Underdog Alcorn ready for archrival Jackson State

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 21, 2008

JACKSON — Alcorn State may be 2-9 but new coach Ernest T. Jones has sold his team on the fact that Saturday’s Capital City Classic with Jackson State will be for more than just bragging rights.

“I’m calling it the Mississippi SWAC Championship game. We’ve both beaten Mississippi Valley State, so whoever wins this game will have swept Mississippi,” Jones told a gathering of media and fans at Tuesday’s Capital City Classic press conference. Kickoff is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.

Capital City Classic

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Saturday, 1 p.m.

Alcorn State vs. Jackson State

At Veterans Memorial Stadium

Jones went as far as buying a trophy himself.

“Absolutely, this is for the Mississippi SWAC,” Jones said.

Jackson State coach Rick Comegy tried to downplay Jones’ enthusiasm. His Tigers (6-4, 5-1 SWAC) have already clinched the Southwestern Athletic Conference Eastern Division and will play for the overall SWAC title on Dec. 13 in Birmingham.

“That’s okay, I was a young coach once, too,” Comegy deadpanned. “I like that coach Jones has brought in a spurt of energy to Alcorn’s program. He brought in a wide-open offense. Their record (2-9) is not indicative of the level of play they have shown. They do a great job with their game plans and they hustle.”

Even before the press conference, Jones would not refer to Jackson State by its name, calling it “that school up north.”

That drew a sharp retort from Jackson State freshman tackle Keyun Swinney.

“We’ll call them that school from the south,” Swinney said.

The Tigers’ standout defensive end Marcus Benard said that Jackson State needs no extra incentive.

“I know I’m going to be ready to play. They (Alcorn) definitely want to finish hard, but they should know, we’re going to hit back hard,” Benard said. The senior leads the Tigers with 15 sacks this season and that brought a special praise from Comegy.

“Marcus Benard is the toughest player in my 30 years of coaching. He has a great speed off the edge,” Comegy said.

While Comegy continued to try to keep things on an even keel for his team, Jones kept wanting to light a fire.

“I want this game to be meaningful. I played in this game. The school up north has done a good job. I want to mirror what they’ve done. We may be 2-9, but we’ve shown up for every game. We’ll be there all four quarters and we’re going to fight,” Jones said.

Afterward, Jones was able to give a realistic assessment of his first year with the Braves.

“We’ve gotten better mentally. A big thing has been our ability to come back after negative things happen. We’re still not there yet, but I think we’re going to be.

“We have become a more disciplined, more sound football team. We just need a few more athletes. That’s why this game is important to us. It’s going to be shown live on ESPNU and maybe that will attract that three- or four-star recruit that we need,” Jones said.

The Braves are led by former Madison Central quarterback Tim Buckley (134-of-304 passing for 1,771 yards). Edward Johnson is the top receiver with 55 receptions for 575 yards, while linebacker Lee Robinson leads the defense with 100 tackles.

Jackson State is paced by former Mississippi State quarterback Trae Rutland (100-of-177 for 1,261 yards, 8 TDs). Senior Marcellus Speaks leads the defense with 106 tackles.


Contact Jeff Byrd at jbyrd@vicksburgpost.com.