Last year in the Classic City Championship Cedar Shoals took home their first win in 11 years with a score of 17-7.
This year each team’s dynamics have changed completely. Last year the game was a defensive battle. The Jaguars held the Gladiators to only 181 yards on four interceptions, and the Glads only allowed 211 yards, holding former quarterback KiYonnice Smith to 68 passing yards.
Now with the Jaguar offense averaging 32 points-per-game and the Gladiators scoring just 28-per-game, both Clarke County high schools are ready for an offensive shootout.
The Gladiator offensive line has protected their pocket passer quarterback senior Issac Ward all year long. He’s thrown for 1,111 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions with a passer rating of 112.1. Last season, Ward threw three interceptions in the rivalry game alone.
For Cedar Shoals, senior Jaylan Rusher has put up serious numbers in his first season as quarterback, throwing for 547 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions and a passer rating of 104.9.
But the quarterbacks aren’t the main source of offense for each team. Cedar sophomore Jerdavian Colbert has 504 yards on 104 carries with six touchdowns. For the Glads, senior O’Brien Barnett has 562 yards on 110 carries with six touchdowns.
Also for Central, junior wide receiver Nono Mack started his season on fire. With a strong connection with Ward, Mack already has 29 catches and 604 yards in five games, on pace for 1,000 receiving yards.
For the Jags, seniors Rickil Willingham and Jaiden Williams have been reliable targets in the middle of the field and in the red zone. Willingham has 17 catches for 248 yards and six touchdowns, complimenting Williams’ 20 catches for 168 yards and four touchdowns.
With a strong returning group on the defensive line with seniors Jahiem Wilson, Jalen Jackson, and Timothy Riden, the Jags have 26 tackles for loss, led by Wilson’s 43 tackles, six for a loss.
Last year, Wilson had 5 tackles, was part of a team sack, and intercepted a ball in the rivalry game. Jaguar fans should expect the defensive captain to have a big impact on the game tonight as well.
Central’s defensive line is also a force with 8 sacks, led by junior Kolbe Cooper’s with 35 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss.
Considering each team’s offensive threats, an offensive shootout will be inevitable. With a stronger defense, the Cedar Shoals Jaguars will win back-to-back Classic City Championship 35-28.