Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SPORTS>>Devils make noise at ASU

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils went to a 27-team Mid-South Shootout and Big Man Camp at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro over the weekend, and performed well beyond coach Rick Russell’s expectations.

Teams of all sizes from Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Missouri were on hand for the event, which included a 7-on-7 tournament and a linemen’s camp. The Red Devils lost just one game in its 7-on-7 pool and advanced to the final four of tournament play.

“If you took my expectations, exceeded that by 100 percent, then multiplied that by 10, that’s how well I thought we played up there,” Russell said. “I truly could not believe it.”

The offense dominated in two games particularly. The Red Devils dominated the Tennessee Class 4A Munford Lions, and had its best outing overall against Dyersburg High, from Tennessee’s largest classification.

“They couldn’t stop us,” Russell said. “We went up and down the field against them. They had some athletes too, but we were just executing so well.”

Running the show for Jacksonville was junior Kevin Richardson, who is No. 2 on the depth chart at quarterback. He started at safety last year, but his performance in Jonesboro has Russell very pleased.

“We haven’t broken it down yet, but I bet you he was at about 75 percent completion percentage,” Russell said. “He was reading defenses, distributing the football to the right person. He was just very impressive.”

Richardson brings another dimension to the position.

“He’s an athlete and what you’ve got with him is a guy who is a real run threat,” Russell said. “He’s got some wheels and can accelerate if he has to. Since spring, his development has increased dramatically.”

Someone besides the quarterback accounts for a good completion percentage, and Russell said the receivers were exceptional.

“The receivers caught the ball extremely well,” Russell said. “D’Von McClure, Cari Jordan, Cortez Brown, Taiwan Moore, Demerio Williams, Randy Armstrong, they all did a tremendous job.”

The linemen’s camp didn’t have as much competitive activity, but they Jacksonville crew did get a lot of individual instruction and made gains in learning techniques. Russell got some positive feedback about two players in particular.

“Samuel Pope on offense and Aaron Davis on defense, coaches saw potential and they really got some good one-on-one instruction.”

Not only was it a good weekend for the squad, the players knew it and Russell sees a lot of enthusiasm as official practices are set to begin next week.

“It was a fantastic weekend and it was very encouraging for us as coach and for the players too,” Russell said. “The kids have been giving great effort all summer. They want to be here, they want to work out and they have high expectations for themselves. They really think they can go far this year.”