The 39-14 loss was not indicative of the Bulldogs’ team, but the sting of the loss spurred the south Alabama team to a six-game win streak, which they will ride into the Aggies’ Legion Field Friday.
While Jackson had a heavy hand in their own success, Coach Terry Curtis knows all too well when you throw five interceptions, you probably are not going to bring home a victory.
“We had just lost our running back and our center the week before, so that kind of caused us a little turmoil,” Curtis said. “Especially losing the center, the guy that makes all the calls up there."
"Hopefully, we have made some changes that will help. Jackson showed some weaknesses, and we have moved some people around and put them in other positions. Hopefully, we will be a little better this time.”
Jackson junior defensive back Laprintess Morris (5-9, 170) plucked three passes from the Bulldogs' offense in the last meeting, so it won’t hurt the Bulldogs that sophomore running back Chris Dukes (5-7, 180) is back from a mid-season injury.
“He runs tough,” Curtis said. “He was hurt and missed two and a half games. He came back in game seven and most of game eight, and then came back in the ninth. He’s getting back in playing shape and playing well."
"For a sophomore, he is probably as tough a runner as I have ever had. He doesn’t let up on anybody, and he will run inside and outside. He has great vision, so he’s a big part of the offense.”
Curtis was quick to let it be known the interceptions from that game was not going to keep the ball on the ground all night.
“We like to throw our play action pass, so when they get on our running game it makes our passing game better."
"The last few weeks we have thrown for a lot of yards. Bragg Foshee (6-0, 175, junior quarterback) is playing a lot better. They stacked the box against us the last two weeks, and we have thrown for over 200 yards in the playoff games because of that.”
Foshee’s main targets are senior Brock Reaves (5-10, 160) and sophomore Chase Williamson (6-0, 185) at the receiver position.
“Reaves has caught close to 1,000 yards,” Curtis said. “Williamson has about 600-700 yards, so right now we’ve been able to do pretty well with both of them. That always helps.”
We asked Coach Curtis what his team would have to do defensively to stop the Aggies, a team that averages just over 34 points per game.
“We’ve moved Al Gilmore (Sr. 5-9, 190) to inside linebacker, and put Parker Hollinghead (Sr. 6-1, 215), probably our best defensive player, back down and that is where he played as a sophomore and junior."
"He is more comfortable, and that has really solidified our defense and helped our pass rush. He just knows how to play the game, and with Al playing inside he can run a little bit better and what he gives up in know-how he makes up for with effort. So those guys have been playing a lot better and tackling a lot better.”
Wrapping up tackles was another area coach Curtis felt his team did not do well in the first meeting. While it appears the Bulldogs are looking for revenge in this game, it is more basic than that. They want a little vindication of their own abilities.
“I was pulling for Thomasville,” coach Curtis said. “I wanted a home game. I know the importance of playing at home, but our players were pulling for Jackson. They wanted another shot. I don’t think it’s because they want to show they can beat them, they just want to show that they are a lot better than what they played last time. They understand it is going to be a tough game. I told them to watch out for what you wish for, you might get it.”
This is the second trip to Jackson this year. While everyone wants a home game, Curtis will play the hand he is dealt.
“We’re excited about going to Jackson," he said. "We know that it is going to be a big crowed. Like I told them yesterday, any time you play in the third round everybody is good.”
“Neither team is going to take the other one lightly, although they beat us pretty good last time. I think they realize our tradition and so forth, and I’m sure we are going to get their A-game.”
When Curtis says the Bulldogs have tradition and playoff experience he is not tilting at windmills. UMS-Wright are past champions from 2001, 2002 and 2005. They have made the final eight teams in 3A, 4A and 5A every year since Coach Terry Curtis took the helm in 1999.
“If there is an advantage it may be that we have been in a lot of playoff games like this," he explained. "There is nothing like experience, whether it is seniors, juniors, whatever. The ones that have been-there-and-done-that a few times can have a definite advantage, sometimes.”
Another point Curtis is not so sure about is the losing team having an upper hand in a rematch.
“Sometimes that is good, and sometimes it is not so good," he said. "They have a fine ball club, and they won the region. They always say it is hard to beat somebody a second time, but in my years, it seems like beating someone the first time at least you know you can beat them. That gives you more confidence. There is a lot at stake. We think we are a lot better than we were at that time, and hopefully it will be a better ballgame than it was last time.”
Yratings.com lists this game as one of the tightest of the week with UMS-Wright's power rating at 120.7 vs. Jackson's 119.8. One-point Bulldog advantage.
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