JA doesn't plan to let guard down against SA Vols
On the way to its AAA-I state championship a year ago, Jackson Academy had but one blemish on its record, a 22-21 loss to Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
Last Friday, the Raiders (4-0, 1-0) avenged that defeat by beating MRA 38-14.
Coming off of such a win, some teams might be tempted to let up a little the following week.
Second-year JA head coach David Sykes says that shouldn't be the case when the Raiders visit Starkville Academy on Friday.
"(The MRA game) was our first conference game and it was huge to win that first one," said Sykes. "But as big as last week was, this week is probably bigger. You play in the conference, and they're all big."
Such talk might seem a bit like unfounded coach-speak as Sykes' undefeated Raiders prepare for 0-4 SA. Yet, Sykes referenced what has become a common theme amongst the Volunteers' 2010 opponents as reason for concern: the new SA demeanor.
"I think Jeff Terrill's attitude has rubbed off," said Sykes. "(SA) just plays real hard. That's a reflection of their coach. He's done a nice job getting those guys to play hard every snap."
Once the Raiders kick off this week's district game with the Vols, they'll do so with plenty of experience on both sides of the ball.
Sykes says he felt confident in his veterans coming into the season, and through four games, they haven't disappointed.
"We've got a good nucleus that returned from last year's team," said Sykes. "We started a sophomore quarterback a year ago, he's now a junior. Our fullback is a three-year starter. Our tight end is a three-year starter. Our left guard is a three-year starter. So we have five guys that returned offensively that we feel real good about. We had four guys that came back on defense that we felt we could build around."
Of concern to Sykes coming into this year was the play of both his offensive and defensive lines. Though Sykes says his crews up front "played their best game of the year by far" last week against MRA, the JA coach says both units are still progressing.
"We're really young and inexperienced up front," said Sykes. "We felt like these guys would develop into good players and they just continue to get better every week.
"They're all very intelligent and they run well. They're just all really starting to come around."
Sykes hopes the trend of improvement will continue this week.
The Vols and Raiders kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.
"Again, you play in the conference in they are all big ballgames," said Sykes. "We need to be ready to play."