ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Every couple years it seems Rockford Jefferson High School has a new head football coach. Jake Arnold is the new guy this year, and he hopes to be the long-term solution to the J-Hawks struggles.
Arnold spent the past five seasons as an assistant coach at Jefferson. Now he’s in charge, and he wants to put Jefferson’s past struggles behind them.
“We really don’t look into the past,” said Arnold. “We’re focused in on right now and what we can do in the future.”
That’s for the best. The past isn’t pretty. Jefferson hasn’t had a winning season since 1993. The J-Hawks have won only five games total in the last six years. Last year they were 1-8. Arnold’s trying to build a firm foundation here.
“Right now we’re going over the John Wooden pyramid of success and building those pillars,” said Arnold. “We always talk about being in the FOLD…faith, order, love and discipline. Holding each other accountable.”
Arnold is also making changes in the way the J-Hawks play.
“He’s just changing the tempo, just coming together,” said Jefferson senior George Williams. “He’s just telling us to pick up the pace and get on the ball. We’re going to come out strong.”
Williams had success as Jefferson’s quarterback last season, but he’ll play slot back this year to take more advantage of his speed. Senior Shandon Redd is now the quarterback.
“I can do everything basically, run, pass, but I mostly like to stay in the pocket and throw,” said Redd.
“Georgie he’s an athlete,” said Arnold. “Georgie probably needs to have the ball a little bit more and be a ball carrier. Shandon is more of a quarterback protypical guy.”
There’s no shortage of athletic receivers here. The most talented is junior Dezzion Jordan. He was named first team all-conference last year.
Despite their speed, the J-Hawks want to be able to play more smash-mouth football this year. Big, sophomore running back Almarion Bell will help them do that along with a solid offensive line that includes 260 pound Charles Barrett.
Right now we have a lot of big O-linemen, and we look like we’re going to be in a lot of 32-23 personnel…two tight ends, three backs…smash mouth football,” said Arnold.
“We’re real positive. It ain’t nothing like last year,” said Redd. “New coaches, a new playing style. Everything is totally different.”