Jackson and Clarke County have met in 102 football contests but seldom has there been the excitement that exists in the two communities over this year’s match up. Coach Danny Powell has had great success since becoming Jackson’s head coach-four trips to the semi finals and a state championship in 2011. Clarke County’s new coach Stacy Luker won five state championships at Sweetwater and has created a buzz in southwest Alabama about his arrival as leader of the Bulldogs. “I hear people talking about the coaches, but I have never made one tackle or scored one TD when my team played his,” says Luker.
This contest is scheduled for Thursday night in Grove Hill. Both coaches like opening up with a county rival. ” It’s a good crowd and a good atmosphere for our players. It allows us to find out something about ourselves. Stacy being there just adds to it,” Powell says. He also likes playing on Thursday night. “It’s a short week, but because both teams and communities are so excited about opening the season, it doesn’t seem so short.” Luker said that opening up with Jackson is great for his team to prepare them for their tough region schedule down the road. “We won’t see anyone else like them athletically, and they are really well coached,” he says.
Jackson scrimmaged Leroy last week in a preseason contest and Coach Powell said his squad didn’t look good. “We have some young offensive linemen and we have to find a way to run the ball better. Leroy kept us from doing that last week,” Powell says. “We’ve just got to get the right people in the right places.” Powell said that he hoped the Aggie’s speed on defense, led by linebacker A.J. Sellars, will help until the running game improves. Without a better running game, a victory over Clarke County may be tough. Powell says that the Bulldogs possess great speed on defense.
Luker believes his team needs to get off to a good start in September. “It would help validate the work and practice we have put in so far,” he says. “I think our players have done a good job of preparing for the season and learning our style of play.” He recognizes that one of the differences in the two teams is the previous success of the Jackson Aggies. “They have played in a lot of big games and those guys know how to win,” he says. Luker says he thinks his team may need a few breaks to win the game. “We have to get the game to the second half. The last few years Jackson has had a big lead at halftime.” Luker also thinks his quarterback, senior Ray Horn, needs to have a good game for the Bulldogs if they are to be in the game at the end.
Jackson knows that in order to win the game they will have to stop Clarke County’s junior receiver Jason Ivory. He caught two TD passes last week in the Bulldogs’ preseason game with Sweetwater, one a 99 yarder. “They will throw it to him,” says Powell. “Stacy prefers to run the ball, but even he will throw it to this guy.”
The coaches are expecting rain, and mistakes, particularly in the kicking game, could be the difference. Both teams have great speed which could be neutralized by the weather and turn this one into a physical battle of defense and running games. But regardless, the citizens of Jackson and Grove Hill are ready for the 103rd edition of this rivalry.