Daily Herald's 2016 Season Coverage
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updated: 9/11/2013 10:50 PM

Town Jug is what it's all about for Elgin, Larkin

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  • Larkin players celebrate with the Town Jug following their win over Elgin last year. The Royals will look to keep the Jug on the west side for the third straight year when the Royals and Maroons battle at Memorial Field Friday night.

      Larkin players celebrate with the Town Jug following their win over Elgin last year. The Royals will look to keep the Jug on the west side for the third straight year when the Royals and Maroons battle at Memorial Field Friday night.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer


According to new Elgin High football coach Kyle Rohde, a 2002 Elgin High graduate who never lost to rival Larkin as a high school player, winning the Town Jug trophy can resonate for decades.

"If you stay in town and live here after you play, no doubt you'll still run into a guys from the other school," Rohde said. "You probably grew up playing with or against those guys in church leagues, rec leagues or at the Y. You fight for bragging rights because you'll both remember this game forever. Either you'll be looking down at him the rest of your life, or he'll be looking down at you. That's what makes this game fun."

Bragging rights are on the line for the 53rd time when Elgin and Larkin tangle at Memorial Stadium on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Larkin won 40-12 last year, its second straight victory in a varsity series it leads 32-19.

Even families have split allegiances when it comes to Elgin vs. Larkin. For instance, Elgin senior tailback Jaylen Clemons and Larkin senior tailback Damion "Bubba" Clemons are second cousins. Teammates on three different youth teams before they split up, they have always enjoyed a friendly competition.

"Our whole lives we've been trying to show each other up," Jaylen Clemons said. "We've always had a competitive edge. This is my last time going against Larkin and my cousin, so this will be intense. This game is important to a lot of people and a lot of people are going to come out to watch. It's going to be survival of the fittest."

Like a high performance vehicle, the Larkin offense is powered by a small yet powerful engine in Bubba Clemons. The speedy, 5-foot-5 tailback has rushed for 182 yards and 3 touchdowns on 36 carries (5.1 avg.). Against Elgin last season he gained 66 yards on 7 carries and caught a 54-yard touchdown pass.

"We need to get Bubba bottled up in the middle," Rohde said. "If they create seams up the middle, he'll run wild. We have enough speed to control him left and right, but if he gets a seam up the middle he'll be gone. Linebacker play will be very key this week and we need our linemen to tackle him in the box."

Likewise, the Larkin defense must control Jaylen Clemons. The focal point of opposing defenses, the powerful 5-foot-10, 215-pound senior has been limited to 12 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown in his first 2 games. However, he demonstrated game-changing speed last week with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter against Huntley. Jaylen Clemons also sees time in the Elgin secondary out of necessity. Junior Dontrell Gaddy has also contributed 84 yards on 18 carries.

"Jaylen is just a tough kid, but Gaddy seems to have more in the tank late in the game," Larkin coach Mike Scianna said. "But they're both very good. It's a matter of picking which poison you want. You have to contain those skill guys or they'll eat you up. They are good athletes who can break tackles, so we have to make sure we're pursuing to the ball."

Returning the Town Jug to the city's east side for the first time since 2010 has become the obsession of Elgin quarterback Ryan Sitter, now in his third varsity season. He has completed 17 of 33 attempts for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns and has been intercepted once.

"I feel absolutely determined and focused," Sitter said Tuesday. "They always say that student comes first in student-athlete, but I'm honestly putting football above everything else this week. I've been watching film before doing homework. I have an essay due on Friday that I haven't even thought about. It's my senior year. It's the Jug game. I have to have it."

Larkin (1-1) lost its season opener 30-18 to McHenry (1-1), but rebounded last week to defeat West Chicago (0-2) in overtime, 20-12. The Royals seek a victory in this Upstate Eight River opener not only for the sake of bragging rights, but to remain on track for a postseason berth.

"Our main goal is to get back in the playoffs," Larkin quarterback Kemmerin Blalark said. "It's important to us, important to the fans and important to our school."

Blalark has been solid for the Royals, completing 29 of 46 attempts for 374 yards. The senior has thrown 3 touchdowns passes and been intercepted 3 times. Last season against Elgin he completed 6 of 8 attempts for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Blalark's top target has been 6-foot-1 Dante Bonds. The senior receiver has 5 receptions for 111 yards, including touchdowns of 20 and 68 yards. Another speed threat is receiver Jarelle Shipp. The senior registered 2 receptions for 23 yards against McHenry and carried the ball 4 times for 47 yards against West Chicago.

Elgin (0-2), which has played the tougher schedule, seeks not only its first win under Rohde but an end to a 5-game losing streak that dates back to last season. The Maroons have been handled thus far by Dundee-Crown (2-0) and Huntley (2-0) by a combined scored of 100-28, but they match up better against the Royals.

Though both teams have been studying film intensely in search of weaknesses to exploit, the Town Jug game normally boils down to which team better controls its emotions. In fact, Rohde interrupted a film session early this week to make that point to his players.

"We watched film for almost an hour the other day and coach Rohde stopped it and said what we're watching doesn't matter," Sitter said. "He said we can learn all their formations and plays, but what it comes down to is you'll play with three times more emotion in this game than you'll play with all year."

Larkin, which has been whistled for numerous penalties the first two weeks, recognizes the need to play with controlled aggression.

"We're going to get better every week as we get rid of all these mistakes that have been going on the last two games," Blalark said. "It's a matter of repetition. Everything is mental, the holding penalties, personal fouls, the chippiness. I have to keep my self control and lead by example. We just have to make sure we're all relaxed. We have to get the job done and everything else will follow."

Elgin vs. Larkin

(Larkin leads varsity series 32-19)

1962 -- Larkin 27, Elgin 26*

1963 -- Elgin 26, Larkin 13

1964 -- Larkin 14, Elgin 0

1965 -- Larkin 14, Elgin 0

1966 -- Elgin 13, Larkin 12

1967 -- Larkin 37, Elgin 7

1968 -- Larkin 21, Elgin 7

1969 -- Larkin 22, Elgin 6

1970 -- Elgin 26, Larkin 24

1971 -- Larkin 33, Elgin 6

1972 -- Elgin 8, Larkin 6

1973 -- Larkin 17, Elgin 0

1974 -- Larkin 35, Elgin 0

1975 -- Elgin 8, Larkin 0

1976 -- Elgin 19, Larkin 14

1977 -- Elgin 47, Larkin 6

1978 -- Elgin 22, Larkin 0

1979 -- Larkin 33, Elgin 6

1980 -- Larkin 35, Elgin 0

1981 -- Larkin 48, Elgin 20

1982 -- Larkin 14, Elgin 7

1983 -- Elgin 22, Larkin 21

1984 -- Elgin 21, Larkin 0

1985 -- Larkin 14, Elgin 0

1986 -- Elgin 16, Larkin 7

1987 -- Elgin 21, Larkin 20

1988 -- Elgin 33, Larkin 8

1989 -- Larkin 14, Elgin 7

1990 -- Larkin 26, Elgin 14

1990 -- Larkin 21, Elgin 20**

1991 -- Elgin 14, Larkin 8

1992 -- Elgin 34, Larkin 20

1993 -- Larkin 28, Elgin 0

1994 -- Larkin 27, Elgin 14

1995 -- Larkin 40, Elgin 0

1996 -- Larkin 42, Elgin 15

1997 -- Larkin 21, Elgin 15

1998 -- Larkin 32, Elgin 7

1999 -- Larkin 21, Elgin 14

2000 -- Elgin 41, Larkin 12

2001 -- Elgin 28, Larkin 7

2002 -- Larkin 41, Elgin 7

2003 -- Larkin 9, Elgin 6

2004 -- Larkin 28, Elgin 0

2005 -- Larkin 49, Elgin 35

2006 -- Larkin 47, Elgin 28

2007 -- Larkin 53, Elgin 35

2008 -- Larkin 15, Elgin 6

2009 -- Elgin 28, Larkin 21

2010 -- Elgin 28, Larkin 7

2011 -- Larkin 22, Elgin 21

2012 -- Larkin 40, Elgin 12

* JV game

** State playoffs

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