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COLUMN: J-Town is not your normal homecoming night date

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'Serious speed,' improved team out to knock Bearcats from unbeaten perch

By John Herndon

A homecoming opponent is supposed to be a football game against one of those teams that is the equivalent of an open date.

You know what I am talking about. You look at the schedule, pick out one of your home games in the middle of the year and say, “This one is the one that we should be able to throw our helmets on the field, have a good time, win and then go dancing.”

The official homecoming-picker must have had some blinders on when that choice was Jeffersontown.

All that Anderson County has to look forward to on Friday nigh is a team loaded with athletes and owning a 4-1 record, the best start for Jeffersontown in recent years.

Take a look at the statewide stats and you'll see that in Class 5A, the third-leading scoring team is Anderson with 43.5 points a game. You will also note that just two notches behind is J-town at 37.5.

Scoring defense?  Anderson is 15th at 18.0, but Jeffersontown comes in eighth, giving up 13 points a game.

Scoring margin? In fourth place is Anderson County at 25.5. One place and one point behind is J-town after four games.

Topping it off is the fact that Friday's matchup is a key district game for both teams.

It is not exactly your classic homecoming is it?

Before we lay too much at the feet of who picked J-town as the homecoming opponent, let's just say that the opponent is just one factor among several, that come into play. And to be fair, it's pretty common knowledge that J-town has not turned the world upside down on the gridiron of late. The Chargers have not registered a winning season since at least 1998, but it could be longer. That is as far back as the KHSAA has records available online.

Over the years, you get a feel for when a coach is talking in “Coach speak” with quotes making an 0-8 team sound like the Pittsburgh Steelers, but when Anderson coach Mark Peach starts talking about J-town, you get the impression that coach speak is not the language. He believes, as many do, that Anderson will have its hands full Friday night.

“They are very solid.” Peach said recently. “Gary has done a great job with them.”

Gary is Peach's old friend and teammate at Campbellsville College, Gary Weiter. Now in his second year at J-town, Weiter is slowly building a competitive team. The Chargers turned some heads in the season opener when they routed North Oldham 48-13. Since then, they have added three more wins against weak teams, including a 34-0 thrashing of South Oldham last week.

Yet, it might have been a 27-16 loss to Louisville Western, a good Class 4A team, that has drawn some attention.

Improved?

“Yes they have,” Peach says. “They are very solid in all three phases of football: offense, defense and special teams.”

J-town has some athletes, including quarterback Joey Pierce and receivers Richard Kennedy and Tim Jackson. Together, they have made J-town the seventh-leading passing team in Class 5A.

Anderson tops the list.

A year ago, Anderson caught the Chargers coming off a two-week layoff caused by the wind storm that hit Louisville last September. Still, the Chargers hit on a pair of big plays that kept things close for a half.

They still have that capability. “Serious speed” is how another media member, who has seen J-town play this year, told me.

Running back Demetrius Conley is also strong for J-town, which will spread the field and try to get one of its speedsters in a one-on-one situation.

Over the years, I have heard so many coaches lament homecoming, fearing the players will be distracted and perhaps looking ahead to the big dance afterwards. However, Peach has embraced the festivities, promoting a parade, which gets underway Thursday at 6 p.m., and a week of spirit days at school.

Yet, few will remember those as more than a postscript. What happens on the field will be all that matters. “I think our school does a great job with homecoming. The main focus however needs to be J-town on the field,” Peach said.

At the midpoint

Halfway through the season, the Bearcats appear to be as good as advertised, maybe better. Everyone knew they would be able to score and they have not disappointed, averaging 43 points a game. Defensively, the Bearcats appear much improved over last year and are getting better as the season wears on. They are giving up 14.4 points a game and really have been solid since the Meade County game, when they gave up 34.

The kicking game is coming along nicely and this team seems to be developing as a whole.

Yet, three of the next four games are against teams capable of beating the Bearcats. They will be tested.