HomeSchoolsThe wait is over: JCM-Liberty to kick off season

The wait is over: JCM-Liberty to kick off season

Jackson Central-Merry head football coach Erit Turner is a JCM alum.

And he actually played in the first-ever football game between the Cougars and Liberty.

“We beat them 60-0 or something like that,” Turner said Tuesday at the Doubletree Hotel after he and a few other local football coaches spoke at the Exchange Club meeting. “And I think we made a few community members mad at how bad we beat them.

“I remember a few people calling in to Mr. Richard Donnell’s Community Feedback radio show saying we shouldn’t have beaten them as bad as we did.”

That was in 2004. A lot has changed since that initial meeting. The Crusaders spent the better part of a decade being one of the top programs in rural West Tennessee, while the Cougars saw their win total each season decline with enrollment before the program and school went on hiatus in 2016.

But that initial game 19 years ago or any game since then will have an effect this week when the Crusaders and Cougars open the season against each other at Liberty’s stadium.

“I’m glad to have them back,” said Liberty head coach Scott Akin about playing JCM. “And I’m hoping that we’ll all step our games up and make football a priority again in Jackson because we’ve got too many athletes here for all of us not to be good.”

When JCM shut down in the spring of 2016, many of its students transferred to Liberty. When JCM opened back up in 2021, one of the schools its opening affected most was Liberty, which had been overcrowded for a number of years.

So there are plenty of close relationships – cousins, neighbors and friends – who will line up against each other. And that helps with the motivation for the week, even though neither team needed it.

“It’s a city game, a rivalry game, the first game of the season,” Akin said. “If you can’t get up for that, then something is wrong with your football gene.”

Turner said the motivations for the team has helped in practice.

“We’ve had a good week and everybody is locked in because we want to start this era with a win and get a win over some guys we know here in our city,” Turner said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Both coaches have been able to watch film on the opposing team from scrimmages.

Akin likes the way JCM’s defense swarms to the ball, and he likes their run game.

“They’re going to be tough to stop, so we’ll have to get after it,” Akin said.

Turner said Liberty’s offense with new coordinator Scott Blair looks a lot different from last year’s and it’s dangerous because it gets more guys involved on almost every play.

“You’ve got to watch everybody before the snap to see where they go,” Turner said.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and Akin said he’s hoping for plenty of Crusader and Cougar fans at the game.

“It’s the first game of the season, and it’s two city teams going against each other,” Akin said. “I think this will be a fun game to watch for anyone trying to decide where to go.”

Brandon Shields,

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