Jemison football ends 2016 with a bright future

Published 6:43 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Eric Evans was the catalyst for the Jemison offense throughout the 2016 season. (File Photo)

Eric Evans was the catalyst for the Jemison offense throughout the 2016 season. (File Photo)

The Jemison football program found an identity and took a huge step forward by making the playoffs to end the 2016 season on a high note.

The final results were unexpected to a majority of people other than those in the Jemison locker room after winning just one game a season ago in head coach Van Clements first season.

It was a rough start to the season, as the Panthers started 0-2 with road losses to Bibb County and Chilton County by an average of 38 points.

However, the offense began to put up points led by the hard-nosed rushing style of starting quarterback Eric Evans and the defense proved opportunistic.

“He [Evans] did a good job of doing what we asked him to do and took a lot of young kids under his wing,” Clements said. “The offensive line began believing in him and it made a big difference.”

As a result, Jemison reeled off three consecutive victories that included a pair of road region wins against Sumter Central and Central Tuscaloosa.

“We started out not really knowing who we were, but quickly found out our identity,” Clements said. “They began buying in and became a team that controlled the ball and the line of scrimmage.”

According to Clements, Central Tuscaloosa was the turning point in the season and the moment that he saw the team come together as one.

“We had the ball for the first 16:30 of the game with our offensive line and running backs doing a great job,” Clements said. “They finished every aspect of the game, and I hadn’t seen that in my two years here.”

Through five games the Panthers had their first winning record in quite some time at 3-2 and 2-0 in region play and were riding a wave of momentum.

Jemison finished the regular season with an overall record of 3-7 and 2-4 in Region 3-5A to make the playoffs and complete the season turnaround.

“They worked hard week in and week out and were rewarded with an extra game,” Clements said.

Despite a late season slide and a 56-14 first round loss to Central Clay County, 2016 will be remembered as a bounce back year for Jemison football and should serve as a building block for future seasons.

“It’s huge, because these are guys that have never experienced it,” Clements said. “It’s definitely something that we can build on next year. Hopefully it makes them hungry to go further.”

Key seniors will be lost in the trenches, including four of the five offensive linemen and two along the defensive front.

The plan is to take a couple of weeks off before getting back to the grind in the weight room and with conditioning.

“There will be a lot of opportunities for some young guys to step up in those positions,” Clements said.