Jonesboro-Hodge’s contest against Rosepine this past Friday night lived up to the billing of an expected shootout. What no one saw coming though was the way the Tigers would rally three separate times from 15 point deficits to take the 42-41 victory.
Coming into the game the Tiger coaching staff knew their team was talented. What they didn’t really know how they would face adversity or how resilient they were. Sure J-H was forced to play their season opener with virtually all of their starting linemen sidelined due to be quarantined after being exposed to the Coronavirus but that was against lowly Delta Charter. The victory while sweet was expected.
Rosepine presented an altogether different challenge. Even though the Tigers would be at full strength for the home opener at Caldwell-Peacock stadium this was against a team that had beaten J-H last year and had won their first game of the year by a 46-6 margin.
“We felt that we would find out what we were made of,” said J-H head coach Terrance Blankenship. “I have to admit there were times during the game where I wondered if we had what it took but the guys proved they can face adversity and come out on top. I don’t know if I have ever been prouder of a team since I have been coaching.”
Not only did J-H fall behind by two touchdowns not once, not twice, but three times in the contest they rallied to take the lead and then held Rosepine off when the visitors tried to steal the game on a two point conversion with just seconds left to play. It is safe to say that now J-H can be described as talented, tested and resilient. They also can be described in another way…….
UNDEFEATED! There was a time in J-H lore where maybe being 2-0 wasn’t that big a deal. It could be said that is was even expected to win the first two year in and year out but that was many years ago. Today it is the cause of tremendous excitement as the last time J-H won their first two the 43 players on the roster weren’t even in grade school yet.
IN A HOLE! It was all Rosepine in the first quarter as J-H was experiencing a severe case of “fumbleitis.” The result was a Grant DuCote 15 yard scored followed by a two point run and a Ethan Frey to Bryant Merriwether 23 yard connection and ensuing PAT to give the Eagles a 15-0 lead after the first 12 minutes.
“We dug ourselves a hole for sure,” said Blankenship laughingly after the contest. “We couldn’t do anything right on offense or defense at first but they guys didn’t quit and fought through it.”
BRANTRELL BREAKS FREE! The Tiger offense finally started to click in the second quarter. Tailback Brantrel Thompson, who ended the night with 205 yards and three TD’s on just nine carries got J-H on the board by dashing in from 14 yards out and then later scored again in the quarter on a 67 yard breakaway. He would score another from 53 yards out later in the game.
“Brantrel has home run speed and is just starting to realize his potential,” said Blankenship. “He is incredibly fast and if he gets a step ahead he can take it to the house from anywhere on the field. Hopefully this is just the start of what he will do this year.”
DEFENSE STILL BEING FREYED! While it was a good sign that the Tigers finally started moving the ball the problem was that the J-H defense was still getting shredded by Rosepine QB Ethan Frey. The talented signal caller threw for two more touchdowns to help Rosepine go into the half with a 29-14 lead and maintain the 15 point advantage.
“I don’t know if we will face a better QB than theirs the rest of the year,” complimented Blankenship. “He has a good arm and has good vision. He also plays smart. You can tell he has been well coached.”
The third quarter was much like the second. Both teams continued to move the ball up and down the field with each scoring a touchdown. LaJavion Nichols did the honors for J-H by rumbling in from 23 yards away while Frey threw his fourth TD pass of the game as Rosepine took what seemed to be a commanding 35-20 lead into the final frame.
“We had proved that we could play with them after spotting them the 15 points,” said Blankenship but we weren’t making up any ground. We needed the defense to step up to give us a chance.”
FANTASTIC FINISH! Whatever defensive coordinator Carlos Hicks told his troops before the fourth quarter worked. Suddenly the J-H defense started getting some stops. Offensively J-H continued to roll as Devontae Mozee reeled in a 7 yard pass from Tydre Malone and Justin Calahan sprinted 23 yards with a pass for another score to narrow the margin to 35-34 after the first two possessions of the final frame.
“It was a complete team effort that turned things around,” beamed Blankenship. “When we scored the second time you could see in our guys eyes that they felt they were going to win this game.”
There was still work to be done but that only took as long as the next possession when Thompson broke outside and outran the Eagle defense for a 53 yard touchdown, his third of the game. This was followed by him running over what turned out to be a very important two point conversion and give J-H their first lead of the game at 42-35.
To their credit Rosepine came right back down the field and scored on a Frey run to close the gap to one. The contest that would have almost 1000 yards in total yards and 83 points scored on the night between the two would be settled on one play. Frey tried to take it over himself but was stuffed by the Tiger defense to preserve the thrilling victory.
RECAP! As a team J-H would crank 515 yards in really what amounted to just three quarters of offensive production after the first quarter debacle. Thompson, who averaged 22.78 yards a carry wasn’t the only one to have a big game as Malone threw for 230 yards and two TD’s on 12 completions in 25 attempts. Justin Calahan also caught 5 passes for 119 yards and a score.
LaJavion Nichols led the defense with 10 tackles and five assists that included three tackles for a loss. Davion McGuire added seven stops and Chance Leonard got six. Connor Webb also came up big with 5 tackles and five assists. JaMarriyea Lewis got his second interception in as many games and Calahan recovered a fumble.
JHHS (2-0) 0 14 6 22 – 42
RHS (1-1) 15 14 6 6 – 41
1st quarter scoring
RHS – DuCote 15 yard run (DuCote 2-pt run)
RHS – Frey 23 yards to Merriwether ( Smith PAT)
2nd quarter scoring:
JHHS- Thompson 14 yard run (Malone 2-pt run)
RHS – Frey 15 yards to DuCote (Smith PAT)
JHHS – Thompson 67 yard run (2 pt failed)
3rd quarter scoring:
JHHS – Nichols 23 yard run (2-pt failed)
RHS – Frey 37 yards to Smith (PAT failed)
4th quarter scoring:
JHHS – Malone 6 yards to Mozee (Malone to Boston)
JHHS – Malone 23 yards to Calahan (2 pt failed)
JHHS – Thompson 53 yard run (Malone 2 pt run)
RHS – Frey 2 yard run (2 pt run failed)