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The Carthage Press
  • GAME NIGHT: Experienced offensive line a strength of Jasper Eagles

  • In 12 games last season, Rich Adkins’ Jasper Eagles rushed for nearly 3,500 yards, scored 79 touchdowns on the ground and averaged more than seven yards per carry. They went undefeated in the regular season and finished with an 11-1 record in Adkins’ second season.
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  • In 12 games last season, Rich Adkins’ Jasper Eagles rushed for nearly 3,500 yards, scored 79 touchdowns on the ground and averaged more than seven yards per carry. They went undefeated in the regular season and finished with an 11-1 record in Adkins’ second season.
    Now in year three of the rebuild, which really ceased being a rebuilding effort years ago, the Eagles return many key starters from last year’s playoff squad. While both Logan Johnston (759 yards, 7 TD) and Payton Smith (1,456; 25) graduated, the team’s third-leading rusher, Jordan Rice, is a senior this fall. He rushed for 812 yards, scored 10 touchdowns and averaged nearly nine yards per carry – highest on the team for someone with more than eight carries.
    There’s also Matt Stump, a senior who last year rushed for 214 yards before getting hurt. He’ll replace Johnston at quarterback this season.
    “He was mainly a linebacker but he has a lot of experience on Fridays,” Adkins said.
    On the offensive line the Eagles return senior Chet Corle, senior Kyle Ghumm, senior Austin Gloodt, junior Blake Jeffries and Nick Adkins. This will mark Ghumm’s fourth season starting at center.
    “We’re only replacing a couple of lineman this year,” Adkins said. “That’s a real bonus for us.”
    Some new faces on the offensive side include Levi Brown, a sophomore who will start at running back. He carried the ball 10 times last season for 86 yards.
    “He hasn’t had much experience at all so we’ll be breaking him in,” Adkins said. “Hopefully he’s going to have a good year.”
    There’s also Tommy Lassiter, a junior who started at linebacker last year and will step in at guard this season.
    “I’m looking for him to do a pretty good job for us,” Adkins said.
    On defense, many of those same names will see the field often. The team is young at corner, with one newcomer and two others fighting for a starting job.
    “Other than that our linebackers are basically returning with Levi Brown being another who’s going to play some linebacker,” Adkins said. “Nick Adkins will see a lot more time on the defensive side this year. (Junior) Drew Schilling just played defensive tackle last year and he’ll be doing about the same this year. Not a ton of new guys but just enough.”
    After the way the Eagles finished the 2012 season – and their run to the playoffs last year – Jasper is clearly a program on the rise. That’s led to more players coming out for the team this year than ever before, with 37 currently on the roster. That’s more than Adkins has coached in his three years.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I believe we only have six seniors, but we do have a huge crew of sophomores,” he said. “Not very many freshmen, but we have a bunch of sophomores. Overall our numbers are good for us.”
    Nick Adkins and Jeffries have each turned heads in the offseason and preseason. Their coach said each has grown up and come a long way, and he expects big seasons from them. Adkins has also been really impressed with Rice.
    “He had a good season last year but he’s worked really hard this summer. He’s in better shape this year and I think he’ll have a big season.”
    Momentum from last season has manifested in a more positive environment and the Eagles are also further along at this point than they’ve been before.
    “We were able to install things a lot faster this year,” Adkins said. “When you’ve got as many returning offensive linemen and guys with experience up front, they know the system and how we want to block things. It’s been really fun to work with them this year. We’ve been able to make adjustments on the fly, sometimes at practice. Those are things we weren’t able to do last year and the year before, especially.”
    The big questions on Friday when Jasper travels to Sarcoxie for a 7:30 p.m. season opener with the Bears will involve the team’s defense, specifically a young secondary and others in new positions.
    “Our defensive line is really the key for us I think,” Adkins said. “Our depth is not as good as it has been on the defensive line. It’s really key how they hold up and how they play on Friday night will give us a pretty good indication of how our season will go.”
    As of now, Jasper has just eight games on its regular season schedule. Greenfield, who was slated to come to Jasper Oct. 10, is playing eight-man football this season due to lack of numbers. There has been talk about finding a new opponent for that week eight game, but the Eagles may decide to leave it open, leaving them two weeks to heal and prepare for a road game at Lockwood.

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