By todd traub
Leader sports editor
Don’t think Jacksonville hasn’t done the math.
The Red Devils just don’t want to look at the sum yet.
Jacksonville got its fifth victory on a last-second touchdown against Searcy in a 7A/6A-East game Friday, assuring the team of a playoff berth after the Devils won just two games last season.
But, having come so far, so fast under first-year coach Rick Russell, Jacksonville (5-2, 3-1) doesn’t want to get complacent after clinching a .500 record, so the coaching staff is trying to avoid talking about the postseason until the regular season is played out.
Next stop for Jacksonville is Fair High School on Friday, when the Devils play the Little Rock Parkview Patriots (3-4, 1-3) in another conference game.
“We’re trying to keep our goals intact,” Jacksonville athletic director and assistant coach Jerry Wilson said. “We don’t look past anybody. It’s on the road and they defeated us here last year.”
Still, Wilson said, there is plenty at stake Friday, and in the following two games as well. The Red Devils wrap up the season with their toughest stretch against first-place West Memphis (6-1, 4-0) and Marion (5-2, 3-1), tied with Jacksonville for second.
“We as a coaching staff feel like Friday night, if we win, we’re assured of a home playoff game,” Wilson said. “And of course Friday puts us a in position where we win the next two, we get a bye. That’s a tall order.”
Wilson was standing in for Russell, who was dealing with the aftermath of a house fire and was not at school Tuesday. However Wilson said Russell, the Red Devils’ former defensive coordinator who returned to the program this season, will coach Friday’s game in Little Rock.
Russell’s defensive background has been apparent in Jacksonville’s improvement on that side of the ball. The Red Devils shut out Little Rock Hall the previous week and held Searcy to a touchdown in last week’s 12-7 victory.
“If there is a plus right now our defense is playing outstanding and we feel like offensively we try to take what the defense is giving us,” Wilson said.
Jacksonville has shown a willingness to try different offensive sets, depending on what formation opposing defenses are using. The Red Devils have kept elements of the Spread used last year but have also beefed up the running game and even tried a little Dead T on Friday.
“It was fourth and 1 and we were stopped at the point of attack and this is the winning drive,” Wilson said. “And D’Vone McClure made a heck of a second effort and got the first down.”
Antwone Mosby grabbed Logan Perry’s seven-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone with three seconds lift for the victory.
“We don’t like games like that but it’s good when you come out on the right end,” Wilson said. “We’ve been on the other end. I do think they’re developing a sense of confidence.”
With most of the same personnel from last season, the Red Devils have certainly embraced this year’s success, Wilson said.
“You’re looking at the same guys minus about four,” Wilson said. “We’re missing probably three or four starters from last year when they were two and whatever and these kids are gelling around each other.
“The seniors are developing leadership. We’re looking at trying to win a conference. We’re in position.”