Posted: Jul 16, 2014 9:50 AM
Updated: Sep 5, 2014 11:06 PM
|8 / 22||McCluer North||Home||Win||17 - 0|
|8 / 29||Christian Brothers College||Home||Loss||0 - 47|
|9 / 5||Hickman||Home||Win||25 - 7|
|9 / 12||DeSmet||Away||Win||34 - 0|
|9 / 19||Rogers (Arkansas)||Home|
|9 / 26||Rock Bridge||Home|
|10 / 3||Confluence Academy||Home|
|10 / 10||Battle||Away|
|10 / 17||Rockhurst||Away|
|10 / 24||Districts|
The Jefferson City Jays football team has been a model of consistency during Head Coach Ted LePage's time at the helm. They have gone 60-28 during his eight seasons in charge, just about in line with LePage's astounding 0.700 career winning percentage. Considering all that, a record of 6-4 in 2013 stands as a slightly middling season. The Jays, though, did play one of the toughest schedules in the state, and nearly every one of their games was decided in the fourth quarter. Their season ended on a tough break, as they defeated Rock Bridge in the last week of the regular season, only to turn around and lose to them the very next week in the playoffs. Rock Bridge went on to play in the state championship game.
But Jefferson City brings back the vast majority of its players from last season. A staggering 41 lettermen return to the squad, with eight starters coming back on both offense and defense. Says Coach LePage, "Many players return and they should use their experiences to get faster starts in games." Slow starts, he felt, were a major problem in 2013. And if anything, the way last season ended for the Jays has only made them hungrier. "Competition has been a key component in the offseason for positions, which has made for an exciting environment." There's a certain electric current running throughout the squad, and with the firepower they bring back, there certainly should be.
The offense was arguably the team's strongpoint in 2013, and it should be again this year. Says LePage, "Many of the skill players return and that should help in their development in 2014." Senior Elijah Pittman (6-10, 210) leads this nice group of skill players. As a starter in 2013, Pittman rushed 116 times for 593 yards and 7 TDs. A large, punishing rusher who relishes running the ball between the tackles, a nice off-season in the weight room should only make him scarier for opposing defenses. His numbers figure to shoot up across the board. He'll be receiving his handoffs from senior QB Isaac Roling (5-9, 165). Roling has got quick legs and an accurate arm, as he showed in 2013 by going 5-6 with 101 yards. Luckily for him, he has a trio of starting WRs returning to toss the ball to. Senior Jake Pridgin (5-9, 175) has already started for the Jays for two years. He was the focal point of the wideout crew in 2013, catching 28 balls for 238 yards and 6 TDs. Junior Daniel Ellinger (6-3, 180) should be much improved with another year of experience under his belt. An ideal-sized receiver, Ellinger had 14 catches for 196 yards and 2 TDs last year. Senior Ripken Dodson (5-10, 175) added another 207 yards on 18 receptions in 2013. Senior Jacob Gourley (5-10, 170) will provide depth at the position.
Coach LePage loves the way his "offensive line and skill players have a great chemistry they have developed with a great off-season." And with four starters returning, it's the O-line that'll likely get the lion's share of attention. "The offensive line returns four starters and should work well as a unit because of their unity developed last year and in the off-season," LePage says. The group is comprised of massive junior Anthony Murphy (6-4, 270), who played well as a sophomore last season, and three seniors -- Tanner Jenkins (6-2, 260), Brendan Baker (5-10, 205), and Ra'jae Scott (6-0, 275). Junior Charles Nelson (6-2, 225) will join them. With their size and experience, this O-line will make stopping the run and getting to the QB extremely difficult tasks for defenses across Missouri.
Speaking of defenses, the Jays figure to be pretty solid there as well. A dominant LB corps, led by senior Austin Gerloff (6-205), is ready to make some big noise. Gerloff notched 61 solo tackles last year, 8 assisted, and added 1 sack. Starting alongside him once again will be fellow seniors Travis Burris (6-2, 210), Paul Harris (6-1, 200), and Austin Holland (6-0, 200). LePage especially likes the way this group challenges each other every day. Senior Alex Tharp (5-10, 175) offers them all the depth they'll need. Three more starters return to the secondary. Senior DB Darryl Williams (5-10, 165) brings back a wealth of skill and experience, as do senior Zach Bond (5-10, 165) and junior Izaya Sands (5-11, 180). Sophomore RaShawn Woods (5-10, 185) will also see some time at DB.
Ryan Adams (6-0, 280) returns to again anchor the D-line with Scott. The two combined for 69 tackles and 4 sacks last season. This year, they'll be joined by seniors Zane Coleman (6-1, 235) and Jermiez Booker (6-2, 230), and junior Tekoah Sage (5-10, 190). The Jeff City defense boasts size and speed across the board, and should allow far less than the 24 points per game they surrendered in 2013.
For his players, Coach LePage preaches consistency and hard work in the off-season. "Now," he says, "they must continue that growth in the in-season." This is the type of team who can make some noise in any season.
Pigskin's Pick: 7-2