In a key Class 7A, Region 4 game, the James Clemens Jets will travel to Austin to face the Black Bears in a huge region game in the Austin Football Stadium. Both teams won their region opener and the winner of this game will hold a huge win in the region that could go a long way for the region title.
James Clemens defeated Bob Jones 52-28 while Austin outscored Florence 52-28 in region play last week. Last year between the two teams, James Clemens won a 27-24 at the Madison City School Stadium. This time the game is played in Decatur. "We are pleased at where we are at right now in the season," said Jets Head coach Wade Waldrop. "I wish we could have got to play that first game of the season against Murphy that would have helped us out getting more experience for our young team. We have the biggest game coming up against the two favorites in Florence and Austin. It is a huge game for us."
For James Clemens (2-0, 1-0) on offense, the Jets have averaged 38.0 points per game. The Jets have to replace 18 starters from last year that defeated Vestavia Hills in the first round of the 7A playoffs and it has been awhile since a Class 7A Region 3 team has lost to a Region 4 team in the playoffs. The word used by Jets Coach Waldrop on this group is the word green for their inexperience.
The Jets offense is led by quarterback Connor Cantrell. Cantrell brings a lot of experience into the season for the Jets. Last week against Bob Jones, Cantrell completed 11-of-15 passing for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Cantrell shares playing time with Gio Lopez. Lopez rushed for 119 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown against Bob Jones last week. Lopez will come into the game in short yardage situations.
"Connor has started his freshman season," added Waldrop. "He has improved so much since is early years. We had a lot of big time weapons around his last season so he just needed to manage the game. He is a smart football player. He knows where to throw the ball. Knows everything about the offense. Gio has been given the offense in pieces and each week he has gotten more and more of the offense. He wants to know all of it. He is so dynamic, a division one talent, he has great arm strength, very accurate with the ball, tough runner. He is an unbelievable athlete. He have all the confidence in the world with the football in his hand."
At running back, Donte Snodgrass takes over from Dylan Blackburn. Snodgrass had 43 yards on five carries and runs behind a good offensive line that just got way better this week. Transfer Micah Pettus is coming in from Sparkman. The Ole Miss commit is likely not going to be ready against Austin Friday night. Other lineman for the Jets will be Jaycen Ervin, Zach Moore, Edgerrin Watson, Ezekial Gideon and Jacob Byrd.
At receiver, there is plenty of talent. Manny Sanders returns and has some help at the receiver position. Tyrik Walker, Kobe Johnson and Kobe Johnson round out the receiving core. Walker had a monster game against Bob Jones last week with five receptions for 199 yards and four touchdowns. Sanders has received double teams from defenses so far this season. Tight end Parker Wynn adds another receiver with good hands. Wynn caught an 11-yard touchdown pass against Bob Jones last week.
On defense, two players that really stick out on that side of the ball is linebackers Chance Starling and Jaylin Grigsby. "Chance is so gritty, he is the guy that disrupts things," said Waldrop. "He is a different player he was a year ago and I'm so proud of him. Started out as a safety and moved into the box. He has done a great job for us. Jaylin has been all over the field in two ball games. He is a division one football player and he goes from sideline to sideline." Add in llinebackers Logan McMeans and Ryan Creehan to the starting defense.
The defensive line is anchored by Lewis Verhage, Joseph Vinson and Weston Pruitt. The secondary has Jamal Mayers, Marlon Sherman, Ephraim Rolingson and Darius Holden.
Austin (3-0, 1-0) has the high flying offense. The Black Bears average 50 points a game in their first three games and have a lot of experience on that side of the ball. "Were explosive on offense and we are playing hard defensively," said Black Bears Head coach Jeremy Perkins. "I like the makup of our team. We have good players and good kids. They enjoy competing and playing the game while grateful that they can play right now."
The Black Bears have a lot of experience on offense. Quincy Crittendon runs the offense and does a great job after being a starter for three years. "Quincy has grown as a quarterback every year," added Perkins. "He has matured and understands our offenses and sees the defenses better. He has got bigger and stronger in the off season. His decision making has improved. He is like a coach on the field. He is a complete quarterback. He can beat you with his legs or with his arm. His strength is throwing the football."
Last week, the Black Bears had a fourth and seven play with less than two minutes only up one score in the game with an option of punting the ball or making a pass play for the first down. With Perkins confidence in Crittendon, the Black Bears went with the pass play and scored a touchdown off of it. "We had two calls after the Florence time out," said Perkins. "We could punt the ball with Quincy or run the pass play. We liked the matchup. I have a lot of trust in Quincy and we had a favorable matchup and we played to win. The confidence I have in the offense in general is very good. Experience is an unmarked treasure. They have been under the lights. They can handle difference situations and make adjustments on the field. They have a lot of football under their belts."
The go to guy on that touchdown was receiver Tre Shackelford. Shackelford has 14 offers which include Army, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee State, Southern Miss and Troy. Don't be surprised if a NCAA Power 5 school gives him an offer during the season due to his exceptional play. Add in Chris Lyle Bralyn Robinson Jacob Bailey and tight end Tony Cowley and Crittendon has a lot of options in the passing game.
With Crittendon in the back field is workhorse running back Jevon Jackson. Jackson rushed the ball 30 times for 120 yards against Florence last week. Jackson is a slasher that can go long anytime he touches the ball. Jackson has an offer from Jackson State.
On the offensive line is Jaylon Munford, Griffin Sikes, Amari Pointer Alexander Machado and Colton Collier. Most of this group has a lot of experience coming into the 2020 season.
The defense has played well in the first three games only giving up 12.7 points per game. Jalik Malone is a run stuffer. Most teams will need to go around the outside or over the top due to Malone. Malone eats up blockers for his linebackers. "Jalik is a plugger in the middle," said Perkins. "He creates a lot of double and triple teams. It is hard to run the ball up the middle on us. He occupies a lot of space and is a very good player for us." Besides Malone is Daiontrelle Hubbard, Jeremiah Burgess, and Jacob Wiley.
Outside linebacker Ronald Fletcher leads the team in tackles right now and is having a great season. A returning starter being very physical off the edge. Add in Ronald Fletcher, Braxton Lyle and Jakari Fuller.
In the secondary, Jaden Baker has two interceptions early in the season. He does a lot of the one on one matchups to free up the safeties for the run play. Tra Stover, Kendall Scales and Eddie Mitchell round out the secondary and have played well.
"James Clemens is a very explosive offense, a very physical team that is well coached," added Perkins. "We have to control the ground. To be able to stop the run with success and to run the ball with some success. We have to eliminate the explosive plays on defense because they have some great receivers while we have to have some big plays on our end."
"This is a huge game for us in Decatur," said Waldrop. "Were playing a really good football team Friday night."