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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City teammates Alex Burkhead (58), Bryant Gipe (right) and Darrion Luebbert (top) tackle Hannibal running back Damien French during last Friday night's game in Hannibal. Photo by Jason Strickland / California Democrat.

Last week, the Jefferson City Jays' defense focused on No. 26 in preparation of Hannibal.

Take away the 2 and the Jays have their assignment for tonight when they head to Columbia to face the Hickman Kewpies.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Jefferson City kept No. 6 (senior quarterback Jeaven Brown) in check for the most part in last year's 19-7 victory, the seventh straight against Hickman.

The speedy Brown was held to 52 yards on 23 rushing attempts, with the lone hiccup being a burst through the middle for a 36-yard touchdown.

"I think the X-factor with Hickman's offense is their quarterback," Jays coach Terry Walker said. "He's an explosive player. The play may be drawn up a certain way, but he does a great job of improvising and extending plays, and just wreaking havoc with the defense."

He did just that to the Jays three weeks ago in the Jamboree at Rock Bridge. On the second offensive play for the Kewpies, Brown zig-zagged his way to the end zone for a 40-yard score.

"He ran left for 30 yards, ran vertical for 10 or 15 yards, ran right another 40 yards, and then another 10 yards into the end zone," Walker said. "And left a string of about six or eight missed tackles along the way. So we've just got to do a great job of maintaining our leverage as a tackler, then understanding what our role is on each respective play and then just pursuing to the football."

Other than that, the Jays didn't give up much in the 15 plays against the Kewpies.

Brown did scramble to find Edward Nelson for an 18-yard completion, but Kevion Pendelton picked off Brown in the end zone to end that drive.

The Jays faced a mobile quarterback last week in Hannibal sophomore Courtland Watson, who ran it 22 times for 66 yards and a touchdown.

"We've just got to do a great job of maintaining our leverage as a tackler," Walker said. "And then understanding what our role is on each respective play. And then just pursuing to the football."

The Helias Crusaders shut out the Kewpies 24-0 last week, limiting them to 106 rushing yards and 91 passing yards.

Brown had 15 rushing attempts, while Keith Kelley and Edward Nelson each ran it seven times.

"They run some counter read, they run some zone read, they run some speed option, all with the quarterback kind of being the central focus," Walker said. "Because obviously they know where their strength is. It's in the athleticism and the ability for that kid to make plays."

Hickman did get into the end zone last week, but a penalty flag brought it back.

Brown connected with Travis Weston for a 71-yard pass play that didn't count because of an ineligible man down field.

"They've got athletic receivers and they like to run vertical routes," Walker said. "First game, we gave up quite a few vertical routes. So we've got to do a good do a great job of fundamentally being sound in our coverage techniques, and then we've got to do a good job of battling for the football when the football is in the air."

The Jays allowed more than 400 yards through the air against the pass-heavy Kirkwood Pioneers in Week 1 and held the run-heavy Hannibal Pirates to 96 passing yards last week.

The Jays defense has won the battle against the Kewpie offense the past three years, giving up just 9.6 points per game.

"An opportunity, I think, for the entire defense," Walker said. "We gave up way too many points the first game. The second game, we improved, but we still gave up too many chunk plays in the running game.

"And then this game is going to be a game where a kid can explode on any given play. We've got to be disciplined about our approach to that."

On the offensive side for the Jays, consistency in the rushing attack is still in the works after running back Orentheus Pitts and quarterback Cole Gresham combined to have eight runs of at least 5 yards last week, but also totaled 11 runs of fewer than 4 yards as a team.

"They've got some big D linemen," Walker said of Hickman. " We know they have the ability to stop the run, and they try and stop the run and make a team one dimensional."

Helias was able to be balanced against the Kewpies, running it for 121 yards and passing it for 245 yards.

After evaluating the Hannibal video, there's several areas Walker mentioned he'd like the Jays to execute better tonight in Columbia.

"I want to see our line do a better job of coming off the ball," Walker said. "And then when they engage in a block, I want to see them sustain the block and have good pad level, have good feet and be in an athletic position when they're executing their block.

"I want to see running backs run behind their pads, and I want to see them explode or accelerate through contact as opposed to stopping or being tentative at contact."

And for the passing game?

"I want to see quarterbacks make good positive reads and get us in good positions and make good clean throws," Walker added. "And I want to see receivers make good clean catches and good runs after the catch."

III

Notes: The Jays lead the all-time series against the Kewpies 58-53-4, including seven straight victories. In those games, Jefferson City averaged more than 36 points per game and allowed an average of 13.5 points. Coach Cedric Alvis is in his second season coaching the Kewpies. "Coach Alvis has done a real good job of getting the kids bought into what they're doing," Walker said. "We know they're going to be fired up. This is a rival for us just like it is for them. Much should not need to be said in order to get up for this game." Hickman's last win against Jefferson City was a 14-9 decision in 2012 at Adkins Stadium. Hickman's last win against Jefferson City in Columbia was a 16-14 victory in 2011.

Related Media

Jefferson City Jays Football Podcast [Hickman preview, Sept. 13, 2019]

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