CARTHAGE — The 2012 edition of the Jacksonville Fight'n Indian football team will be opening up the season against a familiar and formidable foe when the Tribe travels to Bulldog Stadium in Carthage for a 7:30 p.m;.kick off on Friday in a game that will serve as the season opener for both schools.
Jacksonville and Carthage have faced each other in each of the last four seasons, with the Bulldogs having won each of those games by an average margin of just under 20 points.
The series is tied 28-28-0, with Jacksonville's last win coming in 2001 (27-6) under the guidance of Danny Long.
Chris Taber, a former Long assistant, will be making his coaching debut for the Indians on Friday, where he will be matching wits with one of East Texas' most respected coaches in Carthage's Scott Surratt (62-11, three state championships).
Surratt's Dawgs will come into play ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press Class 3A preseason poll.
Carthage brings back 27 lettermen — 10 starters — off of last year's Class 3A, Division II regional semifinalist team.
Taber said his team has prepared for this week's game in the right frame of mind.
“We have been as focused and professional as I have ever seen us,” Taber said. “There has been no jacking around...
“We welcome the challenge of playing Carthage, but our main concern, as it has been all along, is on us
and in getting better from week to week.”
Taber said that it in his opinion that the Tribe's non-district games be approached correctly.
“None of the non-district game have any bearing on us making the playoffs,” he said. “They are a way for us to test ourselves on a weekly basis to see where we are and what we have left to do to get ready for Nacogdoches (District 16-4A opener, Oct. 12).”
Jacksonville returns home next week to entertain rival Palestine, while Carthage continues its homestand by welcoming Lindale to town.
Taber said that fans can expect to see the Tribe use a two-quarterback system throughout non-district play, with senior Trevor Ewalt and sophomore Carter McCown — McCown is the son of Randy McCown who played quarterback at Texas A&M, and the cousin of Josh and Luke McCown who are both veteran NFL signal callers.
“They will both see action and I anticipate as one starts to pull away from the other, you will start to see him (play) more,” Taber said. “Both of our quarterbacks bring different qualities. Trevor (Ewalt) is more of a hard-nose type kid whose body is more developed and that can handle the run. As for poise in the pocket, Carter (McCown) has the upper hand because he comes from a football family and he has been around his cousins who all play in the NFL and (his dad) Randy, who was a great quarterback at A&M. I think he (Carter) understands the position better.”
The Indians are deep at wideout and at running back, giving Ewalt or McCown plenty of talented options to turn to.
Darrell Minifee, Dadrian Franklin and Kedarrius Buckingham, all seniors, are the team's leading pass catchers.
Jacksonville will use a stable of running backs this year, with the goal being to constantly have fresh legs in the backfield.
Sha'Kil Mosley, Londedric Taylor, Stacey Cummings and Bryson Haywood have all seen a lot of time at that position in preseason and should be the players to watch when the Indians choose to run the ball.
One of the biggest questions of the fall has been who will fill the five starting spots on the offensive line.
Taber said that the final choices may not be made until late in the week, but that “things are starting to solidify themselves. “We're headed in the right direction.”
Taber indicated that it is critical that the Indians not get behind early against Carthage, something that the Tribe were unable to do in their scrimmage victories over Mabank and Bullard.
“It's so important to get off to a fast start against Carthage and to not to have to play catch up,” Taber said. “They are No. 1 in some polls and No. 3 in others and they are a good football team. “In the scrimmages we waited around to see what the other team was doing and we can't afford to do that against Carthage.
“Our mindset will be to be able to weather the storm in the first quarter and play with them and hit them in the mouth as much as they hit us in the mouth,” Taber said. “If we can settle down and hold our own early, I think our kids will realize that they can play with them. We need to initiate the game and start fast.”
If the game is won in the trenches, look for Carthage to come out on top.
The Dawgs' behemoth offensive line averages about 270-pounds per man, while the defensive line is anchored by Isaiah Golden (6-foot-2, 315-pounds) a move-in from Elysian Fields. Golden has already committed to Texas A&M after also receiving offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Baylor, to name a few.
“Yes, they (Carthage) are huge on both fronts,” Taber said.
Middle linebacker Trent Jackson, the Dawgs' top tackler in 2011 is also back.
Taber said that he expects Carthage to try to establish the run first and that the Indians can not afford to give up quick touchdowns to the talented Dawgs.
“We can't allow them any quick scores that would put us in a position to get down early and have to play catch up,” Taber said.
Carthage is young in the secondary, which could give the Tribe something to attack, if the Jacksonville O-line can provide adequate protection for Ewalt/McCown.
“We've got to be able to stay in our blocks a little bit longer and give the pays time to develop,” Taber said.
Of the Carthage skilled players, running back Tevin Pipkin (5-foot-10, 170-pound, Jr.) and quarterback Blake Bogenschultz (6-foot, 180-pound, junior) could be the ones to watch out for.
Pipkin carried 242 times for 1,707 yards last year and scored 11 rushing touchdowns.
Bogenschultz passed for just under 2,700 yards last season while hurling 29 touchdown strikes.
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