East Jackson just barely missed out on its second victory of 2021 last week at Gilmer. The Eagles get another shot at win number two this Friday at Vahalla, home of the East Hall Vikings.
East Jackson lost a 41-34 shootout to Gilmer, but head coach Cameron Pettus saw the good in his squad’s performance. For starters, one of the team’s preseason goals was to keep games close in the fourth quarter. They’ve accomplished that feat in two of their four games.
“We’re continuing to build and get better,” Pettus said. “It’s a process. Of course, I want these kids to win, sooner than later, but I know it’s going to take time to build who we are and have that culture established.
“We’re getting better each week. We’re making strides. Sometimes it gets frustrating, but you have to remember what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
Pettus says the areas the team has grown the most are at quarterback and on the offensive line. Tyler Crow is in his first year playing quarterback at any level. His solid performances has Pettus and the East Jackson coaches asking what if about Crow as a quarterback.
“We took a kid who’s never played quarterback before a day in his life and he’s really done a great job,” Pettus said. “He’s gotten so much better. What our coaches talk about is that it would be scary if this kid had played quarterback his entire high school career.
“His passing game is getting better, he threw a couple of touchdown passes [on Friday]. How much better would he be if he was a quarterback this entire time. Credit to him and credit to our coaches for getting him ready to play quarterback at such a high level.”
Indeed, East Jackson’s offense is on a role. After scoring just seven points in their first two games, the Eagles have scored 62 points over the last two weeks. The Eagles scored 13 points in the fourth quarter against Gilmer to take a 34-31 lead with three minutes left, though the Bobcats ultimately prevailed.
“Offensively, we have to continue doing what we’ve been doing, getting better each week,” Pettus said. “I think [East Hall game] is an opportunity for us to continue to grow as an offense and score some points this week.
“I don’t it to be a shootout, but who knows what it will be playing these guys.”
After two solid outings, Crow and the Eagle offense certainly have a chance to keep the train rolling at East Hall. The Vikings are 1-2 this season and are allowing 40.3 points per game. Their losses include a 48-21 defeat against West Hall, and a 38-21 loss to Franklin County. Last week, East Hall defeated Johnson 49-35.
“[East Hall’s defense] reminds me a lot of West Hall,” Pettus said. “Very similar to those guys, so we know we’re going to have our work cut out for us. Our offense has done a great job evolving since week one. I think we have to continue to get better, work hard and have fun.”
East Hall makes up for its deficiencies on defense by fielding a prolific spread passing attack. Behind center is elusive quarterback Clete Cooper. He aims to drive the bowl downfield to a solid group of receivers led by Justin Gilbert.
Pettus’ plan for containing Cooper is real simple, just don’t let him get comfortable in the pocket.
“They’ve got a gunslinger at quarterback,” he said. “He’s nifty and very elusive, he extends plays with his feet. He’s got a rocket for an arm. It’s going to be a challenging task for our defense this week to contain him. They’ve got some kids that can run at the receiver position. Hopefully, we can get after him and force some turnovers.”
“We have to get a good pass rush and we have to tackle in space. We have to be able to get more than one hat on the quarterback when he’s back there. Also, we have to do a good job in the secondary. We have to watch what we’re doing and play our techniques well because he will extend plays. We can’t fall asleep because he will hurt us.”
East Jackson at East Hall
Who: East Jackson at East Hall (East Hall Stadium)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: East Jackson 1-3l East Hall 1-2
Coaches: Cameron Pettus, East Jackson (third season at East Jackson, 5-18); Matt Turner, East Hall (first season at East Hall, 1-2)
What else: East Jackson is 0-3 all-time against East Hall and each game has been high scoring. The Eagles lost to the Vikings last year 49-34. Back in 2013, they lost 67-37, and they lost 50-20 in 2012.