The Jacksonville Indians will welcome with open arms the beginning of the second phase of their 2013 schedule which will get under way Friday night at 7:30 p.m. when the Tribesmen entertain Nacogdoches in the District 16-4A opener. Kick off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Tomato Bowl.
“You have three parts to your schedule, the non-district games, the district games, and if things go well, the playoffs,” Jacksonville head coach, Chris Taber, explained.
The non-district schedule was not kind to the Indians, with Jacksonville taking an 0-5 record into Friday's affair.
For comparisons sake, the vastly-improved Dragons are 4-1 on the year
Regardless of what any team's non-conference record is prior to Friday night, when the whistle blows at 7:30 p.m. every outfit in the circuit will be 0-0 again in the only portion of the schedule that really matters — the all-important district docket.
“All that really matters right now is at the end of the night on Friday three teams will be 1-0 and three teams will be 0-1, and we want to be one of those teams that are 1-0,” Taber said. “It doesn't matter if you go into district 5-0 or 0-5 because its what you do in those five district ball games that matter most.”
With an open date last Friday, the Tribe have had 11 days to get ready for the league lid lifter.
Taber said that his club has been more concerned with cleaning up various elements of their game and working on execution during the past week and a half, as opposed to installing new plays and the like.
“We have been working on getting better at what we do,” Taber said.
The down time has resulted in the Tribe coming into Friday's game in their best physical condition since Zero Week.
“We've been able to get some kids that were dinged up back healthy again and that really makes a difference when you have 11 different kids working together on each side of the ball,” Taber said.
With the return of a handful of players from the disabled list, Taber and company have been able to return some of the sophomores and freshmen that have been pressed into service back to the sub-varsity teams.
“We wanted to get some of the younger kids back to the teams that they belong on,” Taber said. “We'll see more juniors and seniors on the field Friday night, and at this time of the year that's what it should be.”
Taber said that practices last week and early this week have been spirited and that the team is welcoming the fresh start.
“Our focus is on what is ahead of us and not what has happened in the past,” he said. “We know that if we can win two of our last five games that we will be in the playoffs and that was one of our goals from the start.”
There's a new breed of Dragons roaming around Nacogdoches this year, as the team's opponents have been discovering this fall. Forget the fact that the Tribe have won the last five meetings with the Dragons — the last time Nacogdoches defeated Jacksonville was on Oct. 19, 2007 when the Black and Gold prevailed 31-7 at Tomato Bowl.
With 30 lettermen, 18 of which are starters, returning from last season's 0-10 club, it's easy to see why the Dragons, coached by Bobby Reyes, will be bringing a 4-1 record to town this week.
Nacogdoches has earned wins over Henderson, Lufkin, Hallsville and Pine Tree, while losing by four points to Carthage (44-40).
The Dragons and the Indians share two common opponents, Carthage and Henderson.
Jacksonville lost by 14 points to Carthage and by 20 points to Henderson, while the Dragons beat Henderson by three touchdowns in a Zero Week game that was played in Henderson.
Taber, who served as an offensive assistant at Nacogdoches in 2002-05, holds the fire breathers in high esteem.
“This is the best Nacogdoches team in 20 years,” he said. “Their kids are big and physical and they play to win.”
The Dragons have made a living running the football this year, and Taber said that he isn't expecting the Dragons to change now.
“To beat Nacogdoches you have to stop the run,” he said. “They have a big offensive line that is very experienced and they like to line up and run the ball right at you behind those big lineman They are very good at doing that.”
Coronado Tolbert drives the Dragon's rushing bus. He's averaging 4.5 yards per touch and racked up 96 yards on 21 carries in last week's 45-14 thrashing of Pine Tree.