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Friday Night Football Feature: Jenkins powers Courtland
SEE MORE: Playoff Week 2 Information
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
Courtland football coach J.C. Hall was blown away by an incoming freshman in the summer of 2011.
Hall noticed Anton Jenkins was bench pressing and squatting heavier weights than anyone else in his class.
And when he learned Jenkins was a former running back at Freedom Middle School in Spotsylvania County, he was even more intrigued.
“He was just naturally stronger than any other freshman coming in,” Hall said. “He was head and shoulders above everybody.”
Hall was so tempted by Jenkins he immediately moved him up to varsity. But after two games, Jenkins realized running over varsity defenders was much more challenging than doing so in middle school.
So he spent the rest of the season on JV.
Jenkins is back on varsity now and he’s a key reason the Cougars (7–4) are still alive in the Region I, Division 4 playoffs.
The 6-foot, 215-pound sophomore fullback rushed for a career-high 150 yards and two touchdowns in Courtland’s 21–7 victory over Warhill last Friday. He’s aiming for a similar performance tonight when the Cougars visit arch-rival Chancellor (8–2) with a trip to the regional championship game on the line.
“I never thought that would happen, especially now being a sophomore,” Jenkins said of his big game against Warhill. “It was like ‘Wow. Did that just happen?’ I woke up and got the paper and my mom was like ‘You got 150 yards.’ I was like ‘What?’ It just shocked me at the time.”
Jenkins’ teammates knew he had the potential to carry the load. Senior running back Darien Grant said when Jenkins was a freshman he predicted the youngster would be better than former all-Battlefield District fullback Kirk Wilson.
Grant said he noticed a change in Jenkins when he returned from JV.
“When he came back up, he matured a lot,” Grant said. “In the weight room, he was working hard and that’s all he needed to do. To be better than Kirk, all he needed to do was focus.”
Wilson graduated in June and it was up to Jenkins and junior Joe Tyson to play the important role of fullback in the wing–T offense.
Tyson was Wilson’s backup in 2011, so he began the year as the starter. Jenkins’ role was a minor one earlier this season, but steadily increased as the year went on.
“Basically, what he’s done is he’s taken over at fullback and taken it to another level right now,” Hall said. “We can’t deny him being on the field. He’s our guy.”
Grant said when Jenkins plows over defenders it energizes the entire team. Grant and Brandon Mason run outside in Courtland’s attack, but Jenkins is the power back. Grant said when the Cougars need 1 yard or when they’re inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, they turn to Jenkins.
Jenkins has also shown the ability to break long runs. He scored on a 31-yard touchdown burst against Warhill.
“It’s basically just a combination of [power and speed],” Jenkins said. “I’m fast getting to the hole. After that I have the power to truck people or do whatever I’ve got to do to get around you.”
Hall said Jenkins is now “pound for pound” the strongest player on the team. He said every team needs an element like Jenkins brings in short-yardage situations.
That could come into play tonight against the Chargers. Courtland won the first meeting, 8–7 in overtime, to hand Chancellor its only district defeat.
Jenkins scored the Cougars’ lone touchdown on a 4-yard run in overtime. Courtland completed a two-point conversion pass to win the game.
Jenkins said he knows all of Chancellor’s players and he was teammates with many of them at Freedom. He said there’s been some friendly trash talk exchanged this week.
“They’ve just asked me, am I ready for a dogfight,” Jenkins said. “It’s definitely going to be a dogfight and I’m ready to fight.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526