By Shawn Wansley
Jones College Sports Information Director
ELLISVILLE – One of the nation's top junior college football matchups will take place here this week.
The No. 12 Hinds Eagles will be at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field to face the No. 18 Jones College Bobcats in the MACJC South Division opener for both teams.
It will be the 13thannual Hall of Fame game at Jones as former football standout Daryl L. Terrell, former men's basketball coach Jay L. Ladner and former baseball coach Christian Ostrander will be inducted into the Bobcat Sports Hall of Fame. There will be an induction banquet at 5 p.m. in Jones Hall and the trio will be recognized during halftime of the game.
The Eagles are 2-0 after opening the season with a stunning, 24-16 victory over top-rated and two-time defending national champion East Mississippi and a tough, 19-17 win at Mississippi Delta last week.
Jones head coach Steve Buckley said the Eagles are as good as advertised.
"Hinds is highly ranked and is a very talented football team," he said. "They have massive size on both sides of the football up front. They have a really good tailback and a transfer quarterback that played a lot as a starter in Texas last year. They have talented receivers.
"Defensively, they start nine sophomores. Obviously, it's a big game for us. There is no room for error in this league. I tell the kids all the time there is a little room for error, but I think we've passed the 'little' part. We've got to be ready to play."
Jones enters the game at 1-1 after defeating Holmes 23-7 last week. The Bobcats had dropped a disappointing, 18-10 contest at Coahoma in the opening week of the season.
Buckley said the Bobcats played much better in the win over the Bulldogs.
"I thought we were ready to play," he said. "Holmes is a really good football team. It was scary for us from a standpoint of what they do offensively with the option game and defensively with all of their blitzes. We had to be sound with that. I thought we had a great scheme as far as running the football.
"Offensively, we made vast improvement. The biggest difference was we were behind the chains 60 percent of possessions in week one. This past week, I think we were behind the chains 15 percent of possessions. We had 19 negative plays in week one and this past week we had four negative plays."
Running back Ladamian Webb (Opelika, Alabama) rushed for 120 yards on 17 carries and running back Kalyn Grandberry (Memphis, Tennessee) had 82 yards on 16 attempts. Jones had 214 yards rushing as a team, averaging 5.6 yards per rush.
"We were very clean up front," Buckley said. "We got a hat on a hat. Both backs ran very well. With the average yards per carry we had and controlling the game like we did, you have to be pleased. We ran 66 plays and they ran 51. That was a huge difference in the game. Offensively, we've got to improve in the plus five zone. We've got to get the ball in the end zone."
The Jones' defense – except for a Holmes touchdown drive right before halftime – was excellent. The Bobcats allowed only 11 first downs and 185 yards of total offense.
"It gave them a chance to get right back in the game at halftime, but I thought our kids responded in the second half," Buckley said of the Holmes' score. That was the biggest thing. They go 3-and-out the first three drives for minus 16 yards in the second half.
"In the second half our defense played 21 plays and gave up 13 yards – which is .62 yards per play. I can't brag enough about the defense, except for a few plays. We were in good position. We gave up one explosive play right before the half, but we were very sound defensively."
Sophomore quarterback Fred Barnum (Warren Central) had a sound game, completing 17-of-22 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns to wide receiver Bud Tolbert (Water Valley).
"I thought Fred was very steady," Buckley said. "We missed a lot of bubble throws that we've got to hit. A lot of that was not totally Fred's fault. The receivers were changing their route a little bit. When you're throwing the ball out in the flat, it has to be very consistent with each receiver because you're throwing to a spot on the field with the quarterback."
On defense, linebacker Daylen Gill (Louisville) had 13 tackles, 4 ½ tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries. The Ole Miss commit missed game one with an injury.
"It was great to have Daylen back," Buckley said. "He had 13 tackles and he's the leader of our defense. He played very well and he calms everybody down. He played a very solid game for us."
Now, the Bobcats turn their attention to the Eagles, a team that mirrors Jones in several ways.
On offense, they are led by quarterback Elijah Walker, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound sophomore from Amite, Louisiana. He played as a freshman at Trinity Valley, Texas, last year. Another standout is sophomore running back Don Ragsdale, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound sophomore out of Pisgah.
"They are a spread offense and they will play with a tight end very similar to us sometimes," Buckley said. "They are a very solid mixture of run and pass. Ragsdale is a good, complete back. Their receivers have been able to run and catch and their quarterback has a very strong arm and is very athletic. Defensively, we have to be ready to play.
"Defensively, they are going to be based out of a four-down (set) very similar to our defense. They are very sound in everything they do defensively. There are not any holes in it."
After an emotional win over EMCC in the opener, the Eagles struggled at Mississippi Delta before coming out on top. Buckley said that's all that matters.
"We know what it's like to go on the road," he said. "It's not easy to win in this league on the road. Delta is a much improved football team over the last two years, but Hinds has back-to-back wins and that's what matters at this point."
Jones played better last week after its initial game at Coahoma.
"The biggest thing improvement the fans should see is from week one to week two," Buckley said. "I think we did that. From a coaching and playing standpoint, the biggest improvement should be between (week) two and three. It's at a point now where you are playing so many young kids they have to understand what you are doing. You can go out and play inspired football in week two, but still mistakes which we did.
"I think what you've got to do from week two to week three is that you've got to grasp the speed of the game. They know it now. They know how the flow of a game works – from offense to defense to the kicking game. But they have to grasp it now from an X and O standpoint and correct the mistakes that the average fan would not see."
The Bobcats get back on the road next week for another important division game at No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Sept. 19.
Hinds hosts Southwest next week.