As the playoffs begin, the reality for seniors that this could be the final game they will be preparing for begins to set in.
For Smackover and Clinton, who collide Friday night in the first round of the 3A playoffs, the end will come for a class that is responsible for plenty of success during their tenure.
Smackover’s seniors helped pave the way to a 5-3 title and a run to the state quarterfinals last year while also preserving a winning streak in the first round of the playoffs that dates back to 2012.
Although the Bucks have a 5-5 record, senior Jaqueze Modica has displayed his versatility on both sides of the ball, and he has played a much larger role in the offense with fellow senior Dexter Crockett nursing an ankle injury.
“He’s played really well,” Smackover coach Brian Brown said. “When we have an injury to somebody like Dexter Crockett, we’ve got to have another guy come in, and he’s that guy. It’s unfair to him.
“He’s played four of the six skill positions, and that’s not normal and probably unfair to him, but he’s become more and more of a team guy.
“He knows we need him there at running back, so he’s been doing that. It’s just hard as a skill guy, especially in today’s offenses and what people are trying to do, to learn all of the nuances of what you’re doing on offense.
“He’s been our X-receiver, our H-receiver, he’s played some quarterback, he’s played some running back. Then on defense, he’s played corner, safety and linebacker this year, so it shows his ability to move around and what kind of athlete he is, but it takes away a little bit because it’s hard to learn all that stuff. We’ve asked him to do a lot of things this year. It’s been good, but most of the stuff you learn is when you don’t have the ball. It’s hard, it’s a tough deal, but I think he’s responded well.”
Modica will also be closely watched by the Yellow Jackets at every turn.
“He obviously means a lot to them,” Clinton coach Chris Dufrene said. “He’s very athletic. They move him around from quarterback to running back to receiver. Just a very good athlete on the high school level for sure.”
Clinton’s senior class can post their third straight season with at least 10 wins with a win on Friday.
Since his sophomore year, Weston Amos has been at the controls of Clinton's offense. He heads into Friday’s game with 3,425 yards passing in his career with 44 touchdown passes and just 13 interceptions. He has also rushed for 1,729 yards in his career, including 732 yards when he led Clinton to the state quarterfinals as a sophomore.
“He just doesn’t make any mistakes,” Brown said. “In the passing game, he doesn’t make many mistakes, and he runs the ball well. He runs that offense well. They try to spread it out some, run a lot of Wing-T stuff, so they do both, and when you’ve got a quarterback like that, you can do both. He’s a well-rounded quarterback.”
Dufrene said Amos has the chance to play quarterback at the collegiate level.
“I think he’ll be a quarterback,” Dufrene said. “There are some smaller schools that are really looking at him to play quarterback. He’s very athletic, he can run. He’s a dual threat kid. He would be a good fit for anybody. He is the ultimate competitor.”
Dufrene has also seen up close the growth Amos has had.
“He knows our system. He’s been running it since the seventh grade,” Dufrene said. “He runs our Wing-T stuff to perfection. He can throw it when we need to, and if a play breaks down, he’s got good enough legs to make something happen with it.”
Given the impact both classes have made at their respective schools, there will be major voids to fill when the season eventually ends.
“They got some playing time as ninth-graders when we went to the playoffs,” Dufrene said. “They moved up from junior high and have been big contributors to every game. It’s a really good class, and I’m going to hate to see them leave after this year.”