Clayton County

PREP FOOTBALL: Kali James, Jonesboro defense love underdog role


Jonesboro senior Kali James has helped lead a dominant defensive front seven despite its being undersized. (PHOTO: Gabriel Stovall)

Jonesboro senior Kali James has helped lead a dominant defensive front seven despite its being undersized. (PHOTO: Gabriel Stovall)

By Gabriel Stovall

SPALDING, Ga. — Kali James doesn’t mind having his name called every now and then when he plays well, so long as you put his performance in the proper team context.

The senior and Campbell commitment registered three sacks in this past Friday’s 21-9 win over the then-region leading Spalding Jaguars. His relentless pressure on Spalding quarterback Naricuss Dryver was a big reason why.

The 5-foot-10, 275 pound defensive tackle finished with 3.5 sacks in the game. But much like the refrain of his other teammates, James — while grateful for his individual achievements — wouldn’t dare posture himself as if he’s a one man show.

“Honestly, man, I could’ve have made those three sacks without my defensive line,” James said after Friday’s game. Especially Kannon (Banks), C.J., you know, Sarry (Pierre). Everybody made it happen.”

Then, just in case you’re tempted to think he’s just talking in cliches, James offers up an example.

“On one sack I made, they brought it back inside to me, and I made the play,” he said. “(Dryver) tried to get to the edge to make a pass on the outside, and my other tackle was in the three (technique), and he and Josh (James) just brought it back inside and I just happened to be right there to make a play.”

That sack of Spalding’s quarterback is what ended the first half and served as a portrayal of the defensive momentum Jonesboro carried throughout the contest.

The play of the front seven, including mike linebacker Desmond Harris who had more than a half dozen tackles — several of which were behind the line of scrimmage — forced Spalding to become one-dimensional in its rushing attack.

“It helped a lot to have Desmond playing that way, because they were double teaming a lot, and when that happens my mike linebacker has to be right there,” James said. “And Desmond was there all night.”

The void of Jaguar junior running back A.J. Moses, out with a high ankle sprain, also helped the Cardinals gain an advantage. But according to James, Moses’ absence wasn’t a part of Jonesboro’s preparation.

“Basically we didn’t change,” he said. We didn’t even know he’d be out. But A.J. Moses, he’s a great athlete. I’ve seen him play on film. He runs hard. I know he’s gonna have a chip on his shoulder when he gets to come back out.”

As for Jonesboro, the chip stays firmly on its collective shoulders as the Cardinals face another tough region opponent with a potentially explosive offense in Riverdale (4-2) Friday night.

And James said it doesn’t matter whether or not people have learned to trust the Cardinals in big games anymore.

“Honestly, we’ve been the underdog since the beginning of the season,” he said. “Even other teams, when we play them, we’re not the biggest, but we’ve got the most heart. We play physical, fast and low and we give 110 percent for Christ. That’s all we really preach. L.O.B. These guys push me to death. They’re a great group of guys to go to war with.”



About Gabriel Stovall

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