Joaquin Rolling Behind Stout Running Game + Dominant Defense
There's no denying the family atmosphere of small town football programs in Texas, especially East Texas.
It's pretty close knit in Joaquin, where head coach Wade Lawson grew up, played football and graduated. The same can be said for his offensive and defensive coordinators, Jared and Jonathan Jones, who are twin brothers. Lawson and the Jones brothers met in kindergarten, went to school and played football together, and all three went to Stephen F. Austin together.
Lawson's father is also an assistant on his staff.
"We've all known each other forever. It's a big family," Lawson said. "We fight and argue sometimes but at the end of the day, we're family and you care about your family."
The seniors on this year's team were freshmen when Lawson took the head job at his alma mater. And after three years together, things are clicking in full force.
Joaquin dropped its first game of 2017 to No. 1 Tenaha by one point, 23-22, before reeling off seven wins in a row, the seventh coming last Friday night against Carlisle after a game-winning 39-yard field goal on the last drive. The Rams (7-1, 4-0 in District 11-2A Division I) have outscored their opponents on average 47-13 since Week 1.
"I really think that the biggest factor is that our seniors, they were freshmen when we took over offseason here. They've had three years in our system now, they understand it," Lawson said. "Our playbook is wide open right now; we're just trying to keep doing the little things right."
Simply put, Joaquin is dominating its opponents in 2017.
The Rams' offense gets much of the notoriety, which it deserves. Joaquin has rushed for 3,178 yards as a team this season, averaging just under 400 yards per game on the ground. As a team the Rams are averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, with four players averaging 9.8 yards per rush or better.
Senior Kase Yates is one of East Texas' leading rushers with 1,129 yards and 18 touchdowns on 115 carries, and junior Hunter Gates isn't far behind with 75 carries for 821 yards and five touchdowns. Connor Bragg (41 carries, 464 yards) and quarterback Tray Wilkerson (69 carries, 385 yards) have seven rushing touchdowns apiece.
Joaquin's offense has turned the ball over only three times all season.
"We've got good foot speed and in this day and age, you have to be able to run. If you run you can't play," Lawson said. "We, without a doubt, have the fastest backfield we've ever had at this school. (Having so many weapons) changes how you can call a game. You have the ability to take more chances. Second-and-10 isn't the end all with us, we can still come back from that with how well we run the ball."
And just as dominant as the offense is Joaquin's defense. The Rams have pitched three shutouts this season, and the seven points scored from Maud was on a kickoff return. Of Tenaha's 23 points in Week 1, just seven came from the top-ranked Tigers' offense.
"Our defense is playing with great passion. It really comes down to that," Lawson said. "You have to play fast defense, be assignment-oriented and play with great passion, and we're doing that right now. If we can keep doing that we'll keep getting stops."
The Rams are one half of one of the biggest games happening in East Texas this week, when they take on newly ranked No. 10 San Augustine for what will likely determine the district championship.
San Augustine (8-0, 3-0) had allowed just 48 points all season before its 51-35 win over Alto last Friday night. The Wolves are as high-powered as they come, which should make for quite a show this weekend.
"The offenses are going to get their points, there's no doubt about that," Lawson said. "This game is going to be decided on whose defense plays better to get the stops and turnovers to give their offense the extra possessions to win the football game. It's going to be a good one."