Ask any coach and they will tell you there is no such thing as a “moral victory”. Still Jonesboro-Hodge head coach Terrance Blankenship wasn’t too upset about the Tigers 30-26 loss against Class 4A Huntington this past Friday night.
“I am not happy that we lost this game as it was one we could have won,” said Blankenship. “Still I am happy with our effort. Huntington has a very good team with a lot of college prospects and we played them basically even. The only difference in the game was a couple of two point conversions.”
The loss dropped the Tigers to 2-2 on the season in their final tune-up before district 1-2A play begins while Huntington, who is listed in the LSWA Class 4A poll as receiving votes, improved to 4-1 on the season.
There were several positives that the Tigers can draw upon from the game. The first was the play of the special teams which allowed J-H to take an initial lead for the first time all season following a first quarter 94 yard punt return by Justin Calahan and the ensuing two point conversion to give J-H an 8-0 lead after one period of play.
RECORD BREAKER! The return was the second of the year for Calahan, the first being a 70 yard, kickoff return for a score in the season opener against Delta Charter. More importantly the 94 yard return is the longest ever in the 101 year history of Tiger football surpassing the former long of 90 yards set by Morris Douglas in 1988 against Jena.
“We normally don’t like our returners to field a ball inside the 10 yard line, said Blankenship with a chuckle. “It was the kind of play where I was like don’t…. don’t…. Go Justin Go!!! To his credit he has great field vision, thought he had a chance to make a big play and ended up taking it to the house.”
SEASON LONG RUSING TD! Another positive was the performance turned in by power back LaJavion Nichols who rushed for 101 yards on 13 carries including a 67 yard sprint that gave the Tigers a 14-8 lead in the second quarter.
“We knew LaJavion had the potential to have this kind of game,” said Blankenship. “He has given us a good effort each game but in all the others the defense would key on him. I am glad to see him finally have a chance to show what he can do.”
BACK AND FORTH SECOND QUARTER! After Nichols scored Huntington answered with a score to take a 16-14 lead. J-H then responded with the first of Tydre Malone’s two TD passes when he hit Calahan for his second score of the game to give J-H a 20-16 lead. Huntington then took A 22-20 halftime lead following their second straight 18 yard completion for a touchdown.
SEASON LONG PASSING TD! For the second time in three weeks the Tigers were trailing by double digits late in the game only to make a last ditch rally. Unfortunately this time it wasn’t enough to steal a victory like against Rosepine but it did result in the longest passing touchdown of the season when Devonatae Mozee took a Malone aerial 58 yards to paydirt to narrow the margin to the final 30-26 score.
“We hit on several long plays in the game,” said Blankenship. “When we play error free football we can be dangerous.”
DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS PAY OFF! It may not look like it judging by the 30 points the Tigers gave up but the defense played much better following the 41 and 36 points given up in the previous two games. One of the big reasons was the adjustments made by defensive coordinator Carlos Hicks who moved some people around and introduced a freshman to the mix.
Freshman Xavier Atkins who got his first extended look of the season led the team with 9 tackles and 4 assists including a sack and a tackle for a loss. Also coming up big was Manuel Hernandez who was moved to outside linebacker. LaJavion Nichols continued his good play at middle linebacker with 7 tackles and 4 assists as well as a tackle for a loss. Ed’Tavious Drayton added six stops.
“We still have some things to clean up but overall we made some good strides on both sides of the ball this week to become the team we want to be,” recapped Blankenship. “I am excited about where we are heading into district play.”
JHHS (2-2) 6 14 0 6 – 26
HHS (4-1) 0 22 0 8 – 30
JHHS – Justin Calahan 94 yard punt return (2 pt. conversion)
Huntington – 5 yard run (2 pt. conversion)
JHHS – LaJavion Nichols 67 yard run (2 pt. conversion NG)
Huntington – 18 yard pass (2 pt. conversion)
JHHS – Justin Calahan 26 yard pass from Tydre Malone (2 pt. conversion NG)
Huntington – 18 yard pass (2 pt. conversion NG)
Huntington – 6 yard pass (2 pt. conversion NG)
JHHS – Devontae Mozee 58 yard pass from Tydre Malone (2 pt. conversion NG)
JHHS passing stats:
Tydre Malone 7/20 185 yards 2 TD’s
JHHS rushing stats:
LaJavion Nichols 13/101 1 TD
Justin Calahan 2/10
Ed’Tavious Drayton 5/4
Tydre Malone 4/(-4)
JHHS receiving stats:
Devontae Mozee 1/58 1 TD
JaMarriyea Lewis 1/45
Justin Calahan 2/32 1 TD
Cornelius Boston 1/24
DaTrevien Bowie 1/17
LaJavion Nichols 1/9
Xavier Atkins 9 tackles 4 assists 1 sack 1 tackle for a loss
LaJavion Nichols 7 tackles 4 assists 1 tackle for a loss
Ed’Tavious Drayton 6 tackles 1 assist
Jamarriyea Lewis 5 tackles 2 assists
Manual Hernandez 4 tackles