'Next man up' for banged-up Jags
South Central to be without starting QB again this week
By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Farmville Central’s football team hits the road for the first time Friday night, making the trip to Greene Central.
That much, head coach Scott Gardner can tell you for sure. What the Jaguars look like when they get there will be anyone’s guess.
The injury bug, which seems to never be looming too far from Gardner’s squad, decided to bite during last week’s 21-7 home loss to Ayden-Grifton. A couple of key injuries out of that game, paired with some lingering nicks and scrapes, has left Gardner scratching his head when it comes to what his lineup will be against the Rams.
“I don’t know. We’ll find out,” he said before practice Monday. “We’re going to get out here today and piecemeal something together, but I’m not exactly sure what we’re going to do. We’ll get out on the field and compete and move on.”
Starting quarterback Jay Leavelle suffered a broken left hand on the Jaguars’ first drive against A-G and is out indefinitely, though Gardner said it’s possible he could return before the season is over. The QB position likely will be manned by the combination of senior Zach Brady and junior Jaden Johnson for the foreseeable future.
Wide receiver Kam McNeill suffered an ankle against the Chargers and his status is up in the air, as well. Running back Bryan Reid, linebacker Malik Perkins and defensive end Brandon Simmons — all starters — are all either questionable or out for Friday’s game with injuries.
The rash of maladies puts the 2017 season right in line with the last two years in Farmville, where an inability to stay healthy hampered the Jaguars and led to records of 5-7 and 6-6. The last time the Jags made it through a season relatively intact, they went 11-3 in 2014.
“We’re at a small school, and we’ve got top-tier athletes at some positions ... but when you take them off the field, we drop down to a below-average team,” Gardner said. “We’ve got some really good players, but not a whole lot of them, and then you drop down to your next group which is sophomores and freshmen, and the numbers in our school are just not conducive to having injuries. Unfortunately, the last couple of years, we’ve been plagued with them.
“We’ve got the mindset of next man up. We’re going to find somebody to go out there and go play.”
Gardner isn’t the only coach in the county with a quarterback that’s on the shelf, but South Central head coach Andy Tew has a much better picture of what his offense looks like without senior Dexter McDuffie.
Junior Caleb Woodley threw for 248 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 40-7 victory over North Pitt in relief of McDuffie, who is nursing a strained right shoulder. Tew said Monday that McDuffie will also likely miss this week’s contest against Hertford County.
Where the Falcons’ offense is tailored to take advantage of McDuffie’s running ability, it had to be shifted against the Panthers to be more conducive to Woodley’s ability as a pocket passer. That will continue with this week’s preparation for the Bears (2-1).
“Caleb has been the backup all summer and all that kind of stuff, so we know what his strengths are and what Dexter’s strengths are, so it wasn’t a real big mystery once he got in the game and once we knew we were going to have to go with him,” said Tew, whose team is 3-1. “The one thing I really liked to see was in practice all week, the guys really rallied behind him and really believed he could lead them on the field and get them a victory, so the transition and putting him out there (Friday night) was fairly easy.”
J.H. Rose, Pitt County’s only winless football team, returned to practice Monday after taking a 54-0 loss Friday night at Havelock.
The Rampants (0-4) struggled mightily against the Rams, falling behind 33-0 at halftime and being shut out for the first time in head coach Dave Wojtecki’s four-plus years at the helm.
Next up is a trip to Franklinton (3-1) for Rose’s final nonconference game of the season, where Wojtecki said he thought his team could begin to right the ship.
“I think we can get a win on Friday and that will boost confidence a little bit, then hopefully go play well against South Central and try to get a streak started after that,” he said Monday night. “I think they know that we have a lot of talent. At some point, we’re going to break through and we’re going to get really good.”
Contact Jordan Anders at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.