HomeSportsThursday night lights: JCS, TCA set for region championship showdown

Thursday night lights: JCS, TCA set for region championship showdown

High school football games typically happen on Friday night, but possibly the biggest game of the regular season in Madison County will happen on Thursday this week.

Jackson Christian and Trinity Christian have been on a collision course as they’ve both gone undefeated in Division II-A West play. Against the other four teams in the league, TCA’s closest win was by 21 points. Jackson Christian’s most competitive game was a 28-point win.

The Jackson rivals whose campuses are less than a 10-minute drive apart (less than two miles as the crow flies) will decide the champion of this region – the winner gets a first-round by in the playoffs and the loser will host a game next week in the first round.

Both teams’ coaches – Darby Palmer at Jackson Christian and Darren Bowling at TCA – said they were proud of the way their teams were able to focus on their games last week and not allow the teams last week to be more competitive because their players might’ve been caught looking ahead to the matchup.

And both coaches said they’re glad they already have experience dealing with a short week, although Jackson Christian’s experience doesn’t show up in the official record books of the 2023 season.

“Knowing we’d have this game on Thursday night this week, we intentionally scheduled one of our preseason scrimmages on a Thursday night after scrimmaging the previous Friday,” Palmer said. “That way when we got to this week, us moving a bunch of stuff up a day wouldn’t feel like something totally new at the end of the season.”

TCA played Manassas on Thursday, Sept. 13.

At 7-2 and 9-0, TCA and Jackson Christian will bring the two best records in the county into the matchup as well, and both coaches have plenty of reason to be concerned going into the game.

Jackson Christian’s main weapon on offense is quarterback Austin Kelley throwing to four-star junior receiver/safety Jay’Len Mosley (6 feet, 190 pounds), who picked up his 16th NCAA Division I offer this past weekend when Alabama offered him a scholarship.

“Jackson Christian is a really good team on both sides of the ball,” Bowling said. “They score a lot of points, but if you look at a lot of their games, they’re not letting the other team score a lot.”

On TCA’s side, opposing defenses have had to choose between trying to stop junior receiver Brayden Waller or sophomore running back Lekhy Thompkins (6-2, 220), who has scholarship offers from Virginia Tech and Maryland.

“They’re both so good at what they do,” Palmer said about Waller and Thompkins. “They’re hard to stop, and their quarterback, [Cooper] Vailes does a great job distributing the ball to them and their other players.”

While both coaches said they’ve waited until this week to really dive into watching the other team on film, they have come up on film while scouting other opponents earlier in the season.

The first time that happened was for Jackson Christian when they played University School of Jackson the week after TCA did.

“Coach Bowling is one of the best coaches around, and while we didn’t focus on TCA that week – I think it was the week of Labor Day – we did get a look at their players and how they were doing,” Palmer said. “And every week, we see plenty of improvement on both sides of the ball.”

For Bowling, TCA’s development – particularly in adapting to the physical style of play he prefers – has been a big factor in their being in this position right now.

“It took them a while to get used to it, but once they did, you don’t hear about bumps and bruises as much as we might have a month or two or three ago,” Bowling said about his players’ initial response and development in their physical practices. “And once they got used to that, they’ve embraced it more and more every week.”

Brandon Shields,

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