Jacksonville's Indians will launch the new season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the new and improved Historic Tomato Bowl.
Unfortunately, the Tribe's opponent — No. 2-ranked (Class 4A-I) Carthage — hasn't changed. Just another in a long line of extremely talented Bulldog teams will be on hand and have the honors of being the first team to oppose the Tribe inside the remodeled Tomato Bowl.
Carthage has 30 lettermen and 14 starters back from last year's 14-1 state semi-finalist team.
One of those wins came at the Indians' expense — the Bulldogs, who have won six of the last seven meetings against the Tribe, pounced on the Tribe 61-20 last year at Bulldog Stadium.
In that game the Indians made several mistakes early on and dug themselves a deep hole that proved impossible to climb out of.
“Our motto for this season is, 'We don't beat ourselves',” Jacksonville head football coach Wayne Coleman said. “We have been preaching that around here. Look, Carthage is plenty good enough to beat us, we don't need to help them out any... more games are lost than won.”
In Jacksonville's lone scrimmage last Friday the Indians beat Bullard 21-14.
Coleman said that he saw good things in the dress rehearsal from his club, as well as well as some things that the team has been addressing heavily in practice this week.
“Our effort in the scrimmage was good enough to beat Carthage, but our execution wasn't,” he said. “Everything has to be done close to perfection in order to be able to beat those guys. I think they have had one average season in the last 10 years.”
Coleman said that he was pleased with the play of the team's new quarter, Patrick Clater (6'1”-180 lbs.) and that the offensive line provided good pass protection against the Bullard defense.
Conversely, he stated that the offensive line would have to improve in opening up some holes for the Tribe's backs to run through, as Jacksonville averaged just over three yards a carry against a Bullard defense that isn't exactly one of the tops in East Texas.
“Our run game has to improve,” Coleman said.
Bryson Tatum (5'-10”, 175), Aaron Richardson (5'-10”, 190) and Kasey Canady (5'-10”, 170) are expected to see time in the backfield behind Clater.
Jacksonville had success throwing the ball against Bullard with Colorado-commit Chris Carpenter (6'-0”, 170) and Jaylon Freeney (5'-10”, 170) being Clater's favorite targets.
As for the Bulldogs, Coleman said the defensive coaches are really challenged in preparing a game plan this week because they are not sure which Carthage quarterback will get most of the playing time.
“They have a big kid that is your traditional pocket passer and then they have a small kid that is a scrambler,” he said. “It is hard to prepare when you are not sure which one you will be facing.”