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Originally published: 2012-09-19 16:43:54
Last modified: 2012-09-19 16:43:54

Vikings seek happy Homecoming at expense of Gryphons

Jamie Shell / (sports@averyjournal.com)

Coming off a turnover-filled 21-6 loss at Owen last week, the Avery Vikings (2-3) return home this Friday, Sept. 21, to host the suddenly surging Thomas Jefferson Gryphons. TJCA (5-0) defeated Mitchell 27-6 at home a week ago. Avery defeated TJCA 52-34 in Mooresboro in the last meeting between the schools a season ago.
Scouting the Gryphons
Thomas Jefferson Academy is coached by Jerry Cash and returned eight offensive and five defensive starters from a club that went 0-11 in 2011. Gone from the club since last season is do-it-all athlete Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez, who opted to take his talents to East Rutherford High School.
The Gryphons utilize a spread offense and defensively operate out of a 4-3 front.
Thus far in 2012, TJCA has looked for offensive balance in earning its five victories, averaging close to 15 passes per game while running the football 25 to 30 times per contest.
Triggering the Gryphons attack is senior McKinnon (Mac) Martin, a six-foot, one-inch signal-caller who passed for 1,579 yards and rushed for 370 yards last season. Martin accounted for 17 touchdowns a season ago and has been the key cog of the offense through the first five games of 2012. Martin began the season with a 124-yard rushing effort against North Wilkes and paced TJCA's win against Mitchell last week with 58 rushing yards and 148 passing yards, while having a hand in three Gryphons touchdowns.
Senior Wlll McCraw had a breakout junior season with 1,004 yards and fourth rushing touchdowns last season, but was inactive in the team's win a week ago.
Junior Efrim Borders has emerged as the team's scoring threat at the wide receiver position. Borders caught four passes for 95 yards with a score last week and returned a kickoff for a touchdown, carrying momentum from a season ago when he caught 52 passes for 876 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
Additional members of the receiving corps that contribute to the offense includeTyler Mitchell, Mason Fenner and David Mendez (20 receptions, 329 yards in 2011).
Among the leading tacklers on the Gryphons defense are Nathanial Devon, Kaleb Munjas, Anthony Helton and Cody Flynn, who combined for 29 tackles in last week's win.
The low down
This week the Vikings must avoid the temptation to look at the 2012 edition of TJCA as a pushover and the same old winless Gryphons club of seasons past. Five wins in five games, regardless of competition, is worth a team's respect.
Respect is something the Gryphons is looking to gain in its final season as a member of the Western Highlands Conference before moving to a new league beginning in 2013.
For Avery to snap its losing streak and get back in the win column, it must be efficient offensively. Two turnovers in a game are difficult to overcome, but six turnovers are virtually impossible. On the bright side, however, the Vikings benefited from five turnovers in last week's game itself.
The Vikings defense must keep an eye on Martin in the TJCA backfield and keep he and Borders in check to better its chances at victory on Homecoming.
Avery could also use a strong rushing performance from the three-headed rushing attack of Luke Childress, Austin Phillips and Bryce Pittman. If Avery can run the ball, AHS signal-caller Tre Jackson will benefit with greater opportunities to pick apart the Gryphons defense with he puts the ball in the air.
Last week was a learning experience for the young Vikings, but the squad can take a positive step forward this Friday night with a winning performance.
By the numbers
0 - number of times the Gryphons have defeated Avery in previous meetings between the schools (0-3 all-time)
3 - interceptions by Tyler Polsgrove in 2012 to lead the Avery club
11 - turnovers in last week's game between Avery and Owen
12 - Vikings turnovers as a team through five games this season
50 - percent completion percentage by AHS quarterback Jackson
82 - number of yards in last week's kickoff return for a touchdown by TJCA's Borders in the team's win against Mitchell
293 - rushing yards for AHS team leader Luke Childress in 2012. No other Viking has more than 90 yards rushing.
Read next week's edition of The AJT for a full recap of this week's matchup with Thomas Jefferson, as well as a preview of next week's home game against Hendersonville.