GILMER — After last week's 37-20 loss to Palestine, the Jacksonville Indians (1-1) hit the button — not the panic button, but the reset button — before rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on Monday with preparations needed to hopefully earn a victory at Gilmer on Friday night (kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Buckeye Stadium).
Last week's loss in the Tribe's home opener took many of the Jacksonville faithful by surprise after the Indians opened the year with an exciting upset win over then No. 3-ranked (Class 3A) Carthage.
Jacksonville head coach Chris Taber had this to say about his team sipping from the cup of defeat for the first time last week.
“We went into the (Palestine) game with a misconception coming off a win at Carthage in a game that no one had picked us to win,” he said. “I think the kids approached our second game with the idea that we were just going to win because we had won the previous week.”
Taber said that he feels his team's downfall was more mental than physical.
“I didn't think the focus was there last week,” he said. “We missed blocks, had bad snaps, we had missed reads by the quarterback, we had a couple of fumbles, receivers dropped passes...the little things kept snow balling and we found ourselves in a rut that we couldn't get out of.”
Taber also added that he takes full responsibility for the way his squad performed in the Palestine game.
“I didn't have the team locked in and focused and ready to play like we were in the game against Carthage,” he said. “That's why we play non-district games though, and this experience could actually be a blessing for us.
“If it had to happen, I'm glad it happened now and not in the second week of district. There is a lesson to learn from this”
Turning attention to Gilmer, the Buckeyes are also 1-1 on the year.
Gilmer, who holds a 2-6-0 advantage in the series with the Tribe, defeated Atlanta 31-17 in Week 0, but were hammered, 42-12, by a formidable Plano Prestonwood Christian squad that had steamrolled Henderson in the Lions' den the week before — Gilmer and Henderson are considered to be two of the stronger teams in District 16-3A.
Prestonwood Christian has at least four NCAA Division I signees or commits on their roster with several of the players having genealogical roots that trace back to former Dallas Cowboys.
For the Buckeyes of head coach Jeff Traylor (135-23-0), the game will be a bit of anomaly in that it is both the home opener and homecoming all rolled into one.
Jacksonville has had recent success at Buckeye Stadium.
In the 2010 game, which was the first time the Tribe and the Buckeyes had met since 1957, Jacksonville dished out a 43-26 loss to Gilmer to spoil the evening for the home fans.
With Carter McCown not expected to play this week due to a upper-body injury, questions abound as to who will be quarterbacking the Tribe come Friday night.
Trevor Ewalt started and played most of the game last week, but was unable to generate any points.
Dadrian Franklin came in late in the game and tossed two touchdown passes — the first to Darrell Minifee (30 yards) and one to Londedric Taylor that was from 20-yards out.
Taber said that both young men have been getting plenty of reps under center during practice this week and a decision on who will start will be made after today's workout.
“Ewalt (14-of-26, 131 yards) did a good job Friday, but you could tell that there was a different sense around our offense and I think the kids had trouble with the unity.
“It's chemistry, and I didn't feel like it was there Friday on both sides of the ball. When (Bryson) Haywood went down I think our defense struggled with figuring out who they were to rally around.”
According to Taber, Haywood, who led the team in tackles last year, is listed as probable for the Gilmer game, which is excellent news for the Indians.
In his short time at quarterback last week, Franklin rushed for 57 yards and went 7-of-12 through the air for 106 yards. In short, he accounted for 56-percent of the Indians' total offense.
“D.D. (Franklin) is tall (6-foot-5) and very athletic and he gives us some more options,” Taber said. “He gave us a spark last week and the kids seemed to rally around him in the fourth quarter.”
Offensively the Buckeyes are young in spots and are still working to solidify things.
Junior quarterback Tanner Barr went 12-of-17 for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Atlanta.
He has several capable receivers to chose from, including DeVondrick Dixon and Chase Tate.
Taber said that he expects Gilmer to try to establish the ground attack first — the Orange and Black rushed for 180 yards in the win over the Rabbits.
Gilmer's much-heralded Black Flag defense is an experienced bunch that seem to be working well together.
Proof of this was the Buckeyes' ability to limit Atlanta's Corian Webster, an Oklahoma State signee, to just 123 yards.
Gilmer only gave up 54 passing yards in their Week 0 victory.
“Whenever you play Gilmer you know you are going up against a might-fine football team,” Taber said. “Those coaches have been up for there a long time and they have an established program that their kids are very familiar with.”