FORT WAYNE – There was a time a few years ago when the North Side football program wasnt getting visitors, aka the media, at practice because it wasnt getting enough wins. That was a time before C.J. Jackson and Anthony Linnear.
The seniors have not only seen a transformation of the program but have been the driving force of the success of the past three years.
Last year, North Side was 8-3 and ended two decades of torment with wins over Snider and Bishop Dwenger.
Its been more of the same this season with a 6-2 record heading into back-to-back games against Northrop in the regular-season finale tonight and a Class 5A sectional opener Thursday. If North Side beats Northrop twice, it will be the first time since 1987 (8-1) and 1988 (10-2) the team had at least eight wins in back-to-back seasons.
Jackson, a lightning-quick quarterback, and Linnear, a tough-as-nails running back and linebacker, have been teammates since their days at Lakeside Middle School. They have seen the downs and ups, which these days are sky high.
It shows where we came from and what a couple of people can do for a place, Linnear said. There is someone next to you that wants something just as bad as you do, and both of you are together working it out and helping each other out through the whole process.
The two played in the Metro youth football league as opponents – Jackson playing for the Buccaneers and Linnear for the Colts. As freshmen, they played on the freshman team, the junior varsity team and even a little on the varsity, playing three games in one week at times.
But there was a lot of losing on the way to being consistent winners.
North Side was 3-8 in their freshman season and 4-7 when they were sophomores.
In Metro, we lost, and in middle school, we lost, and even as freshmen, we lost, Jackson said. It showed us that things dont come easily, and you have to keep working. Now we understand how much hard work we need to put into it to keep it moving, and thats helping our team.
They form a threat on offense, with Linnear ranking No. 5 in northeast Indiana in rushing with 867 yards and Jackson No. 6 with 847. Jackson has scored nine touchdowns and Linnear seven. Jackson also has passed for 1,281 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Either way it goes, if they put guys on him and watch him, I can pull and make plays, and if they keep them on me, Anthony can make plays, Jackson said of opposing defenses.
Linnear is also the leader of the defense from his linebacker spot.
I want to be involved, and I want to be in control, Linnear said of playing on offense and defense. Thats like I am in real life, in control of things. I am glad they put me on both sides.
Both said they have changed as football players over the years, on and off the field.
Pressure, I am used to it now, Linnear said of the biggest way he has changed. I am used to the media talking about us and not letting it get to my head.
In other words, thanks for visiting but we have work to do now.