By Jason Avery
Fresh off of a bye week, Junction City enters its final game prior to starting conference play eager to get the bad taste out of its mouth stemming from a loss to Smackover two weeks ago.
But standing in their way is one of Louisiana’s traditional powerhouses, as Junction City takes on Haynesville (La.) in a clash of border rivals.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. from Haynesville.
The Golden Tornado (2-0) won the first two meetings in the series, but the Dragons (1-1) won last year’s contest 48-20, rolling up 425 yards of total offense.
“Haynesville is just a traditional football powerhouse,” said Junction City coach Steven Jones. “Having those guys on the schedule is a challenge for us every year, but we look forward to a great matchup and a good test on the road that will really help us out as we go throughout the rest of the season.”
Haynesville’s defense features two players that could be fixtures in the SEC in the future.
Senior defensive lineman Joseph Evans has verbally committed to LSU, while junior defensive lineman CamRon Jackson holds several SEC offers, and Jones is eager to see how his offensive line will fare.
“They’ve got a very solid defensive line,” Jones said. “We’re going against really the same D-line as they had last year. Obviously, those kids got better, but we didn’t lose a lot on our offensive line, so it will really be a test of two lines that battled each other last year. It was a good trench matchup, so I’m excited to see our guys get out there and compete against some really elite talent.”
Jones said his defense faces a similar challenge to the one that El Dorado faced with Cabot last week.
“They are not going to throw the ball,” Jones said. “Very rarely will they drop back and throw a pass. They are going to pound the rock. That’s what they hang their hat on. They’ve only attempted a couple of passes this season. They try to keep it on the ground and get three yards and a cloud of dust, so we’ll have to be more physical than them up front and just load up to stop the run.”
Jones added that he expects his team to bounce back after falling at Smackover two weeks ago.
“I think that they’ll be eager to respond after coming off a loss and wanting to get that behind them and move forward,” Jones said. “I think we’ll come out and give Haynesville all that we have.”
Jones said the bye week was very beneficial to his team.
“One of the things that really helped us was we had a little bit of time to get healthy,” Jones said. “We had a few guys banged up over the last couple of weeks, but we’re just about to 100 percent with everybody. I think that we’ll have most everybody dressed out and ready to go. It was really a learning week, but it gave us a couple of extra days to prepare for Haynesville. Just getting in and getting our bodies back to where they need to be, so we’re glad that we had a little bit of time to heal up.”
Jones said senior two-way standout Dhante Gibson, who didn’t play against Smackover, will be a game-time decision.
“He’s progressing very well,” Jones said. “He’s been back with us at practice a bit. We just want to make sure that he’s 100 percent before we put him back out there.”
In addition to getting healthy, Jones said the Dragons spent the bye week correcting mistakes.
“We’re going to work fundamentals every day, but now that you have actual tape that you can look at, you can go back and see those games,” Jones said. “You can find those obvious corrections that you need to work on and see little things here and there like staying in your lane on our kickoff team. We punt directionally, so we need to make sure the ball goes where we need it to, just making sure we’re solid in special teams. That’s something that we really harped on last week.”
If the Dragons are to come away with a win on the road, Jones said his team must play four quarters of solid football.
“I think we’ve just got to put four quarters together this week,” Jones said. “We’ve shown signs of being a very good football team. We’ve faced some adversity early on with injuries and things like that, but we’ve also shot ourselves in the foot a few times by turning the ball over and giving up big plays defensively, so if we can just string four quarters together and do a better job of just going hard every snap, we’ll have a very good chance to win.”