Jackson State’s early success is a wakeup name for SWAC and a ray of hope for Jackson, Mississippi — •
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – On the finish of a sweaty, musty maze of jubilant Jackson State soccer gamers gyrating to 2 Chainz’s “Really feel A Method,” coach Deion Sanders sat in a small, cluttered room together with his surgically-repaired proper foot propped up on a pink plastic chair, a glad look on his face.
Jackson State had simply performed its greatest sport in not less than a decade Saturday afternoon at Louis Crews Stadium and delivered a blowout win.
Jackson State 61, Alabama State 15.
That is the type of win Jackson State’s alumni had been ready for since Sanders arrived with a lot pomp and circumstance and hype after athletic director Ashley Robinson employed him in September 2020.
That is the type of win over the defending Southwestern Athletic Convention (SWAC) champions that makes Jackson State related once more as a result of it’s clear the Western Division championship and a visit to the SWAC championship sport goes by way of the Tigers.
However that is additionally the type of win that brings hope to Jackson, Mississippi’s, struggling capital metropolis.
There have been 114 recorded homicides in Jackson as of Oct. 9, in keeping with The Clarion Ledger, which suggests town is on tempo to surpass final 12 months’s document of 130 slayings.
Jackson can also be one of many state’s poorest cities. In 2019, 23% of Jackson residents had an earnings beneath the poverty degree, in keeping with city-data.com.
“We made a change. This can be a change. This can be a large change,” Sanders mentioned. “The final time we performed them, it wasn’t like this.
“That’s why they scheduled us for homecoming. They thought it was going to be the identical previous factor, however it’s a brand new day. I used to be pleased with the children.”
The town wants Jackson State soccer to thrive. Every little thing is best when the Tigers are successful – the staff has now improved to 4-1 total – as a result of the college is town’s epicenter.
Sanders arrives on the workplace about 5 a.m. most days. He makes use of a portion of his time to observe native information so he can perceive what plagues town and the way he may assist.
“There’s so much happening within the metropolis that we are able to enhance as an entire. We are able to do higher as a folks, as a metropolis, as a tradition,” Sanders mentioned. “We simply want sources and alternative, and I believe there shall be an amazing change. Sources and alternative. That’s all now we have. That’s what we’re utilizing.”
Alabama A&M was thought-about Jackson State’s greatest menace all season due to its high-powered offense and quarterback Aqeel Glass, who’s an NFL prospect.
However Jackson State by no means gave Alabama A&M a chance to compete.
A 67-yard fumble return for a landing by James Houston and a 58-yard punt return by Warren Newman that arrange one other landing gave Jackson State a 14-0 lead halfway by way of the primary quarter.
They led 33-7 at halftime, and 54-7 coming into the fourth quarter.
Sanders made certain his staff knew the sport’s significance and the influence a win would have on this system.
He modified playcallers this week, giving the job to tight ends coach T.C. Taylor. He challenged the offensive line to be extra bodily in a closed-door assembly that included loads of yelling however no profanity.
He had quick, particular person conferences in his workplace final week with a number of completely different place teams, letting them understand how a lot a win would change Jackson State’s program.
In spite of everything, Alabama A&M beat Jackson State 52-43 and Glass handed for a quarter mile and 6 touchdowns final spring. The Tigers sacked him eight occasions on Saturday.
“There have been two complete completely different groups out on the sector right this moment,” Sanders mentioned. “I do know all people thought it was highschool as a result of they needed the clock to run within the second half so we might get this mess over with.
“That they had their greatest week of follow since I’ve been right here. We had been locked in. I believe we had three fights on Thursday, that permit me know they had been centered.”
Step one towards constructing an elite program is dominating the SWAC. As soon as upon a time, Jackson State did that.
From 1971 by way of 1999, Jackson State gained not less than eight video games 21 occasions, together with 11 nine-win seasons. In 1978 and 1996, the Tigers gained 10 video games, probably the most at school historical past.
Since then, they’ve gained as many as eight video games 3 times, and the final occurred in 2013. They haven’t gained a SWAC title since 2007 and haven’t performed for one since 2013.
“This win means we’re actual. [The city] has a motive to consider and we needed to switch that motive on the sector to off the sector,” Sanders mentioned. “They’ve a motive to consider they’ll make it, they’ll do it, they’ll have a change.”