There was a time not long ago where the

idea of Northeast Jones and South Jones not

meeting on the gridiron was an inconceiv-

able thought. The two schools are less than

20 miles apart and have played each other

since before the introduction of classifi-

cations in Mississippi. But the COVID-19

pandemic forced schedule changes for both

teams that erased the matchup in 2020 for

the first time in the series’ storied history.

Resuming the series this year means there

will be a renewed sense of vigor surrounding

the rivalry. Both teams being significantly

improved will only help bolster the anticipa-

tion surrounding the Leader-Call Battle for

the Belt matchup.

South Jones (2-0) is coming off of a 49-

14 scorching of Forrest County AHS, while

Northeast Jones (2-1) spanked Perry Cen-

tral, 26-6.

“It’s one of the biggest games on our

schedule, not just because of what the game

means to the community, but because they

(South Jones) are a good team,” Northeast

Jones head coach Keith Braddock said.

“They present a lot of challenges for us.

Their quarterback is a really good player,

and I am sure he is just getting better. They

have a lot of guys on offense that make plays

for them. They’re just getting better, and we

have to be ready to match it. We’re going to

need to play a complete game and need to

compete our tails off.”

South Jones quarterback Luke Griffin is a

big reason for that improvement. The field

general for the Braves, Griffin has gained a

reputation of making off-script plays with

his arm and legs. His ability to throw the ball

opens up the South Jones running game,

which is something the Braves will need this

week.

Northeast Jones quietly has one of the

better front sevens in Class 4A to try to neu-

tralize Griffin. The unit is led by defensive

tackle Lawson Moncivais and linebackers

Kye Braddock and Bobby Rowzee. Gifted

with a quick first step, Moncivais leads the

Tigers’ defensive line with 11 solo tackles,

four for a loss, and a sack that resulted in a

safety. Braddock and Rowzee have combined

for 59 tackles and they will play a crucial

part in stopping the run.

“This is probably the best defense we’ve

faced to this point,” South Jones head coach

Todd Breland said. “I know they’re going to

get after us. They’re very active on defense

and swarm to the ball. We just need to fo-

cus on our job and keep getting better each

week. It is one of those games that just has

a little extra intensity to it, because the

kids really want to beat each other.”

The Braves’ and Tigers’ offenses are

night and day. While Griffin leads Bre-

land’s spread offense, Northeast Jones

runs the Wing-T, which is one of the

big reasons that the Tigers have already

doubled their win total from 2020 in just

three games. In both of Northeast Jones’

wins, the run-heavy style was a big fac-

tor in wearing down their opponents and

controlling the clock. The Wing-T is not

often used in the larger classifications, so

it is something that most defenses are not

accustomed to.

So far this year, the Tigers have not

produced any eye-popping rushing per-

formances with their new offense, but it

has done enough to win games. Braddock

would like to see his team continue to fine

tune their offense.

“It all comes down to execution,” Brad-

dock said. “We’ve done a lot of good things

so far, but we have to keep getting better

at the little things. Limiting turnovers and

unnecessary penalties is something we

have to do a better job of. I’ve said it a lot,

but I like this team. We’ve got some special

guys on and off the field, and I wouldn’t

trade them for anyone.”

The South Jones defense rising up to

meet the challenge is what Breland is

hoping to see. The Braves have played well

on defense through their first two games,

but there have been moments when they

had breakdowns. Forest Hill was able to

score on a long passing play where several

receivers were open. The Tigers’ offensive

style lends itself to the occasional deep,

play-action pass and it is something the

Braves’ secondary needs to be ready for.

Defensive backs Jaquan McGilberry and

Matt Smith lead the South Jones second-

ary, and will be responsible for not getting

lulled to sleep by the Tigers’ run-heavy

offense. On the defensive line, Sawyer

Griffith will be crucial in blowing up both

running and passing plays. He recorded 16

tackles for loss in 2020, so the backfield is

a familiar place for the senior.

“Jaquan and Matt are guys we rely on

in the secondary,” Breland said. “Both of

them are leaders for us.

“Sawyer is a guy that had a great off-

season and put in a lot of work. He’s a guy

that has played a lot of football for us and

it shows. I’ve liked our effort on defense,

and we need to see more of that this

week.”

This game will also have implications

in the Leader-Call’s “Battle for the Belt”

series. Currently, West Jones leads the

pack with a win over Northeast Jones. The

Tigers have been eliminated from belt con-

tention after the loss, due to needing wins

over West Jones and South Jones to claim

the belt.

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. For live up-

dates from Friday’s game, follow along at

Laurel Leader-Call Sports on Facebook.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.