By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
Jacksonville coach Chris Taber summed it up best for the Tigers and Indians headed into Friday’s regular season finale at Tiger Stadium.
“It’s nice knowing you’re in the playoffs in Week 10,” Taber said Wednesday.
It should make for a hard-hitting, intense game between two teams that know each other well. Both teams go into this last game with nothing to lose, knowing they’ll play next week in the first round of the playoffs. They can both focus on getting momentum heading into the postseason.
The only think they don’t know is who their first round opponent will be — there’s still some things to be sorted out in District 15-4A with Waxahachie, Mansfield Summit and Arlington Seguin still battling for the final playoff spot. The Division I and II slots are dependent on which one of those teams joins Red Oak, Lancaster and Ennis in the playoffs.
The Tigers know they’ll play either Red Oak or Lancaster in Midlothian next Friday. Corsicana too would like some momentum going into the playoffs.
“It would be great,” Tigers coach Phil Castles said.
No surprise, it will be a challenge for the ever-evolving Tigers, who may be ready to settle in after a trying season with injuries and other issues.
Their one bell-cow, the offensive line, continues to plow over opponents. The Tigers rushed for 374 yards last week against 9-0 Whitehouse as the offensive line dominated the Wildcats.
“We’re very impressed with their offensive line,” Taber said. “Their coaches to do a great job. They’re physical and great at getting leverage and using different formations.”
The Tigers had another 100-yard rusher against Whitehouse with Ronnie Devearux popping the Wildcats for 173 yards on 30 carries. Tygarius Sheffield gashed them for 75 yards. The Tigers are running physical and doing a much better job of setting up their blockers.
“Our offensive line has been consistent,” Castles said. “They’ve performed well game in and game out.”
Jacksonville has dealt with its own issues on offense with quarterback Carter McCown dealing with an injury. McCown has passed for 669 yards and seven touchdowns.
His replacement, D.D. Franklin, stepped up in a big way in last weeks’ win 27-23 comeback win over Lindale, rushing for 65 yards and completing 19 of 25 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns.
With that said, McCown will play Friday if possible, Taber said, even though the Indians are in the playoffs.
“It’s a game-time decision (with McCown),” Taber said. “He’s a sophomore and he needs to play. The timing issue is going to be big. He has to play. He’s preparing himself to play.”
The Tigers, who played a lot of nickel defense last week, know they’ll must be ready to deal with Franklin’s ability to run if he’s in there. McCown hasn’t been a running threat with 45 yards on 23 carries.
Corsicana’s defense is giving up 35 points per game and gave up three touchdowns in six minutes in the third quarter of last week’s 54-28 loss to Whitehouse.
When asked if there’s a magic number of points the Tigers need to get down to in order to win Friday and win in the playoffs, Castles said there’s not one.
“I’m not a stat guy at all,” he said. “I never have been. Especially when you’re dealing with personnel. Stats have no bearing.”
It all comes down to playing as complete a game as possible, something the Tigers have struggled this season.
“We’ve played good at times,” Castles said. “We’ve been so inconsistent. And inconsistency as far as our lineup is concerned.”
Jacksonville at Corsicana
7:30 p.m. Friday
At Tiger Stadium
Radio: KAND-AM 1340
RECORDS: Class 4A Jacksonville is 4-5, 2-2 in District 16-4A. Corsicana is 3-6, 2-2.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Corsicana: RB Tygarius Sheffield, WR Ashton Newsome, OL Dean Fletes, LB Cedric Weaver, K Ryan Condley. Jacksonville: QB Carter McCown, QB/WR D.D. Franklin, RB Ladarrius Session, CB Lakendrick Anderson, CB Chris Cross.
UPDATE: The Tigers and Indians will play for the first time since 2009, when Jacksonville won at home in the Tomato Bowl, 28-17, as Corsicana got off to an 0-2 start under first-year coach Phil Castles ... the Tigers turned things around, went 6-6 for the season and started a run of four straight playoff seasons including this year ... the Tigers lead the all-time series against Jacksonville going back to 1970, 19-5-1 ... Jacksonville has a first-year coach, Chris Taber, who spent the three previous seasons as the offensive coordinator at Chapel Hill, ironically the school where Castles was when hired by Corsicana in 2009 (they did not coach together at Chapel Hill together) ... Corsicana comes in off a 54-28 loss to Whitehouse ... the Tigers rushed for 374 yards ... QB Zach Rash has passed for 514 yards and nine TDs ... the Tigers are allowing 35 points and 366.9 yards per game ... Weaver leads the Tigers with 85 tackles ... DE Jarrett Hall has nine tackles for a loss ... FS Tenery Walker has two interceptions ... Jacksonville comes in off a 27-23 win over Lindale in which the Indians had to rally twice and then make two key interceptions at the end of the game, clinching a playoff spot ... TE Cory Holman had a career game against Lindale with five catches for 99 yards and two TDs ... Franklin made his fifth straight start at quarterback last week after starting the season at receiver ... he has 1,903 yards rushing, passing and receiving to account for 60 percent of the Indians’ offense ... last week was the first time Jacksonville didn’t have a turnover and the Indians forced five takeaways ... the Indians are 0-4 when they lose the turnover battle ... Jacksonville allowed its fourth safety of the season last week ... the Indians racked up 17 penalties for 144 yards, both season highs ... they have averaged 12.5 penalties per game in four 16-4A games.
— Todd Wills