St. Joseph Catholic School football coach John Baker calls his team’s home game against Jackson Prep on Friday night, perhaps, the biggest game in the history of his school.
It is easy to understand why.
Both the St. Joe Fighting Irish and the Jackson Prep Patriots have been playing football for decades, but they have never met, largely because Jackson Prep has been a much larger school than St. Joseph.
Jackson Prep has a long history of being the premier football program in the state. The Patriots play at the highest level in the MAIS (Class 6A), and they have won 21 state championships.
On Friday night, the Irish have a real shot to make a statement that could reverberate across the state. They have this shot, Baker believes, because of the years of hard work that have been put into the program. After winning three MAIS state championships in the last four years, St. Joseph has moved up to play in Class 4A this year. It’s a move that means match-ups against the Jackson Prep’s of the world will happen on a yearly basis.
Despite the size discrepancy of the two school’s, Friday nights matchup may be a lot closer than many might think. Under new coach Tyler Turner, the Patriots come into Greenville with an 0-2 record. Jackson Prep fell to Greenville Christian 48-13 on Aug. 20, and last Friday they fell to Heritage Academy 39-21.
Turner replaces legendary coach Ricky Black who resigned from his position in February after spending 40 years at Prep. He was the second high school football coach in Mississippi to win 400 games.
Even with the early struggles for the Patriots, Coach Baker and his staff have nothing but respect for their opponent Friday.
St. Joseph (1-0) kicked off their season last Friday with a 41-0 victory against Riverside. The Irish were impressive on both sides of the ball. St. Joseph was especially strong on defense where they held the Bulldogs to negative total yards.
Coach Baker said he was especially pleased with the play of his middle linebackers, Cliff Perry and Carson Graham, as well as defensive end Donnie Smith.
“Our defense is going to have to be even stronger than it was Friday because we are going to have to stop the run game,” Coach Baker said.
On offense, St. Joseph quarterback C.J. Moore completed eight of his nine passes for 149 yards on Friday night. Backup quarterback Jack Hughes also played well, completing three of his five passes and also rushing for 55 yards.
Receivers Stank King, Christian Foster, Kye Nelson and Greg Fore all made positive contributions as well.
“We have skill players that can play with anybody, but we definitely do not have the depth of Jackson Prep,” Coach Baker said.