SJ practice

South Jones coach Roger Satcher directs practice as Jeremy Cooper (38) and DeMarcus McGilberry (53) participate. (Photo by Brad Crowe)

The Northeast Jones Tigers host the South Jones Braves on Friday in what will be the second clash of the year between two Jones County football teams in the quest for the Laurel Leader-Call Battle for the Belt. Both teams hope to recover from Week 3 losses by taking down a rival and establishing positive momentum. 

For the Tigers, their last loss came in an excruciatingly close contest against the Raleigh Lions. They registered their second-highest points total of the season but fell just short, 30-27. 

The Tigers' offense has established a heavy reliance on its ability to run the football, averaging 153 rushing yards per game and just 63 passing yards per game. Senior running back Tony Barnes gets the bulk of the load and is picking up 4.4 yards per rush attempt so far. 

The Tigers will attempt to cater to their own strengths by moving the chains with their rushing attack and winning the time of possession battle. The biggest key to doing so will be for the defense to get off the field on third downs, after surrendering a large percentage of successful third-down conversations over the previous three weeks. 

As for the Braves, they are looking to right the wrongs of a 57-14 defeat against West Lauderdale. They gave up 22 points in the first quarter and never recovered from the huge momentum shift. Senior quarterback Chad Locklear has improved week after week during his first season as starting signal-caller, having accounted for five touchdowns over the Braves' first three games. He has completed 73 percent of his pass attempts on the season. 

Locklear and the Braves' receiving corps will likely attempt to spread the field and take advantage of a Northeast Jones defense that has not yet been tried by a pass-heavy offensive system. 

The Braves and Tigers have played 51 times since their first meeting in 1965. Northeast Jones leads the all-time series 30-21, but South Jones is catching up rather quickly with a current four-game winning streak over its cross-county rival.

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