Linden QBs give Patriots double-threat

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2005

There’s an old football saying that having two quarterbacks is the same thing as having none. The Linden Patriots are proving that sometimes old football sayings aren’t always right.

Thanks in large part to the Patriots’ one-two punch of current starting quarterback Jared Jackson and former starting quarterback-current starting receiver Darnell Richardson, Linden has been arguably the state’s biggest playoff surprise. After a 28-16 road win over fourth-ranked Autaugaville (the highest-ranked team in the state to fall in the first round) and a 28-0 home shutout of Frisco City, the Patriots are still standing, the only team out of the 48 survivors in all classes to enter the playoffs as a fourth seed.

Perhaps the biggest spark behind Linden’s run has been the play of Jackson and Richardson. Jackson only took over starting duties late in the season, but has blossomed into a dangerous passing threat in the postseason. The senior completed 12 of 15 passes in the Autaugaville win for 254 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and followed that up with a three-touchdown performance in the Frisco City victory.

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For his part, Jackson says the biggest difference entering the playoffs was the entire team’s drawing together to reach the goals they had set for themselves.

“We’ve got a really positive attitude,” he says. “Everybody’s coming together as a whole team. One team, one dream.”

Patriot head coach Luther Davis says that Jackson’s emergence (one he says was slowed by off-the-field factors) hasn’t been unexpected by those close to the team.

“We haven’t been surprised,” he says. “We always knew he could throw the football.”

Jackson’s transition has been made easier, however, by the shift of the athletic Richardson to receiver. Richardson scored a pair of touchdowns against Autaugaville and added a third on a second-quarter touchdown reception against Frisco City. Twice Jackson and Richardson have hooked up for two-point conversions, giving Richardson a total 22 points in only two games.

Davis says Richardson’s experience behind center has helped the two of them jell on the field.

“Since they’ve both played quarterback, they can work together from inside-out,” he says. “Moving from quarterback, Darnell’s got the best hands as a receiver on the team. Anywhere you throw it near him, he’ll make the catch.”

Richardson says that thanks to already being familiar with receiving duties, the transition has been a smooth one.

“I’d already had to learn the other positions,” he says.

“We always learn multiple positions,” Jackson explains. “Everybody’s got to know each other’s position in case someone gets hurt.”

With the Patriots succeeding the way they have, Richardson is more than happy with the change.

“It helps my show my speed, some of my other skills,” he says. “I hadn’t played receiver, so other teams haven’t been prepared for the switch.”

Both players say that the team is ready to take on their biggest challenge yet: second-ranked American Christian in Tuscaloosa. Linden fell to the Patriots at home 35-12, but with Jackson at the helm and options like Richardson to throw to, Linden has reason to believe things can be different this time around.

“We have to make sure we come out and take care of business,” says Jackson. “It’s win or go home. And we’re not ready to go home.”

“We’re hungry,” says Richardson, “and we’re not going to stop eating until we get that championship.”