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Gorman: Jacksons hope to lead Highlands to Heinz

Highlands seniors Elijah and Jeremy Jackson are as opposite as brothers can be.

Elijah, known by his nickname “Reggie,” is a soft-spoken 5-foot-9, 175-pound, big-play tailback.

Jeremy, a 5-11, 180-pounder who plays wide receiver, safety and returns kicks and punts, is a nonstop talker who goes by the moniker “JayJack.”

“Everyone always says that we’re completely different,” said Elijah, who is 14 months older.

Adds Jeremy: “I talk, and he just sits there and doesn’t say anything. He does his talking on the field.”

Highlands coach Sam Albert loves to tweak the Golden Rams stars about their distinct differences.

“JayJack talks all the time, and Reggie never speaks,” Albert said. “You can’t get him to say two words. He just smiles.”

The Jacksons share at least one trait.

“We tease them all the time about who’s the best,” Albert said, “but they’re both competitors.”

The Jacksons also share a goal: to lead Highlands (10-0), which plays Seton-La Salle (9-1) on Friday in the Class AA quarterfinals, to its first WPIAL championship game.

If Highlands is to play at Heinz Field — it was a Class AAA semifinalist in 2001 and ’08 before dropping down — the Jacksons must play a pivotal role.

Elijah leads the Golden Rams in rushing with 1,634 yards and 20 touchdowns. Jeremy has 12 receptions for 258 yards with nine touchdowns, scoring by catch, interception and on kick and punt returns.

“Even though we’re on the same team, we always compete to see who can score,” Elijah said. “I always know that if I don’t score, he could. We’re both lethal at our positions.”

The Jacksons know a loss will mark their last game together, so they have extra incentive to keep their perfect season alive.

“We haven’t really talked about it, but I think about it. If we lose, that could be our last game together,” Jeremy said. “That motivates us. We have to win, or we won’t play together again.”

Elijah’s quiet nature made it hard for Highlands to realize he suffered a high-ankle sprain against Valley in Week 8 — mostly because he said nary a word about the injury.

“He doesn’t talk, so we didn’t even know anything about it,” Albert said. “He’s on one leg. He can’t make that cut that he usually makes.”

That didn’t stop Elijah from rushing for 159 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yarder, in the 24-19 first-round victory over New Brighton.

While the Jacksons often argue about who’s faster, Elijah’s perseverance through pain in the playoffs is inspiring to Jeremy.

“They know he’s hurt,” Jeremy said, “and he stays out there and runs hard.”

Elijah isn’t just playing for his brother but all of his Highlands teammates hoping to make it to Heinz.

“Knowing that this Friday could be our last game,” Elijah said, “I’m going to give it my all and make sure it’s not.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.


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