After the Philadelphia Eagles cut future Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter in 1990, head coach Buddy Ryan quipped, “All he does is catch touchdowns.” If Ryan were still around, he might share the same sentiment about Central-Phenix City senior Peter Jakes.
Jakes has been on a roll in the Red Devils’ high-flying offense the past few weeks, and his play has set a new milestone for Central. Jakes’ last five receptions have all been for touchdowns, which is a feat that has never been accomplished before in school history.
“It means a lot. As a team, we have a lot to show from the record we have. We've just got to work,” Jakes said. “I feel like as a receiver group we're underrated besides Eddie Williams. We've got to open it up because they're going to be over him a lot. We've got to open the defense up so the whole team can attack.”
Through seven games, Jakes has 12 receptions for 219 yards and six touchdowns.
Jakes has made plays from the Red Devils before, but the senior truly stepped into the spotlight against Opelika on Sept. 20. While Williams — a four-star Clemson commit — got the bulk of the defense’s attention, Jakes delivered seven receptions for 131 yards and four of the team’s nine touchdowns.
Central head coach Jamey DuBose remembered Jakes mentioning during practice that week about his lack of scoring so far. Needless to say, Jakes’ mood was on the other side of the spectrum by the time the 63-28 game had concluded.
“We liked the matchups we had. He didn't really get any deep balls over the top; more or less he had to work the ball underneath,” DuBose said. “He made some really good speed-out cuts down around the end zone and was able to catch the ball with feet down to get in the end zone. I know two of the balls were well-thrown balls, but he had to make nice catches with a little pressure on him on the outside.
“He's a guy who’s a quarterback's best friend because he's going to make those tough catches when you don't necessarily have the ball right where you need it.”
Jakes followed those four straight scores against Opelika with a brief yet worthwhile highlight against Park Crossing the following week. He only had one reception against the Thunderbirds but made it a memorable one, diving in the end zone and securing the football for a 30-yard score that helped Central take a 31-7 win.
“All I remember is (thinking), 'I've got to beat this man in front of me.' The next thing you know, I'm open,” Jakes said. “I just remember diving for the catch. It was amazing. … I knew I had that ball.”
Jakes may appear to have come out of nowhere to now shine alongside the likes of Williams, but DuBose made it apparent that’s not exactly the case.
DuBose praised Jakes’ work for Central throughout the summer and credited him as being a tough player who blocks extremely well on the perimeter and isn’t afraid to play through pain. DuBose said some colleges may be turned off by his 6-foot, 170-pound stature, but he emphasized whoever signs him will be getting a good football player.
DuBose compared Jakes to Will Clanton and Derrick Moore, two former Red Devils’ receivers who played behind current Clemson star Justyn Ross. Jakes doesn’t harp on the lack of exposure — he and Williams are very close friends — nor his lack of scholarship offers; instead, he uses both as motivation to keep getting better.
“We've always known we have a good receiver group. I just feel like it's time for us to show it,” Jakes said. “I feel like if I did have offers, I would still be grinding. I've got to get better. That's on my mind. That's all it is.”
Central quarterback Tucker Melton lauded Jakes’ attitude, saying he never has a bad day and that he lightens the mood in the locker room until it’s time to go to work. Receivers coach Zack Berklin said Jakes even inspires him from time to time, as Jakes goes so far as to call him out if he’s loafing as they leave the practice field.
“Peter is just a great kid overall. I enjoy coaching him. He keeps me young and excited about coaching him. He's always on me,” Berklin said. “He's got a great heart. He brings that energy to the group. He brings everything, man.”
Jakes’ run of consecutive receptions for a touchdown remains active after not catching any passes in Central’s 42-13 victory over Enterprise last Friday. But keeping that sort of streak alive isn’t Jakes’ main focus — instead, it’s helping the Red Devils capture their second consecutive Class 7A state championship.
“There’s a mindset of repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and it still is (the mindset). We've got to work hard. We ain't there yet, so we have to keep working,” Jakes said. “I want to do whatever I can. I want to work hard and get my bros better. We want to work each other and do whatever it takes to get there.”