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Scrimmage Play Six: Zack Jackson
Scrimmage Play Six: Zack Jackson
Zack Jackson and his Louisa County coach Jon Meeks can empathize with each other. Meeks came into the 2011 season to take over for Mark Fischer who revamped the Lions football program from head-to-toe. Jackson entered last year as the next man in line to execute Louisa’s throwback offense after Kire Worley transferred. Both quarterback and coach could not have asked for a much better start in their new positions. The team’s former defensive coordinator, Meeks took over the offense last season and gave a vote of confidence to Jackson early in the season as he called passing plays on a more regular basis than his predecessor.
“That was a huge vote of confidence and this year he’s already told me that I look 100 percent better than I did last year at the same point,” Jackson said “That’s a big plus for me because I feel like he trusts me even more. We’re going to confuse defenses.”
Jackson made good on the call throughout the year as he and Peanut Johnson established themselves as one of the top deep threat duos in the both the Jefferson District and Central Virginia overall. Don’t expect this team to abandon its roots and become the kind of spread offense often seen at Orange County or Western Albemarle, but it would seem that wrinkles are on the way, and the team is buying what Meeks is selling.
“I think we’re more focused coming in this year than we were last year,” Jackson said. “I think we’re buying into (Meek’s system) more this year. Another thing is having the offensive line back and they’re perfecting what they do, making it crisp. Myself, coming in I know the system know and know where Coach Meeks wants to go with the play calling so it’s a lot easier this year than last. Plus, I’m coming back healthy, I got injured in the middle of the season and I feel like being healthy will make a big difference.”
Louisa’s propensity to put the ball in the air more often was one of the underlying storylines for this team in 2011, but don’t be fooled. While the Lions let Jackson use his arm more often than most Louisa quarterbacks in years past, this is and has been for a decade now, a running team and Jackson is more than equipped to handle that job. Long and athletic, Jackson has the physique and skillset you’d expect from a receiver. The Lions rushing attack is built on his ability to make the proper read between his A back and B back or tuck it and run it himself.
That offensive approach is a game of cat and mouse that keeps defenses on their heels, forced to play as honest as possible against gap coverage and limiting big runs. And that’s where Jackson’s development as a passer comes in because it’s rarely possible to account for an old school rushing attack and the pass at the same time. And as someone who plays safety, Jackson’s defensive background have made his progress under center more fluid.
“It helps me out a lot knowing what a safety is supposed to be thinking,” Jackson said. “He’s looking at my eyes so I can I try and read plays a certain way, looking to the right when and come back to the left. It helps because I can figure out when they’re in zone or playing man.”
While Jackson won’t have speedster Lorenzo Henson to work with this year at receiver, he has arguably the biggest target in the area in Johnson, making the task of just throwing it up a lot easier, but also giving the Lions the perfect option for endzone fade. But defense’s are aware of Louisa’s desire to go big every once in a while so taking short change and turning it into big plays will likely be a big factor of this passing attack.
“Peanut’s so tall you can just go throw it up and he’ll go get it, but this group of runningbacks we have knows how to catch out of the backfield,” Jackson said. “I think it looks promising.”
Last year after the graduation of an extremely successful senior class, Louisa found a way to make it to its third straight Region II playoffs and won there for the second year in a row, this time in thrilling fashion against Sherando in overtime. If Jackson, his offensive line and a new rushing attack can all come together, the Lions have a great shot at making it four straight playoff appearances.
“We’ve got the offensive line returning and a lot of backs to work with,” Jackson said. “That’s always a good thing. Besides (Johnson) our receivers, it’s not about size, they’ve got a lot of speed so we can work with that.”
So it might be the same old Louisa, or Meeks and Jackson might twist it enough make it a bit different. Either way, expect a quality product out in Mineral on Friday nights as usual.