Wayne Coleman + Jacksonville Finding Their Groove Going Into Regular Season’s Final Two Games
Having been the offensive coordinator under Danny Long during Jacksonville's best years, Wayne Coleman knows what it's like to win on the sidelines of the Tomato Bowl.
Now he's working to bring those winnings ways back, but this time as the head coach.
"Having been here in the '90s, I know what kind of kid is here in Jacksonville -- hard-working, middle-class kids who don't mind being pushed to the limit," Coleman said. "In this 21st Century America, you're running out of these kinds of places."
Coleman coached all three McCown brothers -- Randy, Josh and Luke, with the latter two having played in the NFL (and Josh still does for the Cleveland Browns). Jacksonville won at least 10 games in a season five different times under Copeland and Coleman, and now Coleman is working to instill a similar winning culture.
After going 2-8 in his inaugural season, Coleman's team is starting to find its groove. Jacksonville (5-3, 2-1 in District 17-5A) already has the most wins in a season since 2010 and is coming off back-to-back eyebrow-raising wins over Whitehouse and Ennis.
The Indians are in the driver's seat for a playoff spot, something even ETSN.fm did not pick them to do prior to the start of the season.
"You can tell the kids are starting to settle in the system a little bit, and they're making a lot fewer mistakes than earlier in the year and last year," Coleman said. "Defensively this is our first year in a new defense and it's taking a little big longer to settle in, but we're starting to get there."
Jacksonville opened district with a tough 41-38 overtime loss to Corsicana, but its wins over Whitehouse (18-14) and Ennis (34-26) have taken plenty by surprise. What's most surprising is the Indians holding Whitehouse's spread offense to 14 points.
"We are a team that is very comfortable playing against spread offenses. That's something we felt good about this year," Coleman said. "We are still struggling on the smash-mouth teams like Alvarado and Ennis, but we did a great job against Ennis after Alvarado."
Jacksonville has made a name for itself in recent years with two incredible overtime wins against Nacogdoches -- an 85-79 win in five overtimes in 2014 and an 84-81 victory in a national-record 12 overtimes in 2010. Coleman called this year's win against Whitehouse one of Jacksonville's biggest wins in recent memory, especially this season.
"I felt like in the Corsicana game we were getting over that hurdle finally, but they came back and got us," Coleman said. "But just our ability to bounce back from the OT loss, trail 14-3 at halftime against Whitehouse and still maintain our composure, come out an execute and win ... that's the trademark of a team that is starting to play some good football."
We'll have to wait until the final game of the regular season to see if Jacksonville and Nacogdoches have another classic in store, but up first for the Indians is Lindale on Friday night. A win in this game would all but guarantee a playoff spot.
Jacksonville will continue to ride the arms and legs of senior quarterback Cameron High, who is among East Texas' leaders in rushing with 208 carries for 1,359 yards and 14 touchdowns in the Indians' highly successful Zone Read offense. He has also thrown for 707 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions.
"When you run as much Zone Read stuff as we do, you spend that first year constantly trying to help with (High's) reads and fix mistakes, but now we're on auto-pilot in our offense," Coleman said. "That allows us to spend more time as a coaching staff to find the holes and exploit the defense and attacking with the right schemes."
With two games left in the regular season, Coleman said the key to Jacksonville's success from here on out is simple: keep the foot on the gas.
"We just have to keep doing what we've been doing. We've played really clean football the last three games," Coleman said. "We've won the turnover battle and we've done a great job of ball possession on offense. We just have to keep grinding out the first downs, create some turnovers and we should come out on top."