HomeNewsJCM football builds on experience; players learn about Juneteenth

JCM football builds on experience; players learn about Juneteenth

Jackson Central-Merry High School’s football team experienced its rebirth in the fall of 2021 when the Cougars returned to the gridiron for a junior varsity schedule.

In 2022, they played eight varsity games with an independent schedule against teams ranging from Arkansas to Middle Tennessee.

This season will be different, however. The Cougars are back to playing and competing for the playoffs in a region.

“If we’re wanting to play against good teams, we got in a good region,” said JCM head coach Erit Turner, who’s a 2005 graduate of JCM.

The region schedule consists of tradition-rich programs like Camden, Milan, Adamsville, Huntingdon, Peabody and Riverside along with Gibson County, who’s improving as a program.

“Milan, Adamsville, Huntingdon, Peabody and Riverside have all been to the state semifinals in the last few years,” Turner said. “So we have that region schedule and then you throw in Liberty and North Side and it’s like we’re playing a full season of playoff games.”

But Turner said that’s OK. He was a part of the final few teams JCM fielded that were among the best in West Tennessee, so he remembers what it took for the Cougars to be among the most respected teams in this end of the state.

“I’m telling our guys now that we weren’t always the bigger team on the field, but everyone knew if they had JCM on their schedule, they were going to get hit in the mouth,” Turner said. “And I think we’re building to having that type of mentality.”

Another thing that’s building for the Cougars is their football knowledge.

“Last year, the coaches were constantly having to tell the players every little thing to do before the snap on every play,” Turner said. “And that was how it was for nearly the entire season.

“But now, they’re at the point where they can see what another team is doing and recognize it and make the adjustment they need to make, which helps a lot for us in coaching because now that we can trust them for that, we can focus on other things as needed.”

And that’s how Turner has gone about rebuilding the program.

“Last year, everybody played one way,” Turner said. “We thought it best to let them play one way, learn that position, and once we and they were comfortable with that position, we started working with them playing a position on the other side of the ball.”

Something else that’s helped the team in recent days was being involved in the setup for the Juneteenth celebration on Saturday at T.R. White Sportsplex.

“I want our guys involved in the community and doing community projects like that,” Turner said. “And [Wendy Trice-Martin] asked me if some of our guys could come out and help them set up for their celebration on Saturday.”

Turner said he was all for it, but he asked Trice-Martin, who’s the president of the Society for African-American Cultural Awareness, to come speak to the players about the meaning behind the Juneteenth holiday.

“Growing up, I heard of Juneteenth, but I didn’t really know anything about it because it was never taught in school,” Turner said. “So I thought it wasn’t that important.

“But it is. And Miss Wendy did a great job talking to the kids and teaching them the history behind the holiday.”

Juneteenth is meant to celebrate Black slaves’ freedom after the end of the Civil War.

“I hate that I didn’t know anything about it until the last few years, and our young men need to understand our history now so they can teach it to their children later,” Turner said. “And I think a lot of our guys benefitted from Miss Wendy speaking to them.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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