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JEHS taking momentum into week 2

The Hornets are in unfamiliar territory as they sit at 1-0 with region play approaching. Friday night brings with it an opportunity for 2-0 when Autaugaville travels to Demopolis to play a John Essex team that has been nothing if not star-crossed over the last several years.

“They are very athletic and they are pretty big up front,” JEHS head coach Jerome Antone said. “They run the spread also. From what I observed on film, they seem like they haven’t fully grasped it just yet. But they will get better as the season goes on. They are very athletic, very physical and very fast.”

Essex, fresh off a 44-2 win over Saint Luke’s Friday night, is spending its week focused on the next phase of development under a new head coach who just began implementing his system a little over a month ago.

“We’re going to get better at what we do,” Antone said. “We’re not going to make a lot of wholesale changes. We’re going to add a play or two.”

While they hone their schemes, the Hornets primary concern remains conditioning. Much like previous years, John Essex is slight in numbers and must rest its hopes on its players’ abilities to contribute on offense, defense and special teams.

“Conditioning is very important,” Antone said. “It is the No. 1 key to our season. We know we’re going to have to play each side of the ball.”

While that group is playing the offensive side of the ball this week, it will have to contend with an aggressive Eagle defense that looks much different than the one that lost to John Essex a season ago.

“They run a 4-3 and do a lot of blitzing,” Antone said. “It’s going to be a good contest. They are a lot better than they were last year because they have a new coach. I tried to explain to (the Hornet players) that last year is last year. You can’t live on last year.”

Last year the Hornets rode the combination of quarterback Letrelle Griffin, wide receiver A.J. Bennett and running back Jamie Daniels to a 26-18 win over the Eagles. This season only a third of that trio remains in Essex blue and gold. But if new running back Denzell Charleston can mimic any of the success he had last week when he rushed for 225 yards and five touchdowns on 16 carries against Saint Luke’s, the Hornets should be competitive.

“I knew we had something special,” Antone said of seeing Charleston run against Georgiana in the Hornets’ Jamboree game nearly two weeks ago. “And with A.J. at the wide receiver position, I felt we had the chance to have a balanced attack.”

That balanced attack has an opportunity to take JEHS to a win as it opens region play, something the Hornets have not done in recent memory.

“You’re playing to win your region games,” Antone said. “We just want to prepare ourselves for one of those (four playoff) positions.”