The bitter taste that was in JHHS head coach Terrance Blankenship’s mouth from the news he received two days prior to last Friday’s season opener was replaced by the sweet taste of victory following the Tigers 37-8 victory over Delta Charter.
“When life deals you a lemon, you have to make lemonade” said Blankenship now entering his 8th year at the helm. “We always use the saying – NEXT MAN UP – but in this case it was next CLASS up.”
What Blankenship was referring to was that on the Wednesday prior to the contest he got the unbelievable news that five of his players, all starter and all seniors, had been exposed to the Coronavirus and would have to be quarantined for 10 days.
Just like that he team that was expected to have eight seniors on the field, with almost all of them expected to be playing both ways, was down to only three seniors and minus virtually the entire starting offensive and defensive line. Forced to miss the contest was Chase Bryant, Skylar Levingston, Phillip Beard, Cornelius Boston and Quiyontae Henderson.
Slow start! With a front line now consisting of Freshmen and Sophomores who just two days before had no dreams of being on the field the Tiger coaching staff knew they had to get the replacements up to speed quickly.
“We coached them hard early on,” said Blankenship laughingly following the contest. “We didn’t have a choice. We had to get them adjusted quickly. They knew what they were supposed to do but it is entirely different from doing it in practice to having to do it in your first live game.”
The result of the early action went as expected as the offense found no running room or time to pass and Delta Charter running backs constantly got to the second level of the defense. The Tigers managed to hold fast though by holding Delta Charter on downs in the red zone and a tremendous over the shoulder interception by Junior JaMarriyea Lewis that thwarted another scoring opportunity. Delta Charter did take a 2-0 lead on J-H, who at their own 12 yard line had a snap on a punt attempt sail over the head of the punter and bounce through the end zone.
Making adjustments! It looked even bleaker after the Tigers first possession of the second quarter saw them go three and out followed by a six yard punt that gave Delta Charter the ball on the J-H 40 yard line. It was at this point you could start to see the “coaching up” being done by Blankenship, Carlos Hicks, Anthony Anderson, Charles Scott, Kris Cash, Justin Durbin, Robert Hunter and Ethan Roberts starting to sink in.
The adjustments the coaching staff made had an immediate positive impact. First it was the defense that held Delta Charter to a “three and out.” J-H then took over at their own 30 yard line following the punt and in just four plays the Tigers cashed in their first touchdown of the year.
Speedy junior back, Brantrel Thompson got things started by breaking outside and dashing for 20 yards. Quarterback Tydre Malone followed with another 20 yards on an impromptu scramble. Malone then hit Lewis for 16 yards followed by LaJavion Nichols powering his way 12 yards to paydirt. An attempted two point conversion was unsuccessful but the momentum was back on the Tigers side as the half ended.
Fast start! The Tigers wasted no time at all to extend their lead when Justin Calahan fielded the opening second half kickoff on the left hash at the 30 yard line, raced across the field and outran would be Storm tacklers. Malone followed by connecting with Calahan for the two point conversion giving the Tigers a 14-2 lead with just 12 second gone by in the third quarter.
The Storm coaching staff then decided to “roll the dice” by going for a fourth down at their own 40 yard line. The move backfired though as the suddenly aggressive Tiger defense stuffed the play. After two plays that found the Tigers facing a 3rd and 17 from their own 43 yard line Malone lofted a beautiful pass down the sideline that Lewis ran under around the Delta Charter 40 yard line and tip-toed his way down the sideline to deliver a “game-ender” blow that put J-H up 22-2 following the Malone two point conversion scamper.
Building on the momentum! To their credit Delta Charter gallantly fought back with a 10 play, 62 yard drive for a touchdown to narrow the margin to 22-8. J-H recovered the attempted onside kick at mid field though and went on a nine play drive of their own climaxed by a Malone to Calahan hook up of 14 yards to up the score to 30-8 after Thompson ran the two point attempt over.
J-H got a final score with just second left in the game when Thompson excited Tiger fans with his incredible speed by taking what seemingly looked like a harmless handoff 52 yards to the endzone in a blink of an eye. Manuel Hernandez followed with his first extra point conversion of his young career to give the Tigers the 37-8 victory.
Game balls! Obvious choices for outstanding players of the game were JaMarryea Lewis (TD reception, INT), Justin Calahan (KO return for TD,reception for TD, 2 pt. conversion) and Brantrel Thompson (9 rushes – 103 yards, 1 TD, 1 2ptr.)on offense and LaJavion Nichols (12 tackles, 5 assists) on defense.. The not so obvious but just as important to the victory were the young linemen Aiden Price, Quirese Howard, Josh Tatum, Austin Knotts and Cartavious Waters who remarkably matured as players during the contest.
“The young linemen grew up tonight,” said Blankenship after the game. “Sure, they made mistakes but they kept plugging. Let me tell you they were completely exhausted. A couple of them even had to have help getting their uniforms off but they gave us all they had and I am really proud of the way they fought.”
Game score and statistics:
JHHS 0 6 16 15 – 38
DCHS 2 0 6 0 – 8
Delta Charter – Safety when punt on snap went out back of endzone
JHHS – LaJavion Nichols 12 yard rush (2 pt attempt no good)
JHHS – Justin Calahan 70 yard kick-off return (Tydre Malone pass to Calahan)
JHHS – Jammariyea Lewis 57 yard pass from Malone (Malone run)
Delta Charter – 4 yard run (2 pt. run – No Good)
JHHS – Calahan 9 yard pass from Malone (Brantrel Thompson run)
JHHS – Thompson 52 yard run (Manuel Hernandez PAT)
Tydre Malone 5/11 – 68 yards 2 TD’s, 1 INT
Brantrel Thompson 6 – 103 yards 1 TD, 2-pt conversion
Tydre Malone 9 – 69 yards 1 TD, 2-pt run, 2-pt pass
LaJavion Nichols 6 – 40 yards 1 TD,
JaMarriyea Lewis 2 – 69 yards 1 TD
Justin Calahan 1 -9 yards 1 TD
Davion McGuire 1-3 yards
Brantrel Thompson 1 – (-3)
LaJavion Nichols 12 Tackles 5 Assists
Javious Holden 6 Tackles 1 interception
Davion McGuire 5 Tackles 3 Assists
Ed’Tavious Drayton 5 Tackles 2 Tackles for loss
JaMarriyea Lewis 5 Tackles 1 interception
Xavier Atkins 5 Tackles 2 Assists
Connor Webb 4 Tackles 2 Assists
Javeon Andrews 4 Tackles 2 Assists 2 Tackles for loss
Chase Leonard 3 Tackles 3 Assists
Chance Leonard 1 Tackle 1 Assist
DeVontea Mozee 1 Tackles 1 Assist
Cartavious Waters 1 Tackles 2 Assists
Peyton Smith 2 Assists