Wildcats hosting Arcadia in playoffs

Published 3:16 pm Friday, November 17, 2017

Varnado and Arcadia met in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs at Varnado in 2013 in a No. 16-versus-No. 17 matchup.
Both teams entered that game after 2-8 regular seasons and Arcadia won the game, 35-20.
That year was Varnado coach Scott Shaffett’s second year and Arcadia coach Dimitri Carr’s first year.
Things have changed since then and the teams will meet again tonight at 7 p.m. in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs, with the chance to play in the quarterfinals at stake.
This season, fourth-seeded Varnado posted a 6-3 record while 13th-seeded Arcadia went 4-5.
“Coach Shaffett has that program rolling down there,” Carr said. “They’ve got a bunch of team speed. Number 5 (JaDarrell Magee) can tote the pill. He’s big and he does a good job of blocking. Number 4 (Desmond Harry) is very speedy. He can take it to the house in the blink of an eye.
“That quarterback (James Williams) has a very good arm. I think he can hit a guy 60 yards downfield. I think we played each other our first year. We played each other in 2013, so it’s great to see a guy build a program. It’s neat to see our programs running parallel. I think it’ll be a great game.”
Both teams won their playoff openers in lopsided fashion. Varnado defeated No. 29 Ringgold, 54-0, while Arcadia won 52-8 against No. 20 White Castle.
“Last week, it was one of those games where every aspect, we did a really good job, offense, defense and special teams,” Varnado coach Scott Shaffett said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do in the first round of the playoffs and we did it.”
The winner will face either defending Class 1A state champion Logansport, the fifth-seeded team, or No. 21 Homer.
Both teams have solid running games, but in different ways.
Varnado mainly uses a three-back system with Harry, Magee and Jaccourious Bickham. Last week, Magee ran for three touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions. Magee also caught a touchdown pass from Williams. It was Williams’ 10th touchdown pass this season. Williams ran for two twice. Bickham had a touchdown and a two-point conversion. DeMarcus Boston and Zantonio Peters rushed for a touchdown each and Darrius Harry recorded a two-point conversion.
Shaffett said that last week, Harry, Bickham and Magee did a good job of running the ball and the line did a good job of blocking for them.
On the other side, most of Arcadia’s running game is handled by Corey Russell.
“It’s a big task at hand,” Shaffett said. “They’ve got a running back that has amassed 1,720 yards and 27 touchdowns on the season. Needless to say, the kid is the real deal. Someway, somehow, we need to find a way to stop him and keep the football out of his hands. We have to have a great offensive performance.”
Over the last two years, Russell, a junior, has run for 4,135 yards and 55 touchdowns. This season, he has 1,720 yards and 27 scores, despite missing two games because of injury early this season. Russell has run for more than 200 yards and at least two touchdowns in his last four games.
“Corey Russell is a junior,” coach Carr said. “The kid is very special. I haven’t coached many athletes like him. Coaching him in junior high, you knew he’d be pretty special, but the way he works sets him apart. It puts a stamp on it.
“He rushed for 2,000 yards last year. To come back and do the same thing is very special. He’s a Beta Club kid. He’s got a 3.6 GPA. He does everything right. He loves to practice and work on his craft. When you meet those types of guys, you’re just honored to coach him. To me, he’s one of the best backs in the state and he’s one of the best overall people in our school.”
Carr said that Arcadia is a very young team. He said they graduated their biggest senior class last year since he has been there, which was 14 players. He said they have freshmen and sophomores “playing everywhere.”
Freshman quarterback Tyler Jefferson has thrown for 689 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions.
Jajuante Cockerham is the team’s leading receiver, with nine catches for 352 yards and three scores.
Defensively, Shaffett said that Darien Vargas continues to play well defensively and the rest of the defense has stepped up around him, not allowing any points on the board. The Wildcats have gone eight straight quarters without allowing a score.
Brandon Rallins leads Arcadia in tackles with 62, as the team is balanced in terms of tackles. Jamal Hill is second with 50 and Cockerham is next with 47.