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Rebels pleasing in final outing

Rebels pleasing in final outing
Shawn Jackson pronounced himself both pleased and satisfied.
That shouldn’t imply, however, that the Obion County Central head football coach is ready to fold his arms and admire his work.
“We had a good spring on the heels of a solid offseason program and after a good last season, but there’s still plenty we have to get done before we can even think about saying we’ve completely turned this thing around,” Jackson said after the Rebels concluded their spring drills with a Saturday night scrimmage against Lake County.
OC outscored the Falcons three-touchdowns-to-one in an abbreviated scrimmage that lasted barely an hour.
The workout was part of the second annual Spring Fling Jamboree that also included scrimmage action between the four middle school feeder programs of OCCHS — Hillcrest, Lake Road, Ridgemont and Black Oak.
Coming off just the 10th winning season and eighth in which the program qualified for the playoffs in nearly a half-century of play, Jackson, who orchestrated a turnaround of consecutive winless seasons to last year’s 6-5 mark in just his second season, said things are obviously looking up with the school’s gridiron fortunes.
“From where we were two years ago when I came in and had just 17 players to now coming off a season in which we had a winning record, made the playoffs and have 76 players, we’ve made giant strides,” the Rebel coach said. “And it’s a testament to the kids, their parents, the administration, the coaches and the fans that things have a lot different look around here as far as football goes.
“That said, we’re about to go into the most important five weeks that we’ve had since I’ve been here. We have to really be committed to our offseason program and get better and stronger in the weightroom. The summer has gotten so much shorter with school starting back in July and the season starting in August, and we’ve still got a ton of improvement we can make.”
Jackson used Saturday’s scrimmage to look at a variety of younger players, even starting his second-team unit in the first few plays of every offensive and defensive possession.
When his starters were on the field, however, — particularly on offense — Central was impressive against a smaller Falcon squad that is learning the schemes of new head coach David Barger, who returned to Tiptonville earlier this month after leaving the LC post three years ago.
OC quarterback Trey Phipps threw touchdown passes covering 25 and 70 yards, respectively, to Tanner Cary and Nathan Ward, and had another scoring toss to Cary called back by penalty.
Phipps capped another long drive with a two-yard keeper to paydirt as the Rebels scored on each of their three possessions.
Lake County also moved the ball well at times, though mostly against Central subs.
The Rebel first-teamers did turn back a Falcon threat inside their own five-yard line on the first possession of the scrimmage and then got an interception from Tanner Miller on the final play to end another LC drive.
Miller’s pick came just after Dylan Trout had one of the biggest hits of the scrimmage on a Lake County ball carrier.
Jackson rattled off several names — many of those sophomores- or juniors-to-be — when asked of those individuals who had rising stock from spring workouts.
“Tanner Miller was probably our most improved player,” the coach said. “Nathan Spaulding really improved at outside linebacker and Jake Jones is coming at linebacker, too. Kevin Cumana has made strides in the defensive line.
“On offense, Chris Douglas, Blake Rudd and Dalton Edmaiston all have gotten better at the receiver positions.”
While saying he expects some battles for playing time to not be decided until fall camp begins, Jackson said a good bulk of the spring practice time was devoted to developing younger players.
“We knew after the first three or four days who could play for us right now and who couldn’t,” the Rebel mentor insisted. “We had a handful of kids who missed the spring with a variety of injuries, and we focused on some of our underclassmen getting better this spring.
“All in all, I think we’ve progress to where our kids are just not satisfied with being competitive. They’ve gotten now where they expect to win. And that’s what we want around here. We don’t want to have a winning season every five or six years and make the playoffs once in a blue moon. We want to make it a habit.”
To follow the Rebel program during the offseason, the team’s new website at www.occhsrebels.com will be regularly updated this summer.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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