El Dorado News

October 15, 2018
El Dorado News Times

Stars set to shine in semis

This article was published December 1, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

By Jason Avery

News-Times Staff

When Junction City and Osceola collide tonight for a berth in next week’s 3A state championship game, it could be a considered a clash between two teams that are mirror images of each other.

The Dragons and Seminoles are squads that are teeming with athletes and are chock-full of playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Both are guided by first-year head coaches.

Even the offensive schemes are nearly identical.

“There’s a lot of similarities on the offensive side of the ball to what we do, not necessarily the tempo, but scheme-wise, they run a lot of the same things that we do, so it will be a good matchup,” said Junction City coach Steven Jones.

Osceola coach Robert Hooks concurred.

“I think we mirror each other,” Hooks said. “When I talked to my kids, I told them that they were a mirror image of us.”

Jones added that seeing a similar offense makes things easier from a preparation standpoint.

“Definitely,” Jones said. “We’ve seen a lot in practice throughout the season of our offense against our defense, so doing that throughout the season has helped prepare us for when we do face somebody like Osceola that has a scheme that is similar to ours in running a lot of power and a lot of counter with a very good fullback.”

In addition to their similarities, the storylines in tonight’s game are also plentiful.

Regardless of outcome, one coach will lead his team to the state finals in his debut season with Jones trying to lead his alma mater to the title game, while Hooks has masterminded the Seminoles’ turnaround from a 2-8 season in 2016 to the brink of the state finals in his first year.

Tonight’s clash is also a homecoming of sorts for Hooks, who did his student teaching at El Dorado before a seven-year stint as an assistant coach at Camden Fairview that included a five-year run as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator.

Both offenses are led by senior quarterbacks who not only are big-play catalysts themselves, but have plenty of weaponry in the backfield and at wide receiver.

Junction City quarterback Shuvasceiaye Frazier has been one the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state, completing 53 percent of his passes for 1,109 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 1,256 yards and 16 scores.

In the last two weeks, Frazier has guided the Dragons on two game-winning drives late in regulation, and it was his 1-yard run with nine seconds left that allowed the Dragons to rally past Clinton last week.

“He stepped up in a big way on Friday night,” Jones said. “He and Jalen (Davis) both, you could see it in their eyes that they were ready.

“They were focused. We have three guys that we can go to in Jalen, Hishmma and Shuvasceiaye late in the game.”

Opposing Frazier is Seminoles quarterback D.J. Flie, who has been incredibly efficient in running Osceola’s offense.

Flie has completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,156 yards and 20 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He has also rushed for 296 yards and two touchdowns, including one last week at Charleston.

The senior has had only game this year where he has failed to complete at least 45 percent of his pass attempts, and only three games where he has been under 50 percent.

In his last five games, Flie has been outstanding, completing over 62 percent of his passes for 889 yards with nine touchdowns against just three interceptions.

“He’s a tall kid and he does a good job of getting the ball out in space quickly,” Jones said.

“They’re able to get the ball out and not have to worry as much about pass protection as fast as they get it out. He’s able to spread it out to a lot of different guys. He’s a very efficient passer.”

Hooks added that Flie has been the team leader on offense.

“He’s been our leader. He’s been able to adjust and get us into good plays when we’ve needed them,” Hooks said.

“He’s a very accurate quarterback. He’s not fast. He’s not going to beat you with his legs as much. He’ll make a few scrambles here and there, and I mess with him all the time about being a big, slow quarterback, but he loves to scramble a little bit and make plays.

“His arm is definitely his asset, but I think getting the ball out quick is something that helps us. If you’re going to pass it, you have to be good in the short and intermediate game. That gives you chances to throw the deep ball when you need to.”

With Flie’s ability to throw the ball quickly, Jones said the Dragons’ defense will have to vary their schemes.

“We’ll have to mix up what we do and give them a couple of different looks where they can’t really just sit back there and try to pick us apart,” Jones said.

“We have to mix up some zone and man coverages and try to have a little chess match with them.”

However, both offenses offer much more than just outstanding quarterbacks.

They offer playmakers that are a threat to dent the scoreboard every time they touch the ball.

Junction City senior running back Hishmma Taylor has rushed for 2,263 yards and 27 touchdowns, while fellow senior Jalen Davis has caught 33 passes for 625 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 263 yards and four touchdowns.

“Any of their skill guys that touches it can go the distance at any time,” Hooks said. “That’s one thing that you have to be conscious of. At any point in the game, anybody that touches that football can take it the distance.

“That’s something that we don’t have. We have a few guys that can do it, but not any guy.”

The Seminoles counter with a terrific brigade of senior playmakers of their own.

Derrell Brown Jr. is one of most versatile players on either side of the ball one will come across.

Offensively, Brown leads the Seminoles in rushing and receiving yards with a combined total of 1,618 yards along with 33 total touchdowns.

At Charleston last week, Brown ran for 123 yards and two scores while also returning a punt 65 yards to paydirt.

On defense, Brown has registered 77 tackles while playing at several different positions.

“He’s a guy that’s a longer rangy guy who is one of our most explosive football players,” Hooks said.

“He’s a tough runner. This is his first year to ever play receiver. He’s been a running back in the past. He was ineligible last year. He sat out and had a great offseason.

“He is a great playmaker. You can put him at running back, you can put him at receiver and he can play tight end.

“On defense, he can go to outside backer, he can go to inside backer, he can go to corner and he can go to safety, so he’s a player that you can put anywhere. He’s a utility guy.”

For the Dragons, Brown is one player they will have to account for on every snap.

“A very explosive player,” Jones said. “He does a good job on both sides of the ball. A downhill safety that is looking to be a hard hat in the run game, and he’s able to defend the pass as well.

“He covers a lot of space at safety. He’s very talented on the offensive side of the ball. They line him up in a lot of different places.

“They’ll put him in a little wildcat set with him at quarterback. A lot like a couple of the guys that we have, they try to get him the ball as much as possible.”

In addition to Brown, the Seminoles have seniors Robert White (90 rushes for 695 yards with 23 catches for 218 yards), Taylen Gavin (74 rushes for 548 yards with 17 catches for 359 yards, sophomore Trayveon Moore (22 catches for 287 yards) and Jariq Scales (23 catches for 437 yards) that are weapons the Dragons will have to keep an eye on.

As is the case with the offenses, the defenses are also spearheaded by senior standouts.

Junction City’s Terrell Gibson leads the team in tackles with 96, including a team-leading 15 1/2 for a loss, while fellow senior Fred Daniel is next 12 1/2 tackles for a loss, including 4 1/2 sacks.

Senior Brock McGoogan has five sacks to pace the Dragons.

Nathan Tucker, also a senior, has nine tackles for a loss with four sacks.

White leads the Seminoles’ defense with 108 tackles with junior Marlon Vance next with 89 1/2 tackles.

Vance had a terrific game last week at Charleston, racking up 6 1/2 tackles, including 4 1/2 for a loss with 2 1/2 sacks.

“He’s our leader defensively,” Hooks said of Brown. “He gets us lined up and he makes plays. I think he makes us go.”

Scales, an outside linebacker, is next with 89 tackles.

“He’s a 4.0 kid. He is going to be where he is supposed to be and do it exactly how you coach him to do it,” Hooks said.

Senior defensive end Steveuon Fowler holds the team lead with four sacks, and he also has recovered three fumbles.

“He’s been our most consistent defensive lineman,” Hooks said. “He’s like another coach on the football field. He understands it.

“He’s a detail guy and is a playmaker for us up front.”

Special teams could also play a pivotal role.

Although Junction City hasn’t kicked the ball much this year, junior Jack Smith kicked a critical field goal two weeks ago against Harding Academy.

Osceola also has a solid option in senior Ivan Leon, who connected on a trio of field goals from 26, 24 and 22 yards at Charleston last week.

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