Tigers look to carry last weeks intensity to Vidalia

The concensus of opinion following Jonesboro-Hodge’s stunning 41-20 smashing of Class 5A West Ouachita was that the Tigers played with an aggresiveness and intensity that hasn ‘t been seen in a long time. Where it came from is no secret, as it was an emotionally charged setting for not only the players but coaches and fans alike, result of the stirring tribute to fallen players LaJavion Nichols and Javious Holden that took place prior to the contest.

“During the tribute I had an overwheming feeling that LaJavion and Javious was watching over us,’ reflected JHHS head coach Terrance Blakenship. “I didn’t say anything to the coaching staff or players but I felt that there was no way we would lost that game’ said JHHS head coach Terrance Blakenship.

He was right, too! Not only did they not lose, they completely dominated the game from start to finish. The victory not only had emotional ties but historic ones as well, as it marked the first ever “home” victory over a Class 5A school and only the second in school history that a win over a Class 5A school has been registered. The first came in 2008 the Tigers beat Class 5A Grant High on the road.

Ironically another tie to last week’s victory and the last time the Tigers beat a Class 5A school was established as well. When DeVontae Mozee returned his second interception for a touchdown, he tied the all time mark for INT’s returned for a touchdown in a single game with Rob’Donovan Lewis who scored his pair against Ferriday in 2008. Both equaled the mark that was originally set in 1945 by Arnold Mathews.

Moving forward! Now comes the biggest challenge of the season to date and how the Tigers respond is of major concern to Blankenship. No, it is not neccessarily in this week’s opponent Vidalia. Sure, the Tigers have a long road trip ahead and face a team that convincingly won their season opener but Vidalia also got destroyed this past week. What Blankenship fears the most is the possibility of a major emotional letdown which could make Friday night’s contest the ultimate “trap” game.

“The guys saw how good a team we can be when we play with the kind of emotion and intensity we demonstrated last week, said Blankenship. “The concern is whether or not we can get up to that level again in a ccompletely different setting.”

Tale of the tape! The Tigers own an alltime 5-3 advantage over Vidalia with the last time the pair having played being in 2000 where J-H won 14-7. This season the two Class AA foes will dress out a similar number of players with both squads also having multiple players going both ways. Another similarity is that both teams have had only two winning seasons in the last decade, both ironically during in 2017-18 and 2018-19. 

What is different is the course the two teams have been on since. Both finished 2019-20 with 3-8 overall records but the Tigers played a much more difficult schedule and finished with a winning record in district. Last year, J-H showed improvement to finsh the regular season with a non-losing record at 3-3 while Vidalia slumped to 1-7. This year the upward/downward trend looks to be continuing.

While both enter the contest with 1-1 records, the results are far from being close to the same. In the Tigers opener, Jonesboro-Hodge lost a narrow game that they had a chance to win to Winnfield, who at 2-0 after surprising Class 3A Caldwell is apparently is pretty strong in what will be Jonesboro native, Jay Watson’s, first “full” year as head coach. This was followed up by the Tigers big win over Class 5A West Ouachita. Vidalia on the other hand handily beat Class A Sicily Island 44-14 who has won one game out of their last sixteen and that was two years ago in their opener. In game two Class 3A Jena destroyed them 40-6 in a game that was 40-0 at the half. 

Missing piece! Jonesboro-Hodge will be without a major piece of their offensive pie as tailback Brantrel Thompson is sidelined due to protocol associated with COVID-19 regulations. The Tigers leading rusher after two games who has 134 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns did not come to school on Monday after feeling ill. As result of no contact with any teammates since last Friday, no other players were put on precautionary “contact control.” 

Who to watch for:

#8 – Quarterback Tydre Malone – Second straight game of making outstanding decisions for the most part and efficiently moving the offense through the air. After two games has completed 29 of 49 for 401 yards and two scores. Has also accounted for two TD’s on the ground. 

#14 – Ed’Tavious Drayton – Takes over at starting tailback in Thompson’s absence. Has totalled 53 yards in 11 carries and one score while also providing double duty as outside linebacker.

#4 – Jamarriyea “Jay” Lewis – Leads the Tigers with 127 yards on 6 receptions. Also has been a tremendous force from his defensive back position.

#3 – DeVontae Mozee – Mozee also has six receptions this year but two of those have come from his strong safety -position leading to a team high four touchdowns, two on offense and two on defense. Averaging 30 yards per catch. Game changer from either side of the ball. 

#1 – Justin Calahan – Lead J-H with 8 receptions that he has turned into 84 yards while working the slot for the Tigers. Has proven to be great possession type receiver who has big play ability. Expected to see time in the backfield this week. 

#5 – Chase “Smoke” Leonard – Second on team with 7 catches for 71 yards working primarily over the middle. Also turning out to be true tackler from defensive back position. 

#13 – Xavier Atkins – Quickly gaining reputation as one of the hardest hitters in high school football. Just ask the quarterbacks from Winnfield and West Ouachita, who he has both sidelined after vicious hits. Leading team in tackles and tackles for a loss. 

#58 – Peyton Smith – Week one “defensive lineman of the week” as voted by “Off the Bench” Sports was dominant again against West Ouachita despite having to sled through double and sometimes triple team blocking against him. 

#74 – Cartavious “Hambone” Waters – The “big heavy” on the defensive line continues to wreak havoc on the inside, having already gained over 10 tackles in the two games, a very sizeable amount for an interior lineman.

#11 – Javeon Andrews – long wingspan with a very quick step this tall defensive end constantly shut off the edge against West Ouachita and Winnfield. Tackles for a loss in both games along with forcing a fumble and recoverying one. 

Keys to victory!

Stay focused! Despite having a size, speed and talent advantage the Tigers must play with 100% focus as Vidalia will be primed for the upset in front of their home crowd
Amp it up! J-H proved last week that when they are “amped” they can be as good as anyone on their schedule and better than most. 
Take nothing for granted! Let’s not be silly. Even the players know they should win this one handily but that doesn’t mean they can just go through the motions.

Directions to stadium:

Actually even though it is quite a long drive it is an easy one. Simply travel down Hwy 167 South to Winnfield and go to Hwy 84 East. Stay on that highway all the way. You will see the stadium on the left hand side of the road right off Hwy 84.  Estimated time of travel is 2 hours and 15 minutes of straight driving but it would be advisable to allow a little extra for a “pit stop” along the way. 

Photos from week two against West Ouachita

(compliments of Jason Spangler)

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