Northwestern vs. South Pointe Friday, 7:30 p.m. at District Three Stadium

Junior defensive backs coming up big for Northwestern this season

bmccormick@heraldonline.comSeptember 25, 2012 

“Mackey and Seargent:” it sounds like a TV detective pairing, doesn’t it? Jaquavious Mackey and Corey Seargent are sidekicks, albeit far from the dark, dangerous streets of any television drama. The pair are partners in Northwestern High School’s football secondary, and danged good ones too.

“They’re still pretty young and they’ve got a lot of growing to do, but they’ve done a good job,” said Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson on Tuesday.

Athletic and fast, they started all 13 games last year as sophomores and the experience certainly paid dividends, immediate and longer term.

“At first, I was a little nervous but then I got the swing of things,” said Seargent. “It came to me.”

It was a fiery trial that wasn’t always easy for Seargent and Mackey, or the Trojans (4-1 overall, 1-0 in Region 3-AAAA).

“I was nervous; I just had to hang in there,” said Mackey, who is 5-foot-11, 175 pounds and a little bit camera-shy.

But the pair certainly blossomed on the gridiron. Seargent, a 6-foot, 180-pound safety, finished the year with 111 tackles and four interceptions, while Mackey had 75 tackles, two interceptions and a team-high eight pass breakups at cornerback. They got better as the season went on too. Seargent had a combined 38 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in the first two rounds of the playoffs and was named to the High School Sports Report’s statewide All-Rookie team, while Mackey posted 15 tackles in the playoffs and turned heads with his blazing speed and kick return ability. Sophomore success sparked a greater work ethic in the offseason that’s now bearing fruit for the players and team alike.

“They both got in the weight room, ran track. They got a lot faster in track,” said Richardson, whose team battles rival South Pointe on Friday night. “They committed themselves this summer and you can really tell that now.”

Both players circle the secondary like vultures waiting on a dead pass to snatch. Seargent’s already got three picks this season, and Mackey has one. The Trojans have surrendered over 1,500 yards in five games, but 10 interceptions and five fumble recoveries have helped Richardson’s team offset some of the yardage it’s allowed.

“We don’t look at how many yards we give up,” said Northwestern’s second-year coach. “Obviously, we look at win-loss, and then we look at turnovers and stuff like that, things that come with playing a lot of pressure and man coverage. But when we get the win, we’re all happy with that.”

Richardson explained too that his defense plays a lot of man coverage, which occasionally leaves players on an island and can lead to big plays. That’s a risk the Trojans can take with Mackey’s one-on-one ability, and if he gets beat, the junior can still catch the receiver.

“Mackey’s our speed guy,” said Richardson. “He can really fly.”

Seargent also plays a mean centerfield for the Trojans’ defense. His value increases when he defends against the run, filling channels and careening into ball carriers with rib-jarring force. It’s little surprise Seargent says Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed is his favorite NFL defensive back, and like Reed, he creates turnovers and likes to lay some lumber whenever possible.

“He comes down hill quick and he loves to hit,” said Richardson.

There’s a third defensive back too, who adds another couple of ingredients to a promising mix. Along with the graduated seniors, O’Daryl Davis-Douglas served as Seargent and Mackey’s mentor last year. Now a senior himself, Davis-Douglas, whose nickname is “O.D.D.”, is another speedy corner who excels on special teams. He’s blocked four kicks this year and also leads the Trojans in kickoff team tackles, all while starting in the secondary where he’s got two interceptions and three pass breakups.

Mackey is also a special teams contributor. He’s averaging nearly 40 yards per kick return this season, and ran a kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown in the Trojans’ win over Gaffney at The Reservation in late August. In a tight game with an evenly matched opponent like South Pointe, play-making in football’s third phase can be the difference.

“Blocking the kicks, it can judge a game,” said Davis-Douglas, before Tuesday’s practice. “Special teams, a lot of people don’t look at it, but we look at it as big.”

All three of the defensive backs are getting looks from college football recruiters. Seargent already has invites for visits from LSU, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, and SEC schools are checking on Mackey. Friday night’s primetime matchup with the rival Stallions at District Three Stadium would be a good time for the two juniors to show out, but that’s hardly the primary motivation.

“We won’t have to worry about Friday night, getting them jacked up,” Richardson said. “They know what’s coming and it should be a fun game.”

Also fun is watching Seargent, Mackey and Davis-Douglas debate which guy is faster.

There’s actually numerical proof: Mackey was clocked at 4.43 in the 40-yard dash, while Davis-Douglas ran a 4.4 and Seargent a 4.5, roadrunner-quick times that would make any coach grin with pride. But even the cut and dry certainty of stop-watch times don’t settle the debate.

“Me and him go back forth,” said Davis-Douglas, grinning and nodding toward his protege, Mackey, sitting across the table. “But our whole defense got speed.”

Bret McCormick 329-4032

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