During the month of August and leading up to the kickoff of the high school football season, PSN will profile some of the top players in the WPIAL. These player previews and our 2018 High School Football coverage is sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts of Pittsburgh, proud sponsors of high school football in Western Pennsylvania.
Courtney Jackson put up video game-like numbers in 2017 for the Gateway Gators.
As a junior, he hauled in 96 catches for 1,916 yard and 24 touchdowns. He also added three other scores for good measure to finish with 27 overall.
Behind the play of its stellar wide receiver, the Gators won the program’s sixth WPIAL title and advanced to the Class PIAA Class 5 championship game.
So what does the 5-foot-11 receiver have in store for his senior campaign?
“I just want to win,” Jackson said. “That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
The Gators will have to replace record-setting quarterback Brady Walker, but in Jackson they have one of the WPIAL’s premiere offensive talents. What he lacks in size, he makes up with blazing speed. Jackson has been clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. He’s one of several big play threats for Gateway.
“We have so many more weapons,” Jackson said. “I don’t think it’s just all me. I don’t really worry about my performance. I just want to win.”
Jackson enters his final season with a big target on his back for several reasons. He verbally committed to Syracuse back in April, choosing the Orange over the likes of Baylor, Cincinnati, Kentucky, West Virginia and Temple, among others. A three-star recruit according to 247 Sports, Jackson ranks as the top receiving prospect in western Pennsylvania and 23rd overall in the Keystone State.
Although listed as an athlete by several recruiting services, Jackson will play inside receiver for Syracuse. He lived up to the billing of “athlete” by logging the third-fastest time in the 100-meter dash at the WPIAL Class 3A track and field championships this past spring. He also finished third in the long jump and triple jump events.
While Jackson spent the summer developing as a receiver, he also focused on becoming a better defender.
“I want to be able to help the defense more,” Jackson said. “Making tackles, making plays, big hits, I want to stand out more on that side of the ball.”
He also stars at cornerback for the Gators and believes rotating between corner and receiver gives him an edge.
“When I play corner, as a receiver, I know what the other guy is thinking,” Jackson said. “I know how he’s trying to set me up, and when I’m on offense, I know what the corner is trying not to let me do, so it goes hand in hand.”
Opposing teams already have their hands full scheming to slow the speedy Jackson down on offense. It’s scary to think how good the Gators might be if he becomes a bigger factor on defense. Nonetheless, Jackson and his teammates are motivated to return to Hershey.
Having come so close to capturing the school’s first state championship, the loss to Archbishop Wood to end the season last year has stuck with the star wideout.
“Our coach has put it in our minds that we’re coming off a loss,” Jackson said. “We got our butts whooped. We had a great season, but we’re coming off a loss, and we’ve got to bounce back. We’ve got to get back to the level we were at last year.”