It is battle-hardened resolve versus emerging ambition… seasoned dominance against a young program on the rise – the winner will have a front-row seat to a District Championship.
It is the Joaquin High School “Rams” against the Overton High School “Mustangs” this Friday night in Overton.
Under the Friday Night Lights at Chester Roy Stadium, two undefeated programs will battle it out – on the same night that Overton both celebrates their Homecoming and honors former players from the Mustang teams that dominated their opponents over the span of the early 1990s.
The state-ranked Rams come into this game with their eyes on a District title, after sweeping aside most of the rest of their District in a dominating fashion. To say this game is a heavyweight battle with play-off implications on the line would be an understatement – but Overton`s first-year head coach Stephen DuBose has a much different view: “We think Joaquin is going to go through the District undefeated. We may have a chance at them, but if they beat us, we feel they are going to beat everyone else, too. Obviously, they are in the top five in the state in most polls and we know that it is going to a big task. We think we have a chance – we`re not playing [perennial 5A powerhouse] Southlake Carroll, and anything can happen on Friday Night.”
In recent years, Joaquin has held the District under the reign of their prolific rushing Offense and smothering Defense – while Overton has only recently fought back from nearly a decade of mediocrity, after previous decades of regional supremacy.
Despite Overton`s resurgence, prevailing wisdom maintains that the upstart Mustangs are no match for Joaquin tenacity and team-stamina. When asked about the Rams` complex Veer attack, Mustang coach DuBose replied: “We`ve seen every kind of Offense you can see – but nobody runs what Joaquin is going to run. We have some kids that are playing well – we`re starting to hit the gaps and get after people well. We`re going to have to not turn the ball over and not get frustrated when they have some long drives. We have just got to be very patient on Defense.”
It may take more than that. For, in pre-District competition, Joaquin has overpowered several programs of larger classification than their own – playoff bound squads of greater size and depth than their opponent this week.
The key to the Rams attack is its status as a rural farming community. While lacking in the heavier players that strengthen the programs of the urban/suburban squads, Joaquin relies upon the wiry stock of Farmer`s sons and ol` fashioned country boys. More often than not, the Joaquin players are exceptionally vigorous late into the game – while their opponents are typically wearied from a persistant barrage for the full four quarters of the game. In many cases, the Rams wear down their opponents by the end of the first half.
On the other hand, Overton has their own impressive display of stamina and resolve – embodied in Josh Stuart, a junior, who starts in every facet of the game. “He`s a rare athlete,” said Coach DuBose, “He can star at any position he tries, but he does whatever we need the most – without any thought of personal gain. As a result, he will likely not draw much attention from big-name scouts but he is an invaluable member of this squad.”
Ask senior quarterback Raymond Chappell whom the best passer is, ask senior fullback Clay Minor whom the best runner is, and ask senior wide-out Jon Lee Posey whom the best receiver is – all of them reply that the distinction for each belongs to an unheralded lineman. A lineman that anchors the strong-side of the Rushing attack, while leading the Defense as middle linebacker, he flawlessly snaps the exchange for Punts and Field Goals, and contributes significantly on every other aspect of the Special Teams.
“He never comes out of the game,” one of his teammates laughs. This is true – for he is also first-chair Trumpet in the Marching Band, leading his section during the halftime performance.
Stuart shrugs that he doesn`t know any other way to approach his place on the team: “I don`t like to make a big deal about it – if there`s a way that I can help my team-mates, I`m gonna do it,” he says with a grin.
Against the Rams, it will take everything the Mustangs have – in addition to a “Josh Stuart” effort from the rest of his teammates. Joaquin High will not relent until the final gun has sounded, as the dramatically lopsided scores from recent contests testify.
The Mustangs take next week off before renewing their intense rivalry with the Carlisle Indians – and hosting Beckville the following week to close out the season. “Our game with Carlisle is going to be huge. We get a week off and we`ll have two weeks to get ready for them,” says Coach DuBose.
Homecoming festivities start at 6pm with kick-off scheduled for 7:30.