Photo by Derrick Mahone
Forest Park linebacker Achilles Jackson (1) will play for the North squad in the first Clayton County Senior Bowl on Saturday at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
The Clayton Senior Bowl is so new that chips on the shoulder haven’t had time to grow. But if you ask Drew coach Jarrett Laws, who will lead the North squad against the South, it’s already there.
“I feel like we have a chip on our shoulder, but it’s a really small one,” he said. “On our side, kids constantly have to prove themselves. We’re the yeoman’s group on this side. The South side has gotten a lot of publicity, and deservedly so. The South side holds both of the last championship appearances.”
Lovejoy this year and Mount Zion in 1999 were the last two Southern Crescent teams to play in a high school football final. Players from those schools have joined forces on the South squad headed by Lovejoy coach Al Hughes.
But the North side — which is made up of players and coaches from Drew, Forest Park, Morrow, North Clayton and Riverdale — has the last actual championship victory — Morrow’s crown in 1987.
“That seems like a faded memory when you talk to some people,” Laws said.
The North will feature North Clayton’s Dennis Johnson at quarterback, Drew’s Jadarius West at tailback, Forest Park’s Achilles Jackson at linebacker and a host of Morrow players manning the lines.
Looking at the assemblage of talent has answered a question for Laws.
“I always wondered what we’d be like if we were one big school,” he said. “I’ve always felt like we had a great talent pool but it was divided over so many schools. This week has been amazing, seeing the guys work together. The kids follow each other statistically. They’re so familiar with one another that the kids set the depth chart themselves, before we had one practice.”
The players aren’t the only ones who have come together quickly. Laws said the coaches — Olten Downs from Riverdale, Max Wiltz from North Clayton and Edmund Coley from Forest Park — have meshed together smoothly.
“As much as I’ve been leading this thing, I’ve learned a lot from Coach Downs, Coach Wiltz and Coach Coley,” Laws said.
Like their South squad counterparts, the North coaches have tried to keep things simple.
“Our playbook is one page,” Laws said. “The front side is the runs and the back side is the pass.”