Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville hosts thorn in its side

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville puts it all on the line when it hosts the Mills Comets at 7 p.m. Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The game pits Jacksonville, (2-6, 2-3) a team that still has serious playoff aspirations, against Mills, a team with none. The Comets (2-6, 1-4) are eliminated from postseason contention, but as far as Jacksonville has been concerned the last three years, the Mills Comet originated on Krypton.

Jacksonville has faced Mills the last three years with the playoffs on the line all three times, and once with a potential conference championship on the line. In two of those, Jacksonville was clear favorites, and Mills won all three.

“They’ve done us in the last few years,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “We’re going to have to be our best. We’ve basically just had some bad games against them, and that’ll cost us big if it happens this time.”

The 2014 Comets are built around tailback Caleb Peters. Mills coach Pat Russell even changed the offense this year to accommodate such a weapon, switching from the Spread to the Pro-I formation. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound back is already over 1,000 yards rushing this season, and has a touchdown run of 50 yards or more in all but one game.

“He’s just throwing people off of him,” Hickingbotham said of Peters.

It’s of particular concern for the head Red Devil, who hasn’t been pleased with his team’s tackling at times this year.

“We’ve had some good games and we’ve had some bad ones, and we’re going to have to have a good one this week,” Hickingbotham said. “When he gets past people they don’t chase him down, and if they do, he just stiff arms them and keeps going. You’ve got to make sure you wrap him up and get him to the ground or he’s going to run for a while.”

Jacksonville also features a standout running back in Lamont Gause, who has averaged almost 100 rushing yards per game and is well over that in total yards from scrimmage.

“Week in and week out, I don’t know if there is another conference in this state that has the tailbacks this one has,” Hickingbotham said.

“Mills has the size on the line to open holes for Peters, and a strong-armed quarterback in Race Rodgers who helps to keep defenses honest and not load up on stopping the run.

“You look at them on film and you think it’s hard to find weaknesses,” Hickingbotham said. “They’ve got talent. I think they’re dealing with a lot of the things we’re dealing with. They don’t have a lot of depth, quarterback doesn’t have a lot of experience, and they do some things to shoot themselves in the foot. But we can’t go in there expecting them to make mistakes. That’s a talented and dangerous football team.”