|Emotional loss: Wildcats will have to move on without Jenkins as anchor, leader|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 26, 2006 - The plans for the Wildcats to use the bye week to heal some players and get physically healthy took a major blow on Saturday.
Senior Jacob Jenkins, who was a three-year starter and emotional leader of the team, broke his leg in a four-wheeler accident and will be out for the season.
Jenkins started the first game of his sophomore season and had 27 consecutive starts before the accident. He had a rod placed in his leg on Sunday, and may be able to come home from the hospital as early as today.
Along with anchoring the offensive line, Jenkins also made blocking calls for the rest of the line and was the deep snapper on punts and field goals.
More importantly, though, he was a team leader both vocally and by example, said head coach Greg Owens.
"To borrow a line from the movie Remember the Titans, 'You can't replace a Jacob Jenkins,' " Owens said. "It's not just physically, but what we does for us on the field, the leadership qualities, the work ethic and the character he brings to the team. His attitude is always 'Let's go guys, let's find a way to get it done,' and those are things we're going to miss about him.
When Jenkins is able to return to school, the coaches will use him as a mentor for whoever will take his place.
"We're going to try to to get back with us as quick as he can be there, to encourage and just to have his presence around will help him emotionally and I know it'll give us a lift," Owens said. "He can be another set of eyes out there for us and help the guy who's going to be in his position."
As far as who that will be, Owens is unsure.
Part of that will depend on the grade situation when they are posted today. Owens said despite all the tutoring and study halls, there are some varsity Wildcats who are borderline and may be ineligible to play for at least three weeks.
"We've got to survive a grade week this week, and hopefully things will work out well for us," he said. "We've got a couple of guys we're looking at for the center position and will fit into the big picture of everything else we're trying to accomplish."
EVALUATION - One of the main focuses for the coaches this week is evaluation. Owens said he is evaluating the entire athletic program as well as the football program, from middle school to varsity.
He's also challenged his varsity assistants to evaluate each side of the ball to see where improvements can be made.
"We need to find out what's going wrong, and really analyze ourselves and scout ourselves," he said. "Is it personnel, is it scheme, are we playing hard? We're going to look at all those things that point to why we're not jelling."
That is the fall-out of the 31-0 loss to Sherman on homecoming.
"I feel good about how the defense played - they just had to play too long the other night. Offensively, there are some issues there that we have to solve. I thought we were on the right track, making progress every week offensively, but we digressed this last week. So, we've got to get back and get refocused with those guys."
LIGHTER LOAD - The Wildcats didn't practice after school on Monday, and Owens said the practices this week will be shorter than a normal work week.
"When I first started, I thought an off week was just another week to go hard. But, kids don't see it that way. There's nothing for them to play for on Friday," he explained. "After beating my head against the wall for a couple of years trying to do that, I realized they need a break."
During the athletic period, the Wildcats will continue to lift weights and will do more film study this week. After school, the coaches will be re-teaching some aspects of the game plan and working with possible personnel changes.
They will also start getting players familiar with Mount Pleasant, the District 11-4A opening opponent on Oct. 13 and Liberty-Eylau, the upcoming foe on Oct. 6. Mount Pleasant runs an option-based offense, one of the few that the Wildcats will see this year.
"L-E will line up in the I-formation, so we're starting to see two teams that will line up and run the ball and play smash-mouth with us," Owens said. "So, we'll start talking about schemes and kids and personnel for those two games.
"It's really a good time for a break for us on those things."