E.A. Sports Today

Thunder tackling familiar foe

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of previews on Calhoun County high school football teams.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Sometimes a team never gets the chance to avenge a bitter season-ending loss. Jacksonville Christian only had to wait 10 months.

Thanks to reclassification and compatible scheduling issues, the Thunder will be opening the 2014 season Friday night against the same team – Shades Mountain Christian — and in the same place their 2013 season ended on a last-second field goal.

“I won’t say much (about that game),” JCA coach Tommy Miller said. “I will remind them of how things went right there at the end — how we lost the game – but it’s more a reminder of what we didn’t do instead of what they did.”

And they didn’t do was finish. The Thunder had an opportunity to put the game away on its final possession and didn’t. Then, it had the Eagles third-and-14 at their 20; one more stop and it could close it out.

They almost got it. Then-eighth-grader Walker Messer almost intercepted the Eagles’ desperation pass, but was called for pass interference the Thunder staff still can’t find on film. The first down extended the drive that produced the game-winning field goal and the bad taste that lingered until Friday’s opportunity for payback.

The Thunder have a few more players to replace than the Eagles, who were only 2-7 last year but received votes in this year’s Class 1A preseason poll. But they return a big piece in quarterback Daylon Brackett, the Class 1A all-state quarterback.

Brackett passed for nearly 2,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,400 a year ago; he had 545 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns in a high-scoring win over Coosa Christian. He’s back in a JCA uniform for his senior year despite being courted in the offseason by some county public schools identified only as those the Thunder doesn’t play.

Miller believes Brackett can produce the same type numbers again, but receivers Kris Armprester and Messer have to have good years and the Thunder will have to be able to move the ball on the ground. Armprester, a questionable starter for the opener due to a slow-responding injury, had 1,323 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.

“I think people are going to play (Brackett) different this year,” Miller said. “When we played Donoho last year it was touchdown after touchdown and coach (Shannon) Felder said if he knew then what he knew now he’d have played the whole thing completely different and I look for that.

“How they’re going to play him exactly I think will be different from team to team, but I think they’re going to try to make some changes to try to stop him.”

When it comes to boots on the ground, Thomas Orms has moved from tackle to fullback and Andre Garner has been moved to tailback. They’ll run behind a line that’s anchored by returning starters Keith Trantham, Josh Thornton and Jonah Parker. Dalton Hughes has taken the tackle slot vacated by Orms. The other guard spot is still up for grabs.

As one of the smallest schools in the classification, JCA continually battles limited numbers. Miller expects to dress 19 or 20 players for the opener, with about 14 or 15 seeing considerable playing time.

The situation particularly affects the Thunder defensively. They gave up 40 points or more in seven straight games last year, including four straight of at least 55.

“We’re going to have to really play well (to win the opener),” Miller said. “If we stay healthy I think we will be a better football team in a month. We’re getting ready to play and we’re still making mistakes. If we can just stay healthy I think in a few weeks we’ll be better than we are right now.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

Aug. 22 — at Shades Mountain Christian
Aug. 29
Sept. 5 — at Woodville
Sept. 12 — Coosa Christian
Sept. 19 — Cedar Bluff
Sept. 26 — at Alabama School for the Deaf
Oct. 3 — at Gaylesville
Oct. 10 — at Spring Garden
Oct. 17 — Valley Head
Oct. 24 — Waterloo
Oct. 31 — Verbena

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