By CHARLIE CHITWOOD
The problem with following along more than one high school football poll or rankings, is that they’re either skewed by the perception of distant voters or by some football-centric algorithm that tells you by exactly how many points one team should come out atop another.
Both have their merits and certainly in the case of the Associated Press’ weekly poll, most of the respect. The Harris Ratings has been around for decades – coaches and sports writers alike longed for every Wednesday’s mail – but over the past decade, on-line resources like PigskinPrep.com and Dave Campbell’s texasfootball.com have chimed in with respected work.
Jefferson had just one vote for one point in last week’s AP Poll, but with their third win over a Class 4A program comprising most of a 4-0 non-district record, the pollsters took another look after Jack Stallard raised the first flag. The Dawgs are on the cusp of the Class 3A Top 10, ranked 11th behind West Rusk in a list that includes the best of BOTH large-school and small-school divisions.
If you separate the two divisions, Jefferson would find itself at #5 in the AP Poll and three steps ahead of where they stand in this week’s PigskinPrep rankings. The Bulldogs would be the top-rated Region II team as well but for the surprising resurgence of Gladewater. The Bears are undefeated like Jefferson bur raising eyebrows after strong victories over Spring Hill, Atlanta and last week at Pleasant Grove, 44-37.
The rest of District 7-3A is scattered throughout the 106 teams ranked in the classification. Atlanta’s at #24 with Mt. Vernon #25. Hughes Springs is currently at #45 while Hooks has been a little surprise, even at #51. Redwater’s ranked #76 while New Boston – Jefferson’s district-opening opponent tomorrow night – is believed to be better than only six of all the Class 3A-DI teams in Texas. Pity those Lions some – much less win a ballgame, they’ve managed to get into the end zone only once in four games, being outscored 146-8.
Dave Campbell’s respected Top 10 list didn’t include the Dawgs but West Rusk is ranked #5, Gladewater #6 and fellow Region-II denizen Kemp at #8.
All of that’s from the outside looking in, of course. From a closer perspective, I don’t think any list including Jefferson amongst the Top Five in Region II is off. Antwain Jimmerson’s talented squad has shown for two years how entertaining they be when matched against teams with similar skill-sets. That they’re able to get more of their big yardage between the hashmarks and not just on the edge speaks volumes to an improved offensive line. Flip the coin, and the defensive front has been equally challenging for opposing teams. As Jimmerson said talking about Trace Smith’s low tackle numbers but stellar play at North Lamar, “you don’t WANT your safety of secondary guys to be your leading tacklers. That Trace had such a big game without all the tackles just shows you how much better our defensive line has gotten.”
The Bulldogs 12 ballcarriers have outgained their four opponents 1,470-383 in rushing yardage, an astounding 11.4 yards per carry average and the source of eight of Jefferson’s 10 offense-produced touchdowns. Through the airways, Kylan Thomas has merely connected on 19-of-30 passes for 331 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Thomas, of course, taking the reigns when Trey Hodge was injured in the Pittsburg game.
Defensively, Jefferson’s linebacking corps of Brennan Varnell, Kannon Glover and Malik Cannon are looking more and more impenetrable, bolstered up front with Tyler Cherry, Dylan Griffin, Eric Gipson and Jacari Mosely.
As long as Jefferson’s depth isn’t much further tested by injury, this is the kind of team you can get excited about. The Dawgs played a more rugged non-district schedule than the past two years and while it was still no back-breaker (Pittsburg and Center aren’t faring as well as expected), tested Jefferson where Antwain Jimmerson wanted it most.
In the trenches.
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