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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Battle of the Backs

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Remond Willis
Area's top two rushers go head-to-head

CARUTHERSVILLE - New Madrid County Central head coach Steve Rogers had been waiting all year to see his team put together four quarters of football.

Even after last week's 48-13 win against Charleston, he still hasn't seen it. Mainly because the game was out of hand at halftime, forcing him to play reserves for most of the second half.

But with the way the Eagles played in the first half of that game, Rogers will take another performance like that this Friday night when his team travels to Caruthersville for a 7:30 SEMO Conference game.

"Anytime you're playing a conference game it's big," said Rogers. "I used to coach down there as an assistant. It's a very tough place to play. They'll have a big crowd and we should as well. It should be a very entertaining ballgame."

If the first four weeks of the season say anything, Friday night's game could have plenty of offensive fireworks.

Both teams have big-play capabilities and both feature the top two leading rushers in Southeast Missouri.

"Looking at them on film, they're going to be the toughest game we've played all year," said Caruthersville head coach David Gilmore. "New Madrid's one of the top teams in the area this year. They've got some tremendous athletes on both sides of the ball."

Probably the top athlete for the Eagles is 6-1, 220-pound running back Remond Willis, who is second in the area with 778 yards rushing on 93 carries. He also has nine touchdowns.

"The only way you're going to stop Remond Willis is to get a lot of guys to the ball," said Gilmore of the Illinois recruit. "We're going to do a lot of gang tackling and get to the ball. There is no magic formula for stopping a back like that. You've got to hit him quick, you've got to hit him low, and stop his momentum."

But the Tigers will counter with the leading rusher in the area in Jimmy Jackson, who has 959 yards on 89 carries with 10 touchdowns.

He also has eight receptions for 133 yards in the Tigers' wide open attack.

The 5-foot-8, 195 pound speedster had over 1,500 yards rushing last year and is said to be heavily recruited this year by several Division I schools.

"As in any game like this, the battle up front's going to determine what those two backs do," said Gilmore. "Last week we didn't get the job done up front against Hayti's defensive front line. If we don't win the battle in the trenches, it's going to be a long night for us."

Hayti, which defeated the Tigers 28-21, may have won the battle in the trenches, but Caruthersville still managed nearly 500 yards of offense.

Caruthersville quarterback Rogers VanAusdall has completed 39-of-72 passes for 743 yards. He has seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

Wideout Dominique Branch leads the team with eight receptions for 176 yards with three TDs. Plessie Ellitt follows closely with seven catches for 162 yards.

The Tigers lead the area in scoring, averaging 43 points per game.

"Obviously you've got to key on (Jackson), but you can't forget about their passing game," said Rogers. "Our main concern is stopping the run and making them beat us throwing the football."

The Eagles (3-1) have relied mostly on Willis to carry the load, but they have plenty of other talented players.

Edgar Givens is a force on both sides of the ball. He has five touchdowns this year, including three receiving, one rushing and one on a fumble return.

He also has two interceptions this year from his linebacker position.

"It's pretty obvious that Remond's the hub of our offense, but we've got other players and other weapons as well," said Rogers.

Quarterback Darrel Newsom has thrown for 288 yards, completing 14-of-28 passes this year.

"So far they haven't been forced to pass a whole lot because Willis has gotten the job done," said Gilmore. "If we can control Remond Willis, that will give us a good chance of being in the ball game."

Caruthersville (3-1), which has already equaled last season's win total, will be looking for a measure of respect around the area with a victory against the larger school.

"We treat this like we do any game, but this is for the conference lead," said Gilmore. "Whoever wins this game will set the tone for the conference championship. For us to be able to compete with a New Madrid is really going to say a lot about our team."

NMCC has defeated the Tigers eight straight times dating back to the 1994 season. The Eagles have won by an average score of 42-6, including three straight 50-point games from 1999-2001.

But Rogers insists his team won't take the Tigers lightly.

"Our guys are not going to take anything for granted," he said. "We're 3-1 and we've gotten to that point by working hard. We look forward to a real good ballgame with them. Hopefully they haven't seen the size and the physicalness that we can play."