DISTRICT 8-4A DIVISION II

Tatum Eagles (6-2, 2-0)

vs.

Jasper Bulldogs (5-2, 1-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday
Bulldog Field, Jasper

Coaches

  • Tatum: Craig Barker
  • Jasper: Darrell Barbay
Last week
  • Tatum: def. Rusk, 38-21
  • Jasper: def. Slaughter (La.) Community Charter, 34-12

Next week
  • Tatum: idle
  • Jasper: at Huntington, Oct. 28
Playmakers

Tatum

  • DL/LB D’Torian Smith, Sr., 6-3, 226 (committed to Air Force)
  • RB Cedric White, Jr., 5-9, 150
  • TE Shay Rodgers, Sr., 6-4, 240
  • OL George Blanton, Sr., 6-0, 270
  • DB Malcolm Davis, Sr., 5-10, 150
  • RB LeMarcus Harmon, Sr., 5-10, 200
  • DL J.T. Norris, Jr., 5-11, 210

Jasper

  • QB Leontay Sells, Jr., 5-9, 150
  • OL Sabian Bluitt, Sr., 6-5, 330
  • TE/DL Jaquion Daniels, Sr., 6-1, 240
  • WR/DB Reese Durand, Jr., 6-0, 170
  • RB/LB DeCorrian Holmes, Sr., 5-8, 194
  • LB Juvenile Lee, Sr., 5-8, 180
  • WR Lorenzo Thomas, Sr., 6-5, 180
  • RB/LB Kellian Weathered, Sr., 5-7, 183
Just the facts
  • The winner of Friday's contest will take control of first place in District 8-4A Division II.
  • Tatum will officially clinch a berth in the Class 4A Division II playoffs with a win Friday. Not bad for a team that went 0-10 last season.
  • That being said, the odds are good that both Jasper and the Eagles will play beyond Week 11.The district contains only five teams and four of them will qualify for the postseason.
  • Jasper and Tatum share Rusk as their sole common opponent.
  • Tatum defeated Rusk at home last week by a score of 38-21. Jasper beat Rusk at Bulldog Field, 59-26, on Oct. 7.
  • In the preseason, ETSN.fm predicted Jasper would win the district and that Tatum would finish second.
  • Jasper and Tatum have not played in more than a decade.
  • Tatum will travel 110 miles to Jasper.

Key matchup: Jasper's offenses versus Tatum's defense.

All six of the Eagles' wins have come when their defense allows 21 or less points and Jasper's two losses were both decided by one possession.

Tatum needs a particularly good defensive performance because the unit has to support a methodical, run-first offense. The Eagles' offense is generally effective, but it consumes the clock and really limits the total amount of possessions in a game.

Therefore, it's hard for Tatum to pull away without the defense getting stops.

Jasper has a well-rounded offense that should be a challenge for the Eagles.

Quarterback Leontay Sells is elusive, supports in the running game and gets to work with some very big receivers -- a signature of the Bulldogs' program year-to-year. The pistol formation the team uses generally disguises what they're trying to accomplish on any given play.

Jasper is automatically set up to run downhill at any moment and has three receivers in position to run routes in open space providing they shake off the opposing coverage. There's just not a good "tell" for Tatum to key on other than maybe the down-and-distance situation.

But the Eagles' program rarely has a shortage of athletic defensive backs and, this year, the squad is similarly strong up front with Air Force linebacker commitment D'Torian Smith and nose tackle J.T. Norris.

This is a particularly big game for Smith, who can flex down to a defensive end position. He might be able to contain Sells' scrambling ability more than most teams, and he could be an issue off the edge when Jasper tries to throw the ball.

Tatum's defense will have to be at its best all around, however, to contain the robust Bulldogs offense.

 

Don't be surprised if: Friday's game is a low scoring contest.

Tatum runs the ball, which makes for quick games, and Jasper has only scored beyond 34 points twice in its seven games despite facing teams less conscientious about burning clock. Both teams will be in their comfort zone if the game is tight down the stretch.

Tatum linebacker and Air Force commitment D'Torian Smith. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)