The North Jackson football team’s toughest opponent the first two games of the season was arguably themselves.

A total of 36 penalties were pivotal in losses to Plainview and Danville.

Last week, however, the Chiefs cut down on the penalties and the result was much more to their liking, a 57-31 victory over DAR.

“It’s amazing what happens when you’re not sabotaging yourself,” said North Jackson head coach Chandler Tygard. “Once you eliminate the penalties, the kids see what we can do.”

North Jackson ran up 495 total yards and scored a season-high point total. 

“It was a fun night,” Tygard said. “Winning makes everything better. No one around here expects to start 0-2. It was nice to show what the new North Jackson can be like. It was a lot of fun, especially in the second half when we had cut down on the penalties — still had six in the first half — and played really well.”

The win also kept North Jackson (1-2, 1-1) from falling into 0-2 hole in Class 4A Region 7. That’s the situation that St. John Paul II finds itself in as it prepares to visit R.D. Hicks Stadium Friday at 7 p.m. to face off with the Chiefs. 

It’s the fourth all-time meeting between the teams. North Jackson leads the series 2-1, including a 49-7 victory in Huntsville last season.

Friday is Military and First Responders Appreciation Night at the R.D. Hicks Stadium. Anyone with a military ID or who is a first responder will be admitted for free.

The Trail of Tears Ride is slated for Saturday morning, and Tygard said a Christian Biker Club will be in attendance and parked along the R.D. Hicks Stadium track.

St. John Paul II (2-2, 0-2) opened the season with non-region dominants wins over Locust Fork and East Lawrence before suffering region losses to Priceville 43-29 and Fairview 24-19.

The Falcons’ top player is dual-threat senior quarterback Seth Brown, who has accounted for more than 1,400 total yards a season after leading St. John Paul II to an 8-3 record and the school’s first playoff appearance in 2018. Brown is 73-of-109 passing for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns — junior Sean Zerkle has 32 catches for 503 yards and six touchdowns — this season while also leading the Falcons in rushing with 369 yards and six scores on 48 carries. 

“I call him a little Michael Vick,” Tygard said of Brown. “He’s a really good runner, can throw it and can scramble around and make plays. We’ve really got to be focused on him and getting after the quarterback.”

Tygard wants the Chiefs to build on last week’s victory.

“Ride that wave of momentum,” he said. “The success if there if we’ll just go play well.” 

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