E.A. Sports Today

Setting the line

Jacksonville developing offensive line to protect its stable of veteran skilled players; older Wellborn team wins first spring game in three years; Anniston gets first spring win under White in shutout

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
 
Jacksonville running back Ron Wiggins burst on the scene last year with the goal of rushing for 2,000 yards and a veteran offensive line in front of him that could help make it happen.
 
This year as everyone wonders what the rising senior will do for an encore his goal is a lot less number-oriented and directed more towards a bigger prize.
 
“Last year I set a goal before the season to get 2,000 and that was my whole mindset, every game give it all I had,” he said. “I really didn’t think about it when I had 2,000 but now that I really think about it not a lot of running backs reach 2,000, not a lot of running backs reach 1,000 so for me to do that it was a big accomplishment. This year (the goal is) just to win a championship, get a ring.”
 
After the monster year he had in 2019 Wiggins won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season. He went over 1,000 yards in five games, clearing the hurdle with a 409-yard effort against Cleburne County, and just kept going. With the Golden Eagles looking at a complete rebuild of their offensive front it might be tough coming close to matching what he did last season. But he isn’t worried.
 
Truth is, the Golden Eagles are stacked when it comes to the skill positions, from Wiggins to quarterback Luke Jackson to Omarion Adams, Jaeden Barksdale and JaeTaj Morris. The key is putting together that line to protect them, and Wiggins for one is confident they’ll be ready in the fall.
 
Right now, that group is Omarion Pope, Kenon Satcher, center Brandon Heard, Deandre Sigler and Dylan Nunn. Demetrius Hamilton also figures in the mix, but he’s been out all spring after breaking a toe the first day. Heard and Nunn are playing football for the first time.
 
Wiggins rushed for 35 yards on seven carries and caught an 11-yard pass in Friday night’s two varsity quarters against Talladega and scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run on the final play of the first quarter. He had a 47-yard touchdown run called back by a penalty and had a 20-yard run in the second quarter, but he also got thrown for a seven-yard loss on his first carry of the game after the Tigers loaded up the box with eight on fourth-and-5 and simply overran the Golden Eagles’ offensive line.
 
“They’re definitely learning right now,” Smith said. “We’ve had nine practices, eight days in pads. This is the first time these guys have had to do any of it. It’s the first start for all five of them so everything is new to them. I just wanted to see them out here tonight and get some reps together. They’ve made strides and are only going to get better. … We’ve got size, we’ve got to get reps in. It’s a work in progress.”
 
The Golden Eagles won the JV quarter with seventh-grader Jim Ogle hooking up with Jayden Zapata for a touchdown and two-point conversion with 14.4 seconds to play. It was Ogle’s second touchdown pass of the session. All of the scoring in the quarter came in the final 2:45.
 
Jacksonville     14 14 15 – 43
Talladega        0 0 14 – 14
J – Omarion Adams 7 pass from Luke Jackson (Mason Terrell kick), 3:52 1Q
J – Ron Wiggins 1 run (Mason Terrell kick), 0:00 1Q
J – JaeTaj Morris 55 run (Mason Terrell kick), 7:20 2Q
J – Jaeden Barksdale 70 pass from Luke Jackson (Mason Terrell kick), 31.6 2Q
(JV quarter)
T – Jayln Lawson pass from Jayden Wells (pass failed), 2:45 3Q
J – Jacoby Zachary pass from Jim Ogle (Mason Terrell kick), 2:05 3Q
T – Jayln Lawson pass from Jayden Wells (Makari Green pass from Jayden Wells)
J – Jayden Zapata pass from Jim Ogle (Jayden Zapata pass from Jim Ogle), 14.4 3Q

Wellborn scores spring W

Whether it was the new practice schedule or the experienced lineup, Wellborn won its first spring game in three years, beating Cedar Bluff in the varsity half 29-13 and winning the JV quarter 14-7.
 
The Panthers spread the wealth around the backfield and got touchdowns from four different players – Jett Smith, Calvin Spinks, Kentrez Hunt and Justin Berry. Hunt rushed for 79 yards, Spinks had 68 and Berry had 67. The most significant stat of the game for Panthers coach Jeff Smith was he got to play all 51 players in the game.
 
Unlike years past the Panthers went with a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday practice routine the first two weeks of spring practice, then last week went Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before playing the game Friday night.
 
“I was scared they might be too ready too soon,” Jeff Smith said. “Early in the week they were ready to play and I was just hoping they would hold it and not lose it before the end of the week.  Getting that middle day off made a difference.
 
“We played better this spring game than we had the last three spring games, but guess what, we’re older. Two years ago, we played Alexandria with a bunch of eighth and ninth graders, last year we played (Pleasant Valley) with a bunch of ninth and tenth graders and this year now they’re 11thand 12thgraders. It’s been three years since we won a spring game so it’s nice to win one again.”
 
Interestingly, both teams played the majority of the varsity half with backup quarterbacks as both starters were injured on the same play when Wellborn’s Smith sustained a concussion tackling Cedar Bluff’s Luke Hampton (knee) on the third play of the game. Smith stayed in the game a while longer, but had no recollection of how the Panthers scored their first two touchdowns.
 
Both backups acquitted themselves well. Wellborn’s Tanner McQueen led the Panthers to one score and completed a 34-yard pass to Logan Hill before being intercepted in the red zone. Cedar Bluff’s Samuel Cosby broke off a 16-yard run on his first play under center, later scored a touchdown and was 7-of-11 passing for 90 yards.
 
“I thought we did some really good things on both sides of the football,” Smith said. “Jett got hurt a little bit right there, but we had some players step up. We were a little out of sorts for a couple series, then we got it back together and started playing pretty good on defense.”

Cedar Bluff      0 13 7 – 20
Wellborn         21 8 14 – 43
W – Jett Smith 11 run (Brandon Moralse kick), 6:12 1Q
W – Calvin Spinks 1 run (kick failed), 3:04 1Q
W – Kentrez Hunt 5 run (Logan Brooks run), 19.8 1Q
C – Samuel Cosby 1 run (Nick Clifton kick)
C – Trey Stitts 26 run (run failed), 6:05 2Q
W – Justin Berry 53 run (Calvin Spinks run), 5:16 2Q
(JV quarter)
W – Tavarus Berry fumble recovery in end zone (run failed), 6:17 3Q
C – Jacob Gordon 12 run (Junior Abernathy kick), 4:13 3Q
W – Jesse Lewis 43 run (Xavier Parker run), 3:01 3Q

Bulldogs blank Weaver

WEAVER – Brandon Roberts and Arcavius Brown both rushed for over 100 yards and John Foster had three sacks to lead a fast, physical defense as Anniston blanked Weaver 35-0.

Roberts (140), Brown (105) and Quin Griffin combined for 275 yards and four touchdowns on the ground for the Bulldogs. Roberts had an 80-yard touchdown run and Brown, a transfer from Cleburne County, scored twice.
 
Anniston scored two shutouts last fall and held three of its last four regular-season opponents – all wins – to six points or fewer.
 
The Bulldogs didn’t play a spring game last year so this was their first spring victory under coach Rico White. It was Weaver’s first spring game under new coach Justin Taylor.

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