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SHEPHERDSVILLE - North Bullitt's post-season will get infinitely tougher on Friday when the Eagles play host to Jeffersontown in the second-round of the Class 5-A play-offs.
After beating Grayson County 27-7 last week to open the post-season, the Eagles earned the home game against a Charger squad that defeated Bullitt Central 34-13 in its play-off opener.
Local fans will be treated to a game that will match two of the state's top rushing attacks led by two of its top running threats. Eagle fans are already well aware of senior Todd Asbury who will need only 50 yards in this game to break Dalton Cissell's single-season school rushing record. Asbury has 2,093 yards entering the 12th game of the season.
Jeffersontown counters with an equally impressive runner in DeMichael Jackson. The senior quarterback has carried the ball 266 times this season for 1,921 yards.
Both runners rank among the top-10 rushers in the state this season. Asbury ranks second in Class 5-A while Jackson is third.
With those top threats, North Bullitt is second in Class 5-A in team rushing at just over 300 yards a contest while Jeffersontown is 12th.
Last week against Bullitt Central, Jackson carried the ball 30 times for 242 yards.
There was no truth to the rumor that North Bullitt head coach Brett Newton couldn't sleep on Sunday night after spending the weekend watching tape of Jackson running through opposing defenses.
"It was just another day," the coach said with a chuckle on Monday. "Obviously, he is a special kid.
"For what he does, I don't know who I would compare him too," Newton added. "He can take over a game unlike anyone I've seen in the past."
North Bullitt and Jeffersontown scrimmaged each other last August, but Jackson was not the Chargers' quarterback. Instead he was one of the team's running backs. It wasn't until the start of this season that he was shifted to the signal callers' position by head coach Gary Weiter.
The move worked out just fine and in his very first game under center, or in the shotgun, Jackson rushed 21 times for 105 yards against Bullitt East as the Jefferson County version of the Chargers won 28-0.
While Asbury has a lot of yardage this season, he has gotten a lot of support, mainly from the fact that team's still can't key on him as the other Eagle running backs can all gain yardage. Three North Bullitt running backs besides Asbury have gained over 300 yards this season.
In the case of Jackson, other teams know that he is going to get the ball. No other Jeffersontown running back averages more than four carries a game and none has rushed for more than 237 yards.
To offset that Jeffersontown will spread out their receivers, forcing opponents to spread their defense. The Chargers then attack five-on-five and let Jackson do more against fewer defenders.
"If they just ran their base offense (wing-T) we would feel pretty good," Newton said. "If that isn't working, then they will spread you and with trips or doubles and then Jackson has more options. They want as few in the box as possible."
Unlike Asbury, who breaks a lot of tackles and relies on balance and yardage after first contact, Jackson is more quickness and speed.
"He doesn't break a lot of tackles," Newton reported. "He's going to go down with contact. But he has the ability to make decent football players look silly.
"We have to work against our kids rushing in and trying to make plays. We don't need heroes," the coach added. "We need to be patient and make him make decisions."
Normally, when a team has a player that has committed to a Division I program, that player is the focus of any preview. That is not the case for Jeffersontown. Senior defensive end Dan Ross, who is just huge at 6-5, 290, has committed to the University of Kentucky, but he doesn't draw nearly the attention from opposing teams as Jackson does (although Jackson has been drawing some attention recently from Division I programs). In fact, Ross pretty much just plays defense.
The Chargers will be bigger than North Bullitt up front.
Jeffersontown will put the ball in the air more than North Bullitt. Jackson is attempting 13 passes a game and is completing 51 percent of those throws. By far his favorite receiver is senior Rashad Hayden who has 46 receptions for 560 yards. Ten of those catches have been for touchdowns.
"Our best defense will be keeping our offense on the field," Newton said.
Jeffersontown is the visiting team this week after finishing second in District 3 to John Hardin despite the impressive 9-2 record. The Chargers won their first four games of the season before dropping a 23-21 decision to Holy Cross. After a win, Weiter's team fell to John Hardin 41-20 on Oct. 7. The Chargers have not lost since that game, reeling off four straight victories.
Newton says that Jeffersontown is the best team the Eagles have faced this season.
"We'll have to play a full game and not come out slow like we have in some other games," the coach noted. "We can't come out like we did with Shelby County or Bullitt Central or even Grayson County. If we do, then we'll be in a big hole. We have to fire off from the opening whistle."
North Bullitt got both Josh Exton and Zack Foster back from injury last week and Newton expects both to be available this week. In fact, the Eagles should be close to 100 percent in terms of being healthy for this game.
Neither Bullitt County nor Jefferson County had school on Tuesday of this week because of the elections. Newton didn't plan on adding on a longer practice, but the Eagles were going to work-out under the lights on Tuesday just for a change of pace.
This will be the first time North Bullitt and Jeffersontown have met in football since the 2008 season. The two programs played six consecutive games from 2003 to 2008 with the Eagles holding a 4-2 advantage.
Game time on Friday at North Bullitt is set for 7:30 p.m.