Jeffersonville senior quarterback Cameron Northern entered his final season with the Red Devils well aware it may be his most difficult.
Although expectations were set high within the program, as is the norm, Northern initially set them low, for good reason. He lost his entire receiving corps from a season ago – players he built bonds with all the while totaling over 2,000 yards of offense.
“I’ve been trying to improve and actually help the guys instead of always expecting so much,” Northern said at The Courier-Journal’s media day in July. “I’ve been trying to teach them and help them understand what it’s like to be a Jeff High football player.”
The Red Devils’ receivers – all first-year varsity players – are still in the process of adapting to the demands of Friday night football two games into the 2016 season, according to head coach Alfonzo Browning. Several new players were part of an 0-9 freshman team a season ago, “a completely different” speed of game play compared to varsity.
While the talent is there, the experience is lacking. Browning said the Red Devils’ young receivers will often ask Northern – who’s completed 56 percent of his passes for 233 yards through two games – which routes to run in the huddle. Patience has been a virtue for Browning’s senior quarterback.
“His process has been a little tougher than mine,” Browning said, “because I call the play. … For Cam, I think it’s helped him work on his patience, his overall patience and some of his leadership skills, to lead these young guys and tell them where they need to be so they can possibly get the ball.”
As Jeffersonville (1-1, 1-0 Hoosier Hills Conference) looks toward its first home game of the season, a Week 3 meeting with Bedford North Lawrence, repetition is crucial for the Red Devils’ receivers – something senior Jordan Barnett and junior Kameron Fuller are familiar with.
The ground game has been a constant for Jeffersonville despite its inconsistent passing attack. Barnett has rushed for 300 yards and five touchdowns through the first two games while Fuller, a threat, too, as a receiver, has added over 200 yards and three touchdowns.
“Throughout the course of Jeff’s history, they’ve always had really pretty stout, really good running backs,” Browning said. “Very seldom is there not a halfway-decent running back here at this high school. With Kam and JB, they’re just really carrying on the tradition of Jeff High with really talented running backs.”
Barnett’s pair of impressive performances includes a 161-yard, three-touchdown showing in the Red Devils’ season-opening loss in which the defense gave up 56 points and touchdowns of 87, 74, 60 and 47 yards, respectively.
Jeffersonville’s defensive prowess improved in Week 2, though, as the Red Devils held an explosive team and a dual-threat quarterback in Alan Perry to seven points through three quarters and 15 in the game.
“They held a really good quarterback, and a really good offensive team that’s kind of hard to prepare for in a couple days, to 15 points,” Browning said. “I think they’re progressing very fast. They’re flying around, tackling, having fun.”
The Red Devils aim to take that momentum, both defensively and in the running game, into Week 3 against the Stars. BNL (2-0) scored with 45 seconds remaining in a 37-34 win over visiting Jeffersonville in 2015, though the Stars lose several key players from a season ago. BNL has won its first two games by a combined score of 85-0, albeit against teams with a combined 0-4 record.
Northern had over 300 yards through the air and 57 on the ground for a total of four touchdowns in last season’s loss to the Stars. Once Jeffersonville’s receiving corps grasps the Red Devils’ concepts, Browning said, a breakout should be in store for Northern and the passing game.
“That’s the plan, sometime in the near future,” Browning said, “for the game to slow down for them a little bit. … Some of their natural abilities will start showing then. We have a lot of faith in those young guys.”
Game of the Week
What: Bedford North Lawrence at Jeffersonville
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Blair Field
Radio/stream: WJHI-98.5; glicod.com
Records: BNL 2-0, Jeffersonville 1-1
Last meeting: Bedford North Lawrence, 37-34 (Sep. 4, 2015)