There was a lot more to like about Cle burne County’s spring jamboree game Saturday at Jacksonville State than just the opportunity for the Tigers to play in a college atmosphere. There was a lot more to like than the final score which saw the Tigers from Cleburne County defeat their counterparts from B.B. Comer 21-7. The Tigers didn’t just win but won in impres sive fashion.
“I was pleased with our conditioning, the way we played,” Cleburne County head coach Michael Shortt said Monday morning. “We stayed after it pretty much the whole time. We tackled well and we ran to the ball.”
The Tigers played without returning starters Brady Padgett at quarterback, Cole Corkren at fullback and linebacker and kicker Anderson Jacks. Padgett and Corkren are still building strength in sur gically repaired knees after suffering inju ries in the 2013 football season. Jacks said on the sideline Saturday that he will un dergo knee surgery after tearing an ACL in warm-ups prior to the final baseball series at Oneonta.
At quarterback, Brandon Horn had a role in all three Cleburne County touch downs. Horn scored on a 6-yard run as the Tigers took a 6-0 lead on their second possession. He passed to Jeremiah Blake for Cleburne County’s second touchdown, a throw to the goal line that covered 20 yards. J’son Henson’s run for the 2-point conversion made it 14-0 Cleburne County at “halftime” of the game that lasted two quarters. Cleburne County’s defense limit ed B.B. Comer to just one first down while the Tigers were building their 14-0 lead.
Horn, a running back on offense last year along with graduating Trey Bolton, finished with 70 yards rushing and 79 yards passing.
“We’ll put a lot on his back,” Shortt said of Horn. “He’s hard to tackle. That was ev ident when they’d have him boxed up and still couldn’t tackle him and they hit him hard several times. That opens up another package for us that we can use like a wild cat formation.”
At running back, Henson and Noah Ware got several carries. With 7:45 left in the second of the two quarters, Ware lined up to the outside of the backfield on the right and took a reverse around left end into the end zone from 37 yards out. Ware’s interception at the 9:21 mark set up the 76-yard scoring drive.
“We’ll be a different type of offense, I guess you would say,” Shortt said of the potential running game. “Right now, we’re looking at Noah Ware who had a nice lit tle run there toward the end. He’s got a high ankle sprain so everything had to be to his left. He will be in there some. J’son Henson had some nice runs. He’s another little freshman. When we get our fullback game, our fullback could be Austin Harler. It could be Chase Austin. It could be Cole Corkren. We’ve got about three kids we feel like could play fullback for us.”
In the final drive, Henson had a 14-yard run and Austin was on the receiving end of an 11-yard pass from Horn. McCain Carl ile’s extra point made it 21-0.
At wingback, Shortt said he expected Sam Cooper would be able to contribute with his speed. Cooper moved back to He flin last year after playing eight-man foot ball for several years in Georgia.
Blake was Horn’s favorite target with three receptions. The first went for 28 yards and set up Horn’s 6-yard touchdown run. On the second scoring drive, Blake had one catch for 20 yards before his 20- yard touchdown grab.
Shortt called the offensive line “a work in progress right now.” Blake Pointer has starting experience at center. Brint John son played tackle on both the left and right sides in the jamboree. Alex Sandmann, who will start on defense, will be counted on at guard on the offensive line as well. Aaron Turner played tackle while Dawson Howle, Tyler Higgins and Sam Pate all saw time at guard. Shortt said a number of players from last year’s defensive line got practice repetitions at offensive line posi tions but didn’t have game experience.
“We’re going to try a lot of people in the summertime,” he said. “We’ll be as good as our offensive and defensive line allows us to be.”
With defensive coordinator Ron Ervin busy taking the softball team to the re gional and state tournaments, the work on defense was limited to fundamentals. That turned out to be a positive thing.
“By not having coach Ervin much in practices we did mostly just fundamental stuff. We actually never took a snap of team defense versus a live offense,” Shortt said. “We lined up a lot during the spring just to learn how to get lined up. We did a lot of fundamental tackling. We did that 30 to 45 minutes a day – just tackling, tack ling, getting off blocks and tackling and working on the fundamentals of tackling. I felt pleased with the way we tackled and ran to the ball (against B.B. Comer).”
The Tigers will continue lifting weights through the end of the current school year then take a two-week break. Starting June 16, they will work out on Mondays, Tues days and Thursdays over most of June and July. Cleburne County will participate in three 7-on-7 camps or competitions and will host Albertville for linemen’s camp.