LAST Friday night produced very different results for the two teams that share Commerce as a mutual home base.
The East Jackson Eagles broke a 17-game winless streak in a nail biting victory over Banks County, while the Commerce Tigers were completely overwhelmed by the Jefferson Dragons.
The Tigers will host the Eagles this Friday at 8 p.m. at Ray Lamb Stadium in an east side rivalry match.
The Eagles may have a slight advantage in momentum, but both teams are looking past their initial contests and focusing on the task at hand – each other.
“(Last week’s win) was a big lift, but every week is based on its own merit,” said East Jackson head coach Gary Hughes. “I told the team that next week is not contingent on anything we’ve done in the past. Throw last week out the window. Enjoy it while you can, but last week has no bearing on what we do against Commerce.”
The Tigers share a similar sentiment. After its offense fell flat against Jefferson, Commerce is looking to work out its kinks before lining up against the Eagles.
“I think the biggest thing that we have to do is worry about Commerce first,” said Commerce head coach Michael Brown. “Given the way we played offensively last week, we’ve got some major issues that we have to take care of this week, or we are going to have a tough time beating anybody.”
Even though the two schools are separated by less than five miles, the Tigers and the Eagles have only met on the field one time. That meeting resulted in a 28-14 win for Commerce last year at Eagle Stadium. The Eagles are a rejuvenated team under new leadership and will seek to even the score this season.
While the “Battle for the East” is somewhat of a new rivalry for both teams, there is no lack of respect on either side of this contest.
“East Jackson is a much-improved team,” said Brown. “From last year to this year, they have made huge strides. They are coming off a big win against Banks County last week and they are flying high and ready to play this game.”
“(The Tigers) are awfully good on offense and run around great on defense,” said Hughes. “They have a great team. They may have struggled last week, but I’m sure there are a lot of teams that would have struggled against Jefferson. They are well coached and their offensive line does a tremendous job of coming off of the football. Their backs run hard as well.”
The Tigers will need to grease the wheels on offense if they hope to control the pace of the game. Meanwhile, East Jackson will need to eliminate costly turnovers to keep the ball away from the Tigers and out of their own end zone as much as possible.
Both coaches seem to share the opinion that a properly executed game plan is a must for both of these teams.