in search of that elusive TSSAA championship, did play in the 2005 baseball final, losing to University School of Jackson. McNeal and defensive coordinator Duane Lowe were the coaches in that game and a handful of football players were in the baseball final at Millington.
—A pep rally will be held at the school at 9:30 a.m. Friday. A spirit tunnel will form through which the team will walk to the bus which will take it to Murfreesboro. Fans have routinely formed spirit tunnels for the Commanders to enter the field through during the season. But spectators won't be allowed on the field at MTSU.
—Tickets are $10 each and are available at FCS until 9:30 a.m. Friday. The school will keep a portion of the proceeds of the tickets sold there. Tickets will also be available at the Floyd Stadium gate.
—Though the game will be played on a neutral site, Friendship will be the designated visiting team, meaning the Commanders will wear their white road uniforms for the first time since the regular-season finale at Mt. Juliet Christian back on Oct. 27.
—Middle Tennessee State installed a surface its football media guide calls "Sportexe Synthetic Turf" over the summer, replacing the Astroturf which has become obsolete. McNeal took the Commanders to several fields, including Montgomery Bell Academy, this week to practice on a similar surface. MBA also installed its new turf this past summer.
—But there was no way to prepare for the sudden blast of winter weather forecast for Friday. After 70-degree temperatures for nearly a week, a front is expected to drop the mercury to the 40s by game time. But the teams have been practicing all week in warmer climes, which will leave them and the fans in shivering shock.
—Jackson Christian lost three of its first five games this season, including 28-24 to Donelson Christian in Week 0, 55-7 to Class 3A Jackson South Side in Week 3 and Fayette Academy 17-14 in Week 4, a decision which ultimately cost the Eagles the Region 8-1A championship. Fayette was the only 1A region champ to lose its first-round game, to Lake County.
—This will be the final 1A football game for Jackson Christian, whose enrollment jumped by more than 20 percent since the last classification was done. The Eagles will move to 2A next season.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.