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Maturing Jonesboro looks to make playoff run

Photo by Derrick Mahone

Jonesboro junior Cameron Sutton will be counted on to play on both sides of the ball for the Cardinals this season. He will play both wide receiver and quarterback on offense and cornerback on defense.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro junior Cameron Sutton will be counted on to play on both sides of the ball for the Cardinals this season. He will play both wide receiver and quarterback on offense and cornerback on defense.

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd doesn't believe his squad needs a major overhaul in its attempt to make a run for the state playoffs.

In fact, the third-year coach says a little tweaking, and the Cardinals should challenge for their second playoff berth in the last four seasons.

Last season, the Cardinals were undone by their inability to win the close games. All five losses during their 10-game Region 4-AAAA schedule came by an average of seven points.

"I feel we have taken steps to win the close games," Floyd said. "I think the kids have felt the pain of losing. It was one or two little things that will put us over the top. Physically, I thought we could play with anybody, but mentally we needed some work."

A year older, and the Cardinals seem a little more mature. Last season, Floyd leaned heavily on a talented sophomore class that featured three-sport standout Cameron Sutton.

Experience comes in the form of 15 returning starters, including nine on the defensive side of the ball. One of the replacement starters played in several games.

Offensively, last season's starting quarterback, Alejandro Bennifield, is now at Lovejoy. However, backup Cedric Nettles started four games last season and is a threat both running and passing. Floyd will also use Sutton some at the quarterback spot.

"Cedric is looking good, and his leadership has improved," Floyd said. "His arm is getting stronger and he is very athletic, which makes him a dual threat."

But attitude is the biggest area that Floyd sees having improved.

Three members of the football team were on the school's basketball team that won the Region 4-AAAA title and reached the semifinals.

Team spirit seems to be at an all-time high.

"We have tried to pass on that winning mentality to the football team," said Sutton, a starting guard on the basketball team. "We have to learn to fight through adversity and stay focused. The big thing is to keep the mistakes at a minimum and that will allow us to win."

Floyd has also seen an increase in numbers. Last season, he counted 38 on the roster, but opened preseason practice this season with 61 players. He said more kids at the school have taken an interest in the program.

The Cardinals' last playoff appearance was in 2008 when they won their first playoff game since reaching the semifinals in 1949, the second year of the school's existence.

This season's seniors were freshmen on the '08 squad, and they want a return trip to the playoffs.

"This is the season we have been waiting on," said senior lineman Garius Hudson. "It is our time to lead this team."