DISTRICT 17-5A

Jacksonville Indians (5-4, 2-2)

vs.

Nacogdoches Dragons (4-5, 1-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday
Dragon Stadium, Nacogdoches

Coaches

  • Jacksonville: Wayne Coleman
  • Nacogdoches: Bobby Reyes
Last week

Next week
  • Jacksonville: TBD
  • Nacogdoches: TBD
Playmakers

Jacksonville

  • QB Cameron High, Sr., 5-9, 165 (49 of 86, 707 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs; 208 carries, 1,359 yards, 14 TDs)
  • RB/LB Vadall Johnson, Sr., 5-9, 210 (81 carries, 406 yards, 1 TD)
  • RB Dee Spencer, Jr., 5-10, 175 (26 carries, 240 yards, 3 TDs; 4 catches, 81 yards, 2 TDs)
  • WR Camryn Franklin, Jr., 6-3, 170 (9 catches, 226 yards, 2 TDs)
  • LB Braden Horn, Sr., 5-11, 180
  • DT Taqualen Thompson, Soph.

Nacogdoches

  • S/WR Josh Thompson, Sr., 6-0, 190 (15 catches, 210 yards, 4 TDs; 62 tackles, 9 for loss, 2 INTs, 4 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries; committed to Texas)
  • RB Phillip Jones, Sr., 5-9, 193 (272 carries, 1,647 yards, 13 TDs)
  • WR Jaylon Maxie, Sr., 5-11, 180 (19 catches, 250 yards, 2 TDs)
  • LB DaRyan Williams, Jr., 5-11, 185 (68 tackles, 9 for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT, 5 PBUs, 3 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries)
  • QB Noah Hildebrand, Sr., 6-1, 180 (129 of 234, 1,555 yards, 13 TDs, 4 INTs; 36 carries, 88 yards, 1 TD)
  • DT Devaunte Johnson, Sr., 6-0, 265 (70 tackles, 13 for loss, 6 sacks, 10 QB pressures, 1 PBU)
  • DE Brad Phillips, Sr., 6-3, 210 (49 tackles, 7 for loss, 4 sacks, 14 QB pressures, 5 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery, 1 blocked punt)
  • WR Jed Morgan, Jr., 5-8, 155 (39 catches, 388 yards, 4 TDs)
Just the facts
  • Friday's game is part of the final week of District 17-5A play. Four teams are fighting for two playoff spots, including Jacksonville and Nacogdoches.
  • Jacksonville will automatically make the playoffs if it wins the game.
  • The Lindale-Whitehouse game could have massive effects on the Jacksonville-Nacogdoches game due to various tiebreaker scenarios.
  • If Lindale beats Whitehouse, a Dragons victory against Jacksonville will put Nacogdoches through.
  • If Whitehouse beats Lindale, however, Nacogdoches will have to beat Jacksonville by seven or more points. If that doesn't happen, Jacksonville will reach the playoffs in spite of a loss and the Dragons will not.
  • Ennis and Corsicana have already clinched playoff spots from the district.
  • The Indians and Dragons played a 12-overtime game in 2010 and the 2014 contest went to a fifth overtime period.
  • Jacksonville quarterback Cameron High is by far the Indians' most valuable player. He accounts for 57.2 percent of the team's 2,372 rushing yards and his feet alone are 42.7 percent of the total offense.
  • Nacogdoches has a more diversified offense. Its run game has only generated six percent more yards than its passing game.
  • Dragons running back Phillip Jones is East Texas' third-leading rusher with 1,647 yards. He has 13 touchdowns and has carried the ball 272 times through nine games.
  • If Jacksonville wins the game, it will secure its first winning season since 2010 and its first playoff appearance since 2012.
  • Jacksonville will travel 49 miles to Dragon Stadium.
Jacksonville running back Vadall Johnson might surprise the Nacogdoches defense. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Jacksonville quarterback Cameron High versus Nacogdoches' defense.

The Indians will gladly hand High the keys one last time in the regular season. He has been the team's most valuable player through nine games and is the biggest reason they're knocking on the door of their first winning season since 2010 and first playoff appearance since 2012.

High has played a hand in 65 percent of Jacksonville's 3,181 total yards this season and he has rushed for 42.7 percent of the total. Sixty-three percent of the offensive play calls have involved the quarterback whether it's 208 rush attempts or 86 pass attempts.

Wayne Coleman runs a fairly predictable offense despite men in motion in an attempt to misdirect opposing defense. High will more often than not get the ball and be instructed to do something with it.

But that does box a defense into a routine as they try to get after High 6.3 times every 10 plays. They start to think it's worth the risk to key on High because, if they lose out to another player getting the ball, how much damage can the player cause if High gets well more than half of all the touches?

That's where the Indians can surprise teams with a capable set of complimentary backs.

Nacogdoches is tied for the second-best defense in District 17-5A alongside Corsicana and behind Whitehouse in terms of points allowed with 87 surrendered in four league games. It has never allowed more than 27 points against district opponents and only better than 23 points once.

The Dragons held Lindale to 10 points three weeks ago. Lindale was easily the most disappointing team in the district until last week.

Nacogdoches linebacker DaRyan Williams should be in the middle of the key battle against Jacksonville. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Each layer of the Nacogdoches defense has a key player. They are versatile defensive lineman Devaunte Johnson, linebacker DaRyan Williams and Texas safety commitment Josh Thompson.

Johnson has a team-best 70 tackles and therefore frequently holds opponents to minimal gains. That's especially significant against Jacksonville's run-oriented offense -- 378 carries to 89 pass attempts.

Williams just might be a fourth highly recruited Nacogodches player in as many years. He has 68 tackles and could limit the upcoming run-oriented offense to just a decent gain.

Josh Thompson is East Texas' leading scholarship offer holder. He has a third-best 62 tackles on the Dragons team and could be valuable in ensuring Jacksonville does have to run at least one more play if it breaks beyond the first two level of the defense.

The key for that trio, and the rest of the defense, is to contain High. And, at the same time, not overlook the rest of the Indians' offense.

 

Don't be surprised if: Nacogdoches takes some chances to gain at least a 15-point lead. Specifically, watch for a two-point conversion after a touchdown if the Dragons already had a one-touchdown lead before a score.

A funny quirk in this contest is could finish before the end of the Lindale-Whitehouse game that is so critical to Nacogdoches.

Remember, the Dragons must win by seven points or more if Whitehouse beats Lindale, which ETSN.fm projected will happen in this week's first-round playoff predictions.

Head coach Bobby Reyes might not know what his team actually needs until it's too late, so the best bet is to own a 15-point lead so that a late Jacksonville touchdown and two-point conversion can't hurt the team.

Otherwise, it could be Jacksonville and its fans rushing the field to celebrate a six-point loss.

Jacksonville quarterback Cameron High. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)