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Lovejoy’s Jackson diversifies game

Photo by Gabriel Stovall 
Lovejoy senior tight end Arshad Jackson has worked hard to improve his blocking skills this season. Jackson has 117 receiving yards and five touchdowns for the Wildcats.

Photo by Gabriel Stovall Lovejoy senior tight end Arshad Jackson has worked hard to improve his blocking skills this season. Jackson has 117 receiving yards and five touchdowns for the Wildcats.

HAMPTON — Lovejoy tight end Arshad Jackson hasn’t had any 10-catch, 200-yard performances yet this season.

In fact, he has yet to reach the 200 receiving yards mark in Lovejoy’s first six games combined.

But he’ll tell you that he is having a breakout season for the ninth-ranked Wildcats — even if his stat lines don’t seem to back it up.

“I feel like I’m playing real good right now,” said Jackson, an Auburn football commit. “I think I’ve improved and matured in so many aspects of my game. I used to just think about receiving yards and touchdown catches, but I’ve been watching a lot of college football lately, and I see there’s so much more to being a tight end than that.”

So far Lovejoy’s 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end has tallied 117 receiving yards along with five touchdown receptions. Three of those scoring grabs came in Lovejoy’s 58-3 victory over Druid Hills which gave coach Al Hughes his 100th coaching win.

Hughes is quick to point out that the numbers don’t tell the full story of Jackson’s impact on the team. His presence on the field alone is enough to free up Lovejoy’s big-play potential.

“He draws such a crowd out there,” Hughes said. “Everybody is trying to double cover him. When we run the ball everything slants toward him. When we throw teams roll their coverages toward him. Everybody’s double teaming him. It makes it hard to get him the ball.”

Against Druid Hills, however, Hughes made it a point for quarterback Alejandro Bennifield to get the ball to Jackson whenever he could — and even if it looked like he couldn’t.

“We decided to throw him the ball even when double teamed,” Hughes said. “One of those touchdowns was on a scramble, and it’s easy for a quarterback to find a 6-foot-6 guy on a scramble.”

The opposing teams’ defense isn’t the only thing that makes it hard for Jackson to get untracked offensively.

The Wildcats are loaded with offensive skill position talent, including Lovejoy’s all-time leading rusher Travis Custis at running back, and speedy receivers like JuMichael Ramos, Preston Williams and Terry Henderson just to name a few.

For Hughes, it presents him with a good problem to have.

“We have so many good guys,” Hughes said. “There aren’t enough footballs to go around.”

It can get frustrating sometimes, Jackson said. But Jackson said it gives him a chance to hone other aspects of his game that will become more meaningful when he begins at Auburn next season.

“Blocking is such an important part of the college game,” Jackson said. “More so than in high school. I’ve been working on that a lot and getting good at it.”

So good, that the work in the trenches has given him more things to celebrate.

“I love pancake blocks,” he said. “Blowing guys up. It’s fun. Now I come off the field and go back to the sidelines and celebrate the block that helped score a touchdown.”

Although he has an eye toward his future, Jackson — who is also the team’s long snapper on field goals and punts — said the extra work on his game isn’t just for Auburn. He and his Lovejoy teammates are still supremely focused on getting back to the state championship game.

The Wildcats came up short in last year’s Class AAAA state title game, losing to Tucker 22-7 after enjoying an undefeated regular season.

This year, their lone loss —14-7 at Colquitt County —reminded Jackson of how bad he wants to finish his last year at Lovejoy on top.

“Colquitt was a tough loss,” he said. “But it was the best thing that could’ve happened to us because it made us sit down and think. Sometimes you need that loss to shock you and shake you. We don’t want to have that feeling anymore this season.”