By BRUCE W. SINGLETON, CJ Correspondent
The number three seed Somerset Briar Jumpers travel to number one Prestonsburg tonight in round three of the Class 2A football tournament.
Somerset’s record is 7-4. Prestonsburg’s is 7-5. Somerset has won the last 4 games it has played. Prestonsburg has won the last 5.
On paper, the teams are pretty evenly-matched. The big difference is the Black Cats got to sleep in their own beds last night and the Briar Jumpers have to travel about 3 hours on a school bus before they get to walk onto the field.
That is a far different road from the past four years. Somerset has enjoyed the advantage of staying home deep into the playoffs since 2009. This year, Somerset has not gotten to play even one playoff game at home.
As they travel to Prestonsburg, the Briar Jumpers are also aware that they are about to take on one of the most talented quarterbacks in the state. Junior Jarredd Jarrell can throw the ball with great accuracy, he can run the ball with great force, and he can hand it off to his wing man enough times to win the ball game.
QB Jarrell is one of but three Jarrells on the team. When Jarredd is not running with the ball, he is throwing it to his brothers, Chatlin Jarrell (who has caught 6 TD passes and made 2 interceptions for touchdowns this year) or to Evan Jarrell (who has caught 4 TD passes this year.) This is not a Duck Dynasty, it is a Cat Dynasty.
QB Jarrell connects roughly two thirds of the time he throws the ball, and he throws it a lot, leaving him with a record of 2,004 yards so far this season, or 5,328 in his career as a Black Cat. Do the math and you will see he has thrown the ball for more than 3 miles. Then figure out how much time it would take for you to run that far. He also holds the KHSAA record for most passing yardage in a single game at 676. In short, he is impressive.
“He’s a lot like AT (Senior Defensive Back Addison Thompson) only with an arm,” Somerset Sophomore QB Castle Hatcher said.
From the way the stats read, this quarterback has more than an arm. He has a cannon.
Somerset’s job doesn’t get any easier when you look at the job sophomore running back Dalton Frazure has turned in this year. In 192 carries, he has rushed for 1158 yards on the ground. He has also caught 3 TD passes and is the highest scoring Cat on the field with 147 this year.
Somerset head coach Robbie Lucas has spent a lot of time looking at film with his assistants in order to find a way to beat this juggernaut.
“What immediately jumps out is the amount of effort the Prestonsburg players put into the game,” Lucas said. “Defensively they are an attacking group that gets 11 helmets to the ball on almost every play. They blitz on almost every down. They are high risk/ high reward and are very physical.”
“On the offensive side the QB is an incredible athlete who can extend plays with his legs and has a accurate strong arm,” Lucas continued. “He makes plays out of nothing. Frazure is a big physical back that can get yards in big clips. The effort and intensity they play with make them special. They have numerous formations on offense and defensively rarely give you the same look twice. We will need to be sound fundamentally.”
One of the ways the Briar Jumpers prepare for the week’s opponents is through the use of the “Scout team.” In high school, as well as in college and NFL play, the sports psychologists understand it makes practical sense to put a group of actors on the field pretending to be the team they are getting ready to play.
That scout team has to learn the formations, tendencies, and movements of the future opponent quickly enough to give their own team some practice skills.
“I think the scout team got it down as well as anybody can do it when they prepared us for Betsy Layne,” Somerset Assistant Coach Jarred “Moose” Swearingen said. “They were tough, and they got it right.”
Being tough and getting it right is the job of an unsung hero, at least until today, when I am going to hum a few bars and see if you can pick up the melody. I asked Coach Lucas to give me some names that need recognition.
“It’s really more a question of talking about the Scout team as a whole,” he said. “Those kids have the job of giving us a look and preparing us for the upcoming opponent. Lil Gadberry, Dino, Oursler, Buteyn, Mullins, Brown, Lake…. Most thankless job there is in football.”
To translate this footballspeak, we just need to go down the roster and read the names of these gladiators who, every day during the football season say, “We who are about to get the stuffings knocked out of us salute you.”
They lay their bodies on the line, they get beat up, and they enhance their team’s chances of winning.
In numerical order they are: Chase Madden, John Fitzpatrick, Kyle Baker, Patrick Oursler, Kendall Mullins, Josh Lake, Daniel Coldiron, Logan Gadberry, Tristan Purcell, Austin Stigall, Zach Thacker, Jon Watson, Justin Walker, Matt Brown, GW Jones, John Lewis, Joe Ulrich, Dylan Underwood, Andy Buteyn, Tyler Smith, Josh Williams, John Leigh, Sean Haynes, Evan Brinson, Chase Spaw, and Devin Jasper.
Whether the team is ready is something that is yet to be seen. One thing is certain: the Briar Jumpers will have the most healthy, most complete team they have had on the field all season, with tonight’s highly anticipated return of Freshman Jordan Doan, who has been out with a knee injury. It is doubtful as of the time of the writing of this story whether standout defensive back Addison Thompson will be back into the game after missing last week’s outing due to mono.
Opponent: Prestonsburg (3rd round playoff game)
Venue: Josh Francis Memorial Field, Prestonsburg
Significance: Regional Championship
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: SHS 7-4, PHS 7-5
AP Ranking: SHS #11, PHS unranked
Last Meeting: This is the first time the two schools have met on the football field
Last Game: SHS won at Middlesboro 19-13. PHS won at home over Danville 20-19.
Media Coverage: Radio play-by-play action from Jon Burlew and Tim Washam on 102.3 FM. Updates from the game, as well as other games will be posted on the Commonwealth Journal’s Facebook page and on the Twitter handle @cjsportseditor.
Keys to Victory: Somerset must continue to protect the ball and avoid the turnover. Prestonsburg presents a dual threat quarterback , Jarredd Jarrell, who has run for 11 touchdowns and thrown for 15. Ten of those touchdowns were on passes to two other team members with the last name Jarrell. QB Jarrell has a tendency to throw the interception, allowing 9 on the season. Jarrell runs the ball for 66 yards per game. His running mate and favorite handoff man is the team’s most prolific scorer Dalton Frazure who has 1,158 yards and 146 points on the season. Frazure has also caught the ball 46 times and turned 3 catches into touchdowns. After Frazure, three Jarrells dominate the team stats. The Briar Jumpers must get to the quarterback and also put very tight coverage on Dalton Frazure. The most significant statistic seems to be that when Frasure is shut down, the Black Cats tend to lose ball games.