Jacob Edwards isn't your typical freshman.
Newton County's first-year coach Jackie Williamson already knew that, but his precocious quarterback gave him quite the reminder a week ago during the Cougars' season opener. With a freshman starting behind center, Williamson and the Cougars planned to not put too much pressure on Edwards, to not ask him to carry the load.
But in his first career start at Southeast Lauderdale, Edwards simply completed his first seven passes and finished 12 of 18 passing for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
“He has a lot of composure for a young guy,” Williamson said. “Our whole plan this year is not to put the game on his shoulders, and that was especially the case last week with him making his first start. He knew he'd be nervous. And then all he did was come out and go 7 for 7 right out of the box.
“That was a great way to start a career. And his knowledge of our offense and the way we want to run things has been great and it's allowed us to add more and more to the offense. He's ahead of the curve of where we expected he'd be.”
Williamson wasn't the only one impressed by Edwards' poised-beyond-his-years play. Choctaw Central coach Troy Savell, whose Warriors make the trip to Decatur for today's 7:30 p.m. kickoff, also took notice.
“Their young quarterback throws the ball really well,” he said. “I know he's just a freshman but in watching him, he doesn't look it. He has a lot of poise back there for being so young.”
And if Edwards continues to build off that solid beginning, it could lead to a long night for Choctaw, Savell fears. That is because while Choctaw beat Union 17-14 last week to snap a 13-game losing streak, it can't match the talent Newton County possesses out wide.
“They do a good job with that short, quick passing game and getting the ball out to guys in space,” Savell explained. “And out in space, we don't defend real well because we don't have a lot of speed. If they can get the ball out there and get us isolated, I have a bad feeling (Jamoral Graham) is going to make a move and be gone.
“(Graham) is the real deal. He's really fast and they do a good job of getting him the ball.”
Utilizing all that talent is certainly Newton County's plan. It all begins with Graham, who led the Cougars with 90 yards rushing and two touchdowns on only nine carries, while also hauling in three passes for 108 yards and a score. But he was not alone. Xavier Sharkey rushed for 74 yards on 17 carries and Edwards completed passes to seven different receivers, including Joe Wansley, who also reached the end zone.
“That's been good for Jacob,” Williamson said. “Everybody around Jacob can make plays and he trusts that if he gets them the ball, good things will happen.
“We spread the ball around very well and especially in the backfield, we were able to rotate guys in and out and keep them fresh and productive.”
With all that talent on the Cougars' offense, the Warriors' best defense may be another big week from its new flexbone option offense. After struggling with turnovers – they fumbled seven times – against Leake Central in the opener, the Warriors cleaned up their act and controlled play against Union. The ability to play keep-away from Newton County is critical.
“It's the only way we'll have a chance,” Savell said. “And then when we're on defense, we have to play a bend but don't break style and hope not to give up any big plays. We need to limit those and make them drive the length of the field, and then do that ourselves, too.
“The big key is if we can move the ball on them.”
After watching the Warriors on film and talking with Union coach Brad Breland, that is just what Williamson is worried about.
“We feel good in that we only have one area to worry about,” he said about facing Choctaw's run-dominant attack. “But that flexbone is not an easy offense to defend, and that has led to a lot of sleepless nights for the coaches who have to stop it.
“And after seeing them on film from Week 1 to Week 2 and talking to coach Breland, they made an unbelievable amount of improvement. It really was amazing how good they looked in it. They ran it to a T, and if they do that again, we are going to have our hands full.”
If that happens, Newton County may have to ask Edwards to win the game. But if one game is any indication, the freshman can handle it.
Jacob Edwards isn't your typical freshman.
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