By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor
It could be said Jacksonville and Searcy are walking the same streets entering Friday’s 7A/6A-East Conference game at Jan Crow Stadium in Jacksonville.
Both are previously strong programs battling back to respectability after some recent down turns, and both are jockeying for postseason position.
Searcy (3-3, 2-1) returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2001 in Tim Harper’s first season as coach last year. The Lions quickly bowed out to Watson Chapel, 42-7, and are hoping to reach the postseason again and this time advance.
Jacksonville (4-2, 2-1) won just two games last year after winning six in 2008 and winning a 6A-East Conference championship in 2006. But under first-year coach Rick Russell, the Red Devils are poised to lock up at least a .500 season Friday and are also seeking a playoff berth.
Russell, the former Jack-sonville defensive coordinator who returned to lead the program this year, has improved the defense and, with first-year offensive coordinator Barry Hickingbotham, has balanced the offense.
The Red Devils are coming off their most dominant defensive effort, Friday’s 29-0 victory at Little Rock Hall.
Jacksonville turned in two goal-line stands, blocked two punts and recovered a fumble. The fumble, forced by Rhakeem James and returned 17 yards by D.J. Harrison, set up the Red Devils’ final touchdown, which came on a 14-yard pass from Logan Perry to Xavier Brown.
Brown also kicked a 31-yard field goal set up by a reversed field run by D’Vone McClure.
Perry hit McClure with a 23-yard touchdown completion, in which McClure out jumped two defenders, to make it 19-0 in the second half, and connected with Fletcher Berkley on a 75-yard pass to open the scoring in the first quarter.
Antwone Mosby added a three-yard touchdown run to make it 13-0 at halftime.
The Red Devils also beat Mountain Home 26-2 in the conference opener while losing 34-20 to Jonesboro.
Searcy is coming off a 34-13 loss to preseason conference favorite West Memphis and also has a 15-12 conference loss to Marion. The Lions’ lone, 7A/6A-East victory was 28-21 in overtime against Little Rock Parkview.
The Lions won four games in Harper’s first season after he left Des Arc last year, as many as they did in their previous four years combined. That included a 40-14 victory over Jacksonville.
Attempts to reach Russell, Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson and Harper were not successful by press time Tuesday.