0

GWINNETT GRADS: Jackson, Mackey helping Army get back on track

photo

Dec 10, 2011; Landover, MD, USA; at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-US PRESSWIRE

Two weeks ago, Josh Jackson sprinted from the opposite sideline and tracked down Stony Brook's Miguel Maysonet on a long run. The Brookwood grad was gimpy the final 10 yards, but had just enough to dive and barely trip up the running back and save a touchdown.

Jackson aggravated a groin injury on the first-half play and spent the rest of the game on the sidelines. The injury was frustrating, but not as much as watching Maysonet rack up 220 yards in Army's eighth straight loss.

The losses of late have been tough to take for the senior cornerback and his Army teammate Jarrett Mackey, who grew up playing for winning Brookwood programs.

"It's kind of different, Brookwood's used to a winning tradition," Jackson said. "To come here it's been very different. You can never really get used to losing. My junior and senior year of high school we started off both seasons 0-2 and then ended up winning nine straight both years. So we still have the hope that the same thing can happen here this season. We just have to stay together as a team."

It's an attitude he shares with Mackey, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound defensive end. Teammates since sixth grade, they played a season together at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School and now for four years at Army.

"This start is the same thing as Brookwood," said Mackey, whose twin brother A.J., who is still a student at Army, played football for the Black Knights until this year. "My senior year we went 0-2 and we racked off nine straight. We can do the same thing here. I have that type of mentality. I've been there and done that before. We're down, but we're definitely not out."

That point was proven last Saturday.

Though Jackson missed the game with his groin injury and Mackey sat out with a swollen knee, Army rebounded with a 34-31 win over Boston College and improve to 1-4 on the season. The Black Knights host Kent State today with the focus on win No. 2, and both former Broncos are expected back in the lineup.

For Mackey, being back on the football field is more special after missing almost all of the 2011 season. He suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. Northern Illinois in last year's opener and saw his first game action this year Sept. 22.

"That's really great to have Jarrett back," Jackson said. "I felt really bad for him last year. To have him back in there is great."

Mackey started all 13 games in 2010, when Army reached its first bowl game since 1996 with a trip to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. He had 47 tackles and four sacks, but his progress was delayed by last year's knee injury.

Even when he wasn't on the field, Mackey has made a major impact for the Black Knights. Last year's seniors voted him as the Legacy Captain, a prestigious honor for a rising senior. At that point, Mackey thought 2012 would be his final college season.

But he was granted an extra hardship year of eligibility by the NCAA because of his 2011 knee injury.

"I'm definitely coming back to play next year," said Mackey, who also has an engineering management major in common with Jackson.

While Mackey suffered through a lost injury year, Jackson has stayed relatively healthy until his recent groin injury. He entered the season with a string of 20 consecutive starts at cornerback, in addition to being Army's No. 1 punt returner and an occasional kickoff returner for most of his career.

The 6-foot, 182-pounder made a combined 73 tackles with a pair of interceptions the past two seasons, and averaged more than 10 yards per punt return as a sophomore. He has seven tackles in three games this season and is a rare veteran presence on a defense that starts eight freshmen and sophomores. His fellow secondary starters are two freshmen and a sophomore.

Unlike Mackey, this is Jackson's final college football season. He finds out his future job, the beginning of his five-year military commitment, next month. By February, he will know where he will be stationed after May graduation.

"It's been a challenge (at West Point)," Jackson said. "It's been challenging in every area possible, physically, mentally, emotionally. It puts pressure on you. It's designed that way for you to overcome adversity and get ready to become a commissioned lieutenant in the Army.

"It's been a lot easier having those guys I've grown up with (Jarrett and A.J. Mackey). That's a special type of bond. They know how to reach me better than other people. I know how to reach them better than other people. They've definitely made it a lot easier to come through this institution, having brothers with you to keep you strong."

That bond has gotten them through the rigors of West Point. The academics, the military training and the wins and losses on the football field.

Lately, it's been mostly losses, but hope isn't lost for this season. As both players will attest, Army players don't give up.

"I've been a part of some not so good teams and some very good teams," Jackson said. "I'm here as a senior trying to figure out what I can do to get my team back on track because I know we're just as good as the 2010 team. We've just got to find our way."

FOOTBALL

Chapple earns second straight Ivy League honor

Greater Atlanta Christian grad Colton Chapple has won the past two Ivy League offensive player of the week honors.

The senior's most recent came this week on the heels of throwing four touchdown passes and running for another score last Saturday as undefeated Harvard beat Cornell 45-13. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 362 yards and also ran for 53 yards.

Chapple is fifth in the nation in passing efficiency and is the only quarterback in Harvard history with four games of at least four TD passes.

Quick hits

Shiloh's Ernst Brun caught a 15-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter to help Iowa State (4-1) upset No. 13 TCU, 37-23. Brun has seven catches this season, but three have gone for scores. ... Norcross grad D.J. Adams rushed for 148 yards and a TD on 14 carries in Portland State's win over Idaho State. ... Central Gwinnett's Lance Holder, a junior safety, was named the Valdosta State student-athlete of the week after intercepting two passes and making four tackles in a 42-7 win over rival West Georgia.

SOCCER

Mellard earns conference honor

Brookwood grad Caroline Mellard, a senior goalkeeper at Montreat College (N.C.), was named the Appalachian Athletic Conference's defensive player of the week on Tuesday. It was the third time this season she's won the honor.

Mellard made five saves in 90 minutes of a 1-0 win over Mars Hill and added nine stops in 110 minutes of a 0-0 tie with Georgia Gwinnett College. She now has 55 saves this season for Montreat (9-1-2).

CROSS COUNTRY

Boetje wins second race

Mill Creek grad Austin Boetje, a sophomore at Georgia State, won his second race of the season at last weekend's Jaguar Invitational.

Boetje completed the 8K course in 25 minutes, 29.87 seconds and teammate Carlos Galindo, a Collins Hill grad, was third in 26:06.20 as Georgia State won the team title.

GOLF

Estep notches high finish

Southern Miss golfer Zach Estep, a Peachtree Ridge grad, tied for seventh in the recent Jim Rivers Intercollegiate at Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant, La.

The junior shot a final-round 71 for a season-low score of 215. It was his third career top-10 finish.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.