Southwind’s 20-14 victory over 5A district rival Central was proof positive that a team’s fortunes can change dramatically from one year to the next.
Last season, the Jaguars won two games and lost eight, including a 55-6 drubbing by Central’s Warriors, who finished with a 9-3 record.
This season, Southwind is coached by Jerome Griffin, who came over from Wooddale determined to get the Jaguars on the winning track. After an opening-season loss (44-15) to Lausanne on the road, Southwind has reeled off five straight wins and is undefeated (3-0) in district play.
“Coming here this spring it has been all love,” said Griffin. “The kids have receptive, and they have worked their butts off. That is all you can ask for as a coach.”
The Jaguars did not waste any time getting on the scoreboard. Freshman quarterback Kelvin Perkins found Martez Carter streaking down the sideline for a 94-yard touchdown on the game’s second play. On the next drive, Perkins connected with Derek Hall for a 76-yard touchdown and it appeared that the rout was on.
The Warriors (3-3, 2-1) did not give up the fight and the game morphed into a defensive struggle. Late in the third quarter, Central’s powerful running back Tony Vann Jr. scored from four yards out to cut the score to 14-7.
The Jaguars seemingly had the game on ice with another touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but they missed the extra point. On the ensuing kickoff, Central’s Kirby Jackson ran it back 78 yards, making the score 20-14.
The Warriors continued to push and were driving when an incomplete pass on fourth down ended the game.
“They were better than we were,” said Central head coach Major Wright. “We are not good on offense right now. We are a way away. They (the Jaguars) are better than they were last year. Things can change quickly. We are trying to bring (along) a young group of guys.”
Still, said Wright, “I thought we played hard. They (players on defense) continue to fight and we just don’t give them enough on the other side of the ball. We will go back to work and see what happens.”
From Griffin’s viewpoint, the game was “between two really good teams that came down to the wire. We were just a little better than they were tonight. Both teams played well, we just got the victory.”
Southwind will have an off week before the Jaguars’ final home game of the season on Oct. 7 when they face undefeated Munford (6-0, 2-0).
“One game at a time,” said Griffin. “That is all we preach all the time. …We are going to enjoy this win … and we are going to try to heal up some. I think we are coming together.”
Perkins, the Jaguars’ quarterback, “is going to be a special kid,” said Griffin. “I have coached for 25 years and I think he is going to be the best one I have ever coached. He is talented. He has a high football IQ and a 3.9 GPA. He is everything you want as a quarterback.”
Noting the play of the Southwind defense, Griffin said, “Everyone has been playing on one accord. We gave up a big play on special teams to make it close. We have to go back to the board on that. Linebacker Antwan Keefer has been the heart and soul of the defense. Kavion Benton has been banged up, but has played the last few weeks. No one person is going to block him.”
For Central, the opportunity to get back on track comes Friday (Sept. 30) when the Warriors host Kingsbury at Crump Stadium.