Jackson makes plays for Jones County

ELLISVILLE – Prior to the season, the coaching staff at Jones County Junior College felt Anthony Jackson had a chance to be a bigtime player for the Bobcats -- those thoughts have come to fruition.

Jackson, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound freshman from Laurel, turned in his best performance of the year in last week's 28-14 Bobcat victory over the Southwest Mississippi Community College Bears. Jackson had seven receptions for 160 yards, including touchdown catches of 44 and 75 yards.

"We've had a pretty good season so far," said Jackson on Monday afternoon in the fieldhouse. "As for me, it's amazing what you can do when you put your head into it. When you play hard and give 100 percent, good things can happen to you."

Jackson had a bit of an adjustment to make to start the year.

He only had one catch in the season-opening, 38-7 victory over Itawamba Community College and then did not have a reception in the 23-19 win over East Mississippi Community College.

But, he began to make his presence felt in the season's third game, a 21-9 win at Co-Lin Community College. Jackson had six receptions for 116 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown catch, his first score of the year.

He now has 27 catches for 509 yards and five touchdowns this year. He ranks second in the state in receiving yards per game with 72.7. He ranks eighth in the state in receptions per game with 3.9.

Jackson said it was just a matter of getting used to playing on the junior college level.

"In the first couple of games, I was kind of nervous," he said. "But, then I just sat back and thought and I told myself, ‘Don't worry about it. Just go out and play your heart out.' I am just trying to use the talent God gave me to the best of my ability."

His first score vs. the Bears came early in the second quarter with the Bobcats leading 7-0. Quarterback Early James lobbed a pass deep down the middle and Jackson – using his height advantage – outjumped the defender, caught the ball and stepped into the end zone to complete the 44-yard play.

"We had left some points on the field already," said Jackson. "I felt like we needed to get some points, so when Early threw it, I just went up and got it. I just wanted to help the team out."

Jackson's second touchdown reception vs. the Bears came early in the third quarter with the Bobcats leading 21-0. Facing a third and 14 at his own 25, James dropped back and fired deep down the middle again for Jackson. This time, he made the catch in stride and raced 75 yards into the zone for the score.

"On that one, I just outran them," he said. "I just want to thank the offensive line for blocking well and thank my quarterback for getting the ball to me."

That play was similar to a play earlier in the season at Hinds Community College. The Bobcats were clinging to a 23-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter and the Eagles had pinned them back at the 1-yard line following a punt.

JCJC offensive coordinator and quarterback/receiver coach Brad Griffin elected to go for it all. James stopped straight back into the end zone and aired it out for Jackson near the midfield area. Jackson made the catch and proceeded to race in the end zone for a 99-yard touchdown, which proved to be the winning points in the game.

"The team needed some help," said Jackson. "They called my number and I did what I had to do. Anything to help the team out.

"Early is a really good player. When he knows he can't find anybody, he knows he can always come to me. If he gets it there, he knows I am going to catch it."

Jackson was a major part of last year's Mississippi Class 4A state championship team at Laurel. Jackson and six of his Golden Tornado teammates signed with the Bobcats and have been making contributions to this year's team.

"It's been about the same," he said. "We just brought all of that talent from Laurel down here to Jones. We won a state championship last year and we are trying to get a championship for Jones this year."

The Bobcats, ranked No. 8 in the nation, own a 6-1 overall record and sit atop the MACJC South Division with a 4-1 mark. They step outside of league play for the final time at 7 p.m. on Thursday when they travel all the way to Moorhead to face Mississippi Delta Community College. The Trojans are 4-3 on the season.

"I don't know much about them," said Jackson. "But, we are looking for a win because we need it. If I need to be a playmaker, I will. If nobody else is open, come to me because it is all about helping the team."

Jackson has been pleased with his freshman year at JCJC. He said he enjoys playing in front of big crowds at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field.

"I have never played in front of that many people," he said. "It's a lot of fun. It gives you a good feeling deep down inside. Our whole team is close. We are like brothers. Everybody on the team pulls for each other.

"We are one big family at Jones. We are all about the team, not individuals."

The Bobcats close regular season play at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23. But, Jackson is hopeful they can continue on into postseason play.

"We've got a pretty good team, but we have got to have people step up and be leaders," he said. "If that can happen, we should be pretty good."

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