For every LHSAA prep football team the goal was to end the season playing in the Louisiana Superdome competing for the Class 2A state championship. After last weekend, only 16 schools still have those hopes alive. One of those is district 1-2A tri-champion, Jonesboro-Hodge High School, who will host Mangham this Friday evening at Caldwell-Peacock Stadium in attempt to advance to the “Elite Eight.”
As the stakes get higher the competition gets stiffer. It is simply a fact of playoff competition. According to the seedings of the Class 2A playoff bracket, two of three strongest teams in northeast Louisiana will square off when the #7 Tigers meet #10 Mangham. JHHS head coach Terrance Blankenship is fully aware of the challenge the second round game brings.
“There are no weak teams left at this stage,” said Blankenship. “Mangham has a very good football team and presents a strong challenge.”
Formidable Foe! The record shows the Dragons, under first year coach Scott Wilcher, have an 8-3 overall record and finished with a 5-1 record in district 2-2A, losing only to #4 seed, General Trass, 54-46 in the title game. Their other two losses were to Class 3A top-seed, Sterlington, 35-13 in the second game of the year and 48-12 to Ouachita Christian, the Division IV #1 seed, in the regular season final. All three of the teams that beat them finished the year with undefeated records. The Dragons advanced to play JHHS by beating Capitol of Baton Rouge 28-6 in the first round.
Series history! The meeting will be the eighth time the two schools have met in the sporadic series that began with a 26-0 Mangham victory in 1933 & the two battling to a 7-7 tie in 1934. One of the most exciting and highest combined scoring games in JHHS history took place when the two schools met again 73 years later in 2007 with JHHS taking a 54-51 victory. A 17-10 Mangham win in 2008 was followed by a 14-6 Tiger victory in 2009 setting up the last time the two played when Mangham destroyed a deplected JHHS team 54-6 in the 2019 first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
It is that loss that Blankenship has been thinking about every since the brackets came out and he saw the potential of the matchup.
“I have wanted another shot at them ever since,” said Blankenship. “We were missing alot of players that night and not to take anything away from Mangham, we were only a shell of ourselves. I am looking forward to playing them again as I think we will give a better representation this time around.”
Comparable stats! If season statistics prove out local fans could be in store for plenty of offensive fireworks. Magham comes in having scored 369 points in 11 games for a 33.54 points per game (ppg) average. JHHS counters with 357 points scored in 19 games for 35.7 ppg. The Tigers have given up 190 points on the year for a 19.0 ppg average while Mangham has allowed 195 points in one more game which tabulates to 17.75 ppg. How each got the majority of their points is a contrast though.The Dragons scored 33 touchdowns on the ground compared to just 16 through the airways. JHHS has 28 TD passes and 15 rushing scores but also has 6 defensive touchdowns and two from the special teams.
Opposing players to watch for! Three players are responsible for most of the Mangham offensive production this year including two who have over 2000 total yards to their credit. Senior quarterback Bell (#6) has passed for 1402 yards and rushed for 713 more for a total of 2115 total yards while compiling 16 TD’s. Junior running back Jalen Williams (#4) has tallied 1523 yards rushing and 505 yards receiving for 2028 total yards and 26 touchdowns, with 21 of those coming on the ground Tyshawn Johnson (#9) is also a factor from his wideout position, having corraled 59 passes for a team leading 761 yards and seven scores.
“Magical” Malone! Jonesboro-Hodge will counter with record setting quarterback, Tydre Malone, who now owns virtually every career and single season passing record. The 6’5″ senior signal caller has completed 110 passes in 187 attempts for 1889 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. This includes back-to-back, five touchdown passing games.
Fab Five! On the receiving end of Malone’s aerials is perhaps the deepest receiving corp in Tiger history as five players have caught double digit passes on the year and have over 100 yards in receiving. Two are tied for most receptions with Jay Lewis and Justing Calahan each grabbing 28 passes this season while Devontae Mozee has the most yards receiving with 588 on 23 receptions. Brantrel Thompson, who has 568 yards rushing to his credit as the Tigers primary running back and Chance Leonard also both have 12 recpetions and over 100 yards receiving with most of those coming over the last several weeks.
Top Tackler! You would have to have been hiding under a rock over the last couple of months not to know that the Tigers sensational sophmore linebacker Xavier Atkins didn’t finish the regular season leading the state, regardless of classification, in tackles, solo stops and tackles per game average. Currently Atkins has 179 total tackles for a 17.9 tackles per game average. This includes 146 solo stops, which is incredibly over 40 more than the next closest competitor and 22 tackles for a loss. Atkins also has two INT’s (1 TD), 3 fumble recoveries and a kick return for a touchdown.
Leading linemen: With just six more tackles junior defensive tackle Peyton Smith will eclipse the 100 tackle mark. Defensive end Javeon Andrews enters with 74 tackles, five sacks and 14 tackles for a loss while Cartavious “Hambone” Waters has 60 tackles on the year. Dominick Strickland has also come on strong in the second half of the season to register 46 stops.
Opportunity knockers! The Tiger defense and special teams have been very opportunistic this year and instrumental to the Tigers success. The Tigers have six “pick sixes” this season led by Devontae Mozee who has four, including a 99 yard, game changing, INT return against North Caddo. He also has a punt return for a score to go along with TD kickoff returns by Brantrel Thompson and Xavier Atkins. That is not even counting the three more scoring INT’s and punt returns that have been called back due to penalty.
Home field advantage! If you haven’t taken the opportunity to see one of the more exciting teams in Tigers history compete this year you need to do so Friday night as win or lose, unless something very strange happens, this will be the last opportunity to see the Tigers play at Caldwell-Peacock Stadium this season. Game time is set for 7:00 pm.