Jasper quarterback Parker Sawyer runs the ball against Madison Academy during their first-round playoff game last week. The Vikings host Central Clay County starting at 7 p.m. today.
Daily Mountain Eagle - Jeff Johnsey
Vikes vs. Vols
Top 10 matchup: No. 1 Jasper (11-0) hosts No. 4 Central Clay County (9-2) in a second-round playoff game tonight at Ki-Ro Gambrell Field tonight. The game will be broadcast on Oldies 101.5 FM.
Top offenses: Jasper holds the No. 1 scoring offense in 5A at 43.3 points per game. Central ranks third in scoring offense at 37.2 points per game.
Perfect record: The Vikings are 11-0 for only the third time in school history. The 1997 and 1999 teams both finished 12-1.
By W. BRIAN HALE Eagle Sports Writer
The Jasper Vikings’ first bout with the Central Clay Volunteers this season was an instant classic, with the two teams battling through regulation into two overtime periods before the visiting Vikings secured a 35-34 victory in Lineville.
With both teams earning first-round wins to open the Class 5A playoffs, Jasper and Central Clay County now turn to tonight’s rematch at Ki-Ro Gambrell Stadium, with a spot in the third-round of postseason on the line.
In the first matchup against the Volunteers, the No. 1 Vikings offense overcame 170 yards of penalties to record an impressive 300 yards of offense.
Two members of Jasper’s offensive effort, quarterback Parker Sawyer and running back J.C. Collins, both played impactful roles in the win. Sawyer completed 11 of 19 passes for 182 yards, while Collins ran for 53 yards on 19 carries with two rushing touchdowns.
Both offensive stalwarts stated their happiness with the rematch being within the friendly confines of Ki-Ro Gambrell Stadium, where the raucous support of the Jasper faithful can give them an edge.
“It’s a much bigger advantage to have the home crowd behind you. Being able to practice here every day this week and then playing here on Friday night is much better for us than having to deal with travel,” Sawyer said. “Our fans and student section always gives us that extra element when it comes to the key moments in the game.”
“At home there’s always more people to come out and support you, which is always a plus. With it being on our turf, we’re much more used to it than Central Clay is — those are things that can make a difference in a close game,” Collins said.
Jasper’s offensive line play has been a source of strength throughout the season, with both Sawyer and Collins praising the effort of their linemen this year.
“We have a great offensive line — a really big one. Their performance this year has been excellent, they’ve held up for me to the point where I’ve felt like I had forever to scan the field and find our receivers,” Sawyer said. “With the running game, they open up holes that anyone can run through — you could drive a truck through it.”
“It’s the best offensive line I’ve ever had. Without them, both myself and Kaden Shelton wouldn’t be able to get the yards we have this season,” Collins said. “Our receivers do a good job too as they get down the field and block for us as well, both Shelton and I, in turn, block for them. For us, it’s about supporting the entire group and our offensive line sets the tone.”
Sawyer feels the better execution will be a key to victory over the Volunteers.
“Our execution has to be much better than it was in the first game, and we have to cut down on the penalties. With 170 yards of penalties, we were put in 3rd and 15 situations, which made picking up the first much more difficult,” Sawyer said. “We have to play fast and stay on the right track.”
Along with shoring-up the penalties, Collins added that sustaining longer drives would be a factor for success.
“We have to stay on the field and be more consistent than we did the last time against them,” Collins said. “I think if we can stay on the field a lot longer we have a chance to put up more points than we did in the first game with Central Clay.”
Other offensive standouts from the first game will look to have another big performance tonight. Shelton also scored two touchdowns, with 57 yards on 11 carries. Denzell Chatman totaled 77 yards receiving, while Xavier Waldrep caught three passes for 49 yards.
Tonight’s postseason rematch will be broadcast live on WJLX 101.5 FM with a 7 p.m. kickoff.