Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SPORTS: Jacksonville Ready for close-up

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils are always trying to put on a good show.

This time the show will be televised.

For the second time in three weeks Jacksonville is stepping out of the traditional Friday night routine, this time playing Mountain Home in the 7A/6A-East Conference opener in a Thursday night game to be broadcast on statewide commercial television.

Jacksonville is at Jan Crow Stadium for the first time this season, and coach Rick Russell said the Red Devils, on a two-game winning streak, are more excited about playing at home — and about opening conference play — than they are about having their exploits aired on KARZ-TV.

“This week we won’t talk about the TV,” Russell said. “We’ll talk about Mountain Home and what we have to do to beat them.”

Jacksonville is no stranger to the bright lights. The Red Devils played Cabot on a Tuesday to open last season, and the game was the first to be commercially broadcast statewide in Arkansas.

This year’s season opener was also against Cabot, also on a Tuesday night, and was part of the fanfare of the four-game, Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

“We’re excited to get conference started,” Russell said of this week’s game. “It’s our first home game is what we’re really excited about.”

The Thursday kickoff means the Red Devils are on an accelerated-preparation schedule. Jacksonville combined its Monday and Tuesday workouts into one practice Monday, and was holding its Wednesday workout Tuesday.

“I think playing that first Tuesday against Cabot helped us understand what we have to do to adjust our schedule,” Russell said.

The pace hasn’t given the players much time to think about how they will look on TV, and while Russell was happy to talk up the game in the preseason to build excitement, he said he doesn’t have to do that now.

“I think it’s going to be a motivational factor in that we want to execute and play well,” he said.
The Red Devils at least look like they’re ready for their close-up. Jacksonville, in its first year under Russell, has already done what it took all of last season to accomplish — win two games.
After losing to Cabot in the season opener, the Red Devils posted a 34-10 victory at Benton and on Friday they won 42-21 at Hot Springs.

“We’ve played really well,” Russell said. “I think we’ve competed for 48 minutes and the effort was there.”

The Hot Springs victory featured Jacksonville’s most complete offensive performance to date.
Behind quarterback Logan Perry, the Red Devils passed for 205 yards and they rushed for 238.
Perry kept for 107 rushing yards and accounted for all of the passing yardage. He completed five passes each to D’Vone McClure and Jamison Williams, who had 90 and 91 receiving yards, respectively.

Russell praised his coaching staff, including the spotters in the booth, for their work with the offense.

“We have four or five guys up in the box talking to the offensive coaches, telling us where the hot spots are and the creases are,” Russell said.

Jacksonville is hoping to pack Jan Crow with its “White out,” promotion, in which fans are encouraged to wear white in a takeoff of the NFL’s broadcast blackouts when games are not sold out.

Athletic director Jerry Wilson said all middle school and elementary school children will be admitted free if accompanied by an adult with a paid admission.