Amari Jackson and Qualan Cain had a much different view of the game the last time Beaver and South Park met.
Cain, a running back, and Jackson, a wide receiver, were sophomores and barely receiving playing time on a Beaver team that earned an 18-point victory at South Park 364 days prior to Friday night.
In fact, when Bobcats coach Cort Rowse’s team hosted the Eagles for a battle of teams with matching 3-0 records at Pat Tarquinio Field at Gypsy Glen Stadium, it did so with just one returning starter on both sides of the football.
“Gabe Lutton was our one returning on offense, he’s like our H-Back,” Rowse said. “On our D-line, Aaron Miller rotated a lot last year, but other than that, we’ve got all brand new guys. All these guys were playing JV last year.
“I’m proud of them,” he added. “We put them through a lot this offseason to get them to a point where they could be successful. They’re responding.”
Maybe none more so than Cain and Jackson, who combined to find the end zone five times in Beaver’s 49-23 victory against South Park Friday night.
“It feels good to hype my team up,” said Jackson, who made five catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns while also returning a kickoff 89 yards for a score against the Eagles. “I can inspire them to want to push themselves to be good.”
Cain did plenty of inspiring in his own right. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior carried the ball 23 times for 122 yards and a touchdown, and also contributed an 85-yard kickoff return for a score in the second half.
“We have a beautiful offense,” Cain said. “I like the way things are heading.”
It’s hard to complain in regard to Beaver’s rushing attack.
Cain, along with classmate Drey Hall, make up one of the WPIAL’s top running back tandems.
In a Week 0 win against Western Beaver, Cain rushed for four touchdowns. A week later, Hall rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown in a 31-28 victory against Beaver Falls, before Cain racked up 113 yards and score in a blowout win over Freedom.
“They’re doing what they’re supposed to do to win,” Rowse said. “We talk about it, winners just do things differently. It’s not always that the result is a win, it’s just how you approach it and you do things day in and day out.
“A winner walks differently,” he added. “He trains differently. He does all the things that nobody is watching to be a winner. These guys have those attributes.”
Despite playing in a run-heavy offense, Jackson is making plays in his own right to help spread the field and attack opposing defenses.
The 6-foot, 160-pound Jackson caught three passes for 61 yards and a score against Beaver Falls, before adding three more catches for 48 yards against Freedom.
“Honestly, he probably would’ve started on a lot of teams last year,” said Rowse of Jackson. “He’s done a really nice job of kind of sitting and waiting for his time. The fruits from that are coming now. He’s put that work in to be that guy, and I think the sky is the limit for as far as he wants to go.”
Jackson’s playmaking ability has paid dividends for Bobcats sophomore quarterback Travis Clear. He caught all but three of Clear’s seven completions against South Park and made another 29-yard catch on a pass from Brady Mayo.
Both of Jackson’s touchdowns against the Eagles resulted from the same play. He took a short pass from Clear in space and maneuvered around a South Park defensive back to score a 29-yard touchdown in the first quarter and a 47-yard score in the third quarter.
“Same play,” Jackson said. “I just run my route and hope my quarterback throws me the ball so I can be the best athlete I can when I get the ball in open space. It’s easy to make a man miss.”
For Cain and Jackson, making defenders miss on special teams is equally as important.
The pair each found room through the middle of the South Park kickoff team Friday night to record critical touchdowns.
“It’s a good momentum boost,” Jackson said.
Now 4-0, Beaver will look to keep its momentum going with a Week 4 game at West Mifflin, which won its first game of the season Friday night, 48-8, against Ringgold.
Cain said his team has plenty of confidence after quieting a high-powered South Park offense, which outscored its opponents, 75-26, heading into Friday night’s game.
Eagles running back Eric Doerue, who is among the WPIAL’s leading rushers this season season, was held to 92 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against the Bobcats. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior now has 614 yards and five touchdowns in 2023.
“We can be destined for greatness,” Cain said. “Mental, physical toughness, that’s what it is. Don’t beat up ourselves for our mistakes and just play hard every day. I feel like we can go far with this offense, 100%.
“We don’t get tired,” he added. “We don’t give up. We just keep coming to play, run it down their throats and passing the ball.”