FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Kennett hopes to contain big-play Roosevelt in Class 3 state quarterfinal

Photo by Dustin Ward, staff
Kennett’s Tanner Duncan reports as a receiver in the Class 3, District 1 championship against Ste. Genevieve Friday night at Metz Cherry Stadium in Kennett.

Preventing the big play from happening is a primary focus for the Kennett Indians football squad entering Saturday’s Class 3 state quarterfinal against the Roosevelt Roughriders.

“They are a big-play team,” Kennett football coach Joel Wyatt said of Roosevelt, which averages 43 points a game. “On most of their scoring drives, they score on a long touchdown or have a big play to get them into the red zone. They don’t have a lot of eight to 10-play drives. They like to strike quickly on a big play. We’ve emphasized to our defense that we cannot give up the big play. We need to keep them in front of us.”

Roosevelt’s offense is anchored by quarterback Alonzo Smith who has completed 94 of 168 passes for 1,819 yards and carried the ball 74 times for 562 yards. Smith has thrown 19 touchdown passes and ran for 11 touchdowns.

Smith’s favorite targets are Darrius Jackson and Deablo McGee. Jackson has 33 catches for 785 yards and eight touchdowns while McGee has 39 catches for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“They’ve got two good receivers and a quarterback that is a dual-threat so we will have our hands full with their athleticism,” Wyatt said. “We faced a similar threat with Hamilton and Alexander when we played Caruthersville. Jackson and McGee make Roosevelt’s offense go. You cannot just focus on one guy because they’ve got two threats to catch a deep pass.”

Wyatt said Jackson and McGee are also threats to disrupt Kennett’s own passing game.

“They are both good corners,” Wyatt said. “Jackson was an all-state corner who had 16 interceptions last year as a junior. McGee, who is the taller of the two, is dangerous on both sides of the ball as well.”

Roosevelt lacks a dominant rusher but has six players who have run for at least five touchdowns this season. Smith has rushed the ball 74 times for a team-high 562 yards. Dejavion Mitchel has 54 carries for 430 yards and six touchdowns, Darrion White has 38 carries for 313 yards and five touchdowns, McGee has 18 carries for 197 yards and seven touchdowns, Jackson has 24 carries for 243 yards and five touchdowns, and Ali Hall has 24 carries for 206 yards and five touchdowns.

“They are going to spread the wealth when they run it,” Wyatt said. “Just because they don’t have a 1,000-yard rusher doesn’t mean they don’t have a ground game. That’s far from the truth. They spread the wealth, keep fresh guys in there, and go.”

The Kennett defense, which has forced 32 turnovers this season, has found a way to keep its opponents out of the end zone most of the season. Kennett has allowed just six points per game this season. Caruthersville is the only team to score more than 20 points against the Indians defense.

“Our goal, like always, is to be the most physical football team on the field and win the turnover battle,” Wyatt said.

Kennett, which has rushed the ball 419 times for 3,835 yards and passed the ball for 828 yards, is going against a Roosevelt defense that allows 13 points per game.

Quarterback Bodey Ellis, who has missed two games with an injury, has anchored the Indians’ passing attack most of the season. Ellis has completed 40 of 77 passes for 673 yards.

Ellis has thrown most frequently to Carter Maddox and Tanner Duncan. Maddox has 14 catches for 175 yards and Duncan has eight catches for 125 yards.

Sophomore running back Jordan Jarrett and senior running back Marsayv’aun Harrell are the top candidates to race past Roosevelt’s defense.

Harrell has rushed the ball 162 times for 1,818 yards this season. He has a team-high 27 rushing touchdowns and a team-high four touchdown receptions.

Jarrett has moved the ball 60 times for 688 yards. He has 11 rushing touchdowns.

“Roosevelt plays a four-man front on defense from what we’ve seen on film recently,” Wyatt said. “They’ve got a couple of huge tackles. One is six-foot-six, 375 pounds and the other one is 290 pounds. They are a fast defense. But we are going to remain multiple and get in a bunch of different formations. It all starts with the run game with us.”

Kennett and Roosevelt both enter the quarterfinal with double-digit winning streaks.

Roosevelt (11-1) has won 11 straight games after falling to Troy Buchanan 28-24 in Week 1. Roosevelt beat Jefferson of Festus 40-13 in Week 2, beat Carnahan 70-0 in Week 3, beat Bayless 46-0 in Week 4, won by forfeit against Confluence Prep Academy Charter in Week 5, beat Gateway 58-20 in Week 6, beat Vashon with Transportation and Law 56-6 in Week 7, beat Miller Career Academy 32-16 in Week 8, beat Bishop DuBourg with Hancock 42-0 in Week 9, beat Confluence Prep Academy Charter 54-6 in Week 10, beat Sullivan 40-33 in Week 11, and rallied late to beat St. Francis Borgia 48-43 in Week 12.

Roosevelt trailed St. Francis Borgia 22-12 before rallying for a victory last week. The Roughriders had three touchdown runs of more than 40 yards in the second half and threw two touchdown passes of more than 50 yards in the first half against St. Francis Borgia.

“Roosevelt just big-played Borgia,” Wyatt said. “They got in some single-wing stuff and caught Borgia off guard. They had three long plays out of this single-wing formation. They just got to the edge and outran Borgia.”

Undefeated Kennett, which is ranked No. 5 in the latest Class 3 state poll, has not played from behind in the second half this season. Kennett (12-0) beat Fredericktown 49-0 in Week 1, beat Gosnell (Ark.) 44-8 in Week 2, beat Ste. Genevieve 33-0 in Week 3, beat Caruthersville 41-22 in Week 4, beat North County 45-6 in Week 5, beat New Madrid County Central 50-6 in Week 6, beat Dexter 56-6 in Week 7, beat Malden 51-0 in Week 8, beat Sikeston 36-0 in Week 9, beat Doniphan 56-0 in Week 10, and beat Potosi 30-12 in Week 11.

Wyatt believes Roosevelt is likely the toughest team his squad has seen so far.

“Gosnell, New Madrid County Central, and Caruthersville had some similarities with some of their guys and their skills,” Wyatt said. “But I think Roosevelt is likely the best team we’ve faced.”

Kickoff is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at Metz Cherry Stadium in Kennett. Fans may purchase tickets at the Kennett High School office before Saturday. Admission is $7 with children five-and-under being admitted free.

“It’s supposed to be nice weather and the game is in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday so hopefully everyone comes out,” Wyatt said. “It’s the first time there has ever been a state quarterfinal at Kennett so it’s kind of a historical moment. We want this community to get behind these kids and get to the game because they really feed off the support. They get excited when it’s packed like it has been a couple of times this season.”

Photo by Dustin Ward, staff
Kennett’s Jordan Jarrett tackles Ste. Genevieve quarterback Logan Gegg in the Class 3, District 1 football title game Friday night at Metz Cherry Stadium in Kennett. Roosvelt plays at Kennett Saturday at 2 p.m. in a Class 3 state quarterfinal.
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