Originally created 11/17/00

Double trouble

LOUISVILLE, Ga. -- John Hancock Academy coach Bob Peck isn't intimidated by Thomas Jefferson's running back combo of Paul Thomas and Thomas Battle.

But the coach says trying to stop the 1,000-yard rushers and the Jaguars' versatile offensive attack is a challenge.

"Most teams, there's one guy you can key on and say, `if we're going to win this ballgame, we've got to stop or contain this guy or that guy,"' Peck said. "But with Thomas Jefferson, the fact that they're so balanced, you can't load up on one side of the line, you can't concentrate on stopping Battle because you've got Thomas. So it presents a little more (of a) problem defensively."

Battle, a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder, has rushed for 1,114 yards on 146 carries and 14 touchdowns.

Thomas, a 5-8, 160-pounder, has 1,137 yards and 12 touchdowns during Thomas Jefferson's 10-0 campaign.

"Both of them have roughly the same amount of carries," said first-year Jaguars coach Chuck Wimberly, whose team plays host to Crisp Academy in the Class A state semifinals at 8 tonight. "One reason is because we're pretty diverse in what we're able to do."

Battle was a running back on Thomas Jefferson's 1998 Class A state championship team but was moved to quarterback last season.

But when Eric Elsener enrolled at the school earlier this year, Wimberly brought his wishbone attack, returned Battle to the backfield along with Thomas and put Elsener at quarterback.

"The quarterback has probably made the biggest difference because with him coming in, he's enabled Battle to play halfback," Peck said. "I think that was certainly a plus for their program when (Elsener) came on board."

Briarwood coach Dan Moore, who lost 26-6 earlier this year to Thomas Jefferson, said Battle and Thomas add more weapons to an already impressive arsenal.

"The thing about it is, if you have two good running backs, a good fullback and plus the threat of the quarterback, who are you going to key on?" Moore said, "In private school, you may be able to take away one individual, might be able to take away two, but not three or four."

The impressive statistics wouldn't be possible without a senior-led offensive line, consisting of center Josh Otis, left guard Josh Bedingfield, right guard Cody Williford, right tackle Daniel Tanner and tight end Brian Muenger. Freshman Adam Oglesby is the only underclassman starting on the offensive front.

The Jaguars also feature two impressive fullbacks in Robert Jones and Lee Shannon.

"They've got a good balanced offense, but I think the big plus for both of them is that they have an experienced offensive line," Peck said. "Your backs are only as good as your offensive line, and that's the thing that impresses me about their football team is that they have a good offensive line, good blocking and then the fullbacks do a good job.

"He's got two of them there in Jones and the Shannon kid. I really feel like the blocking is the big key."

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.


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