Jonesboro-Hodge had a pass batted down in the end zone on the final play from scrimmage as Winnfield survived a late rally attempt to win 22-20 in the season opener for both teams in the contest played Friday at Dokes-Walker Stadium in Winnfield.
The loss dropped Jonesboro-Hodges record to 42-50-2 in the 94-year long series that began in 1919. It also marked the 28th time that Winnfield has won at home and gave Jonesboro-Hodge a 10-20 record in season openers against their oldest rival.
The closely contested game ended up being a typical JHHS vs Winnfield tilt, which has seen a team win by a touchdown or less in 23 of the games played and less than two TD’s over half the time. Yet their was something that took place which provided a unique sidebar.
When Terrance Blankenship (JHHS) and Jay Watson (WHS) greeted each other at midfield before the game it marked a “first” for the series and one of the few times ever in the state that the two opposing head coaches had graduated as classmates from the same school. Both got their diploma from Jonesboro-Hodge in 1990. The two were not only classmates but teammates as well during their high school football careers where they were integral parts of the JHHS “three peat’ state championship years from 1987-89.
“It will be a unique experience to be coaching against Jay,” laughed Blankenship before the game. “I told him that I hoped he won every game this year – except this one!”
There was no laughter along the JHHS sidelines following the game though as the local Tigers knew they had let one slip away. Jonesboro-Hodge outgained Winnfield 345-157 in total yards and had 15 first downs compared to just 10 for Winnfield. What killed the Tigers chances was the only turnover committed which was critical in the outcome of the game and several untimely penalties.
“We should have won this one,” bemoaned Blankenship, who dropped to 2-6 against Winnfield in his nine years at JHHS. “We didn’t make many mistakes but the ones we did killed us..”
Bad decision! The first mistake came with 10:48 left in the first half that began a flurry of second quarter points after a scoreless first frame where each team had an 11 possession drive each but came away with nothing to show for it. That was when JH quarterback Tydre Malone, who otherwise had a wonderful night passing the ball, tried to complete a pass while in the grasp of a Winnfield defender. Winnfield defensive back, Trey Starks, picked off the underthrown ball and returned in up the left sideline 71 yards for a touchdown. The score goes down as the fifth longest defensive score by a Tiger opponent in school history. Daniel Luke Page then scampered three yards for the two point conversion to give the home standing Tigers an 8-0 lead.
“I would have rather seen us take a sack there,” said Blankenship. “Sometimes you just have to survive to fight another day.”
Drayton does damage! To the Tigers credit ,the offense regrouped to embark on a 5 play, 60 yard drive to draw within two. Junior, Ed’Trayvious Drayton, celebrated his first start at running back by doing most of the damage. First he blasted up the middle for a 22 yard gain that gave JH a first and goal at the Winnfield 8 yard line and then followed that up by dashing to paydirt. A bad exchange on the snap caused the two point conversion to go awry leaving JHHS trailing 8-6 with 3:45 remaining in the half.
Down again! Winnfield immediately put the pressure back on by returning the ensuing kickoff to the JHHS 17 yard line. JHHS put up a good defensive stand but after five plays Winnfield’s 200 pound running back, Travon Nichols, bulled his way into the end zone from six yards out at the the 1:28 mark of the second quarter to up the lead to 14-6. (SIDE NOTE: Nichols is the nephew of former JHHS players Terry and Robert Nichols)
Lighting bolt! Just when it looked like JHHS would enter the half down by eight, the quick strike offense that the Tigers were expected to feature this season, appeared. Just 19 seconds after the Winnfield score Malone lofted a long pass to DeVontae Mozee who was streaking down the sideline and caught the pass in stride resulting in a 68 yard strike for the score. Malone followed by going over the right side with the two point run that sent the two teams into the half tied at 14 each.
Slow start! Seemingly with all the momentum on J-H’s side after the late second quarter score and receiving the second half kickoff the Tigers unexplainedly came out of the locker room lethargic both offensively and defensively. JHHS started in relatively good field position at their own 39 yard line but a quick three and out and a good Winnfield punt return set the home team up at JH’s 41 yard line. Six straight running plays later, Winnfield took a touchdown lead for the third time in the contest, with Dyllan Lawson doing the honors from 8 yards out and Page running in his second two point conversion putting J-H behind 22-14 with 6:37 to go in the third period.
Extra curricular activity! It just wouldn’t seem right if there wasn’t any extra curricular activity that took place in a JHHS vs Winnfield game. After all the series between the two “blood rivals” is fraught with fights on the fields and in the stands, practical jokes that includes one team putting a dead skunk on the others bus and even a bounty put on a JHHS player by a Winnfield coach. The 2021 version also had it’s “mad moment. ‘ Midway through the third quarter the game was halted when Winn Parish deputies were called to the Jonesboro-Hodge sideline. Apparently some unruly fans had gotten a little to “aggressive” with their comments to the referee’s and it looked like the law that was passed last year by the LA state legislature that allowed for a fan to be arrested for berating an official was fixing to be enforced. Fortunately and thanks to JHHS principal Chevonda Leonard who quickly handled the situation with the fans, nothing took place and the game was allowed to continue without any further incidents in the stands.
Creeping closer! There were plenty of fireworks on the field soon after though as J-H put together their best drive of the game to once again draw within two points. Tydre Malone, who finished the night 16 of 26 for 244 yards and two TD’s, was spectacular during the drive. Often times being forced out of the pocket, the senior signal caller either scrambled for positive yards or found a receiver to sustain the drive. It was on the 11th play of the 87 yard drive with 11:52 to go in the fourth quarter that Malone once again broke out of the pocket and scrambled to his right. With an open field in front of him it looked like he would run for a big gain. The Winnfield defensive back that was in coverage thought so as well and broke up to take on Malone, who expertly pulled up and lofted a pass to the now wide open DeVontae Mozee, who took it the rest of the way for the 39 yard score. Unfortunately the Tigers failed to convert the two point try leaving JHHS behind by the eventual final score 22-20.
Jay saves the day! Midway through the final frame Winnfield put together another time chewing drive against the tired, but game, JHHS defense. Thirty nine times Winnfield had rushed their pair of 200 lb. running backs at the Tiger defense, who for the most part had stood up fairly well, allowing only 132 yards. On the 40th attempt it looked like the constant pounding was finally going to pay big dividends as the back broke through at the JH 36 yard line with nothing but open field ahead. Seemingly out of nowhere, JH linebacker JaMarriyea “Jay” Lewis came shooting across the field and not only caught the back inside as he was entering the “red zone” but came down with a thunderous “tomahawk chop” that dislodged the ball. Lewis then scooped up the fumble and returned it to the JH 31 giving JHHS new life after what seemed certain death.
“That was one of the best individual defensive plays I have ever seen,” said Blankenship. “it is a shame we couldn’t come back and win because he did everything he could to give us a chance.”
Last chance! The play gave JH one final shot but it seemed like a long one at best as they had to go 69 yards with only 90 ticks of the clock remaining. Lewis immediately helped on offense also by corralling a Malone pass for 16 yards. Malone then found Calahan for twelve and then got away from the Winnfield rush to gain positive yards twice in a row putting the ball on the Winnfield 23 yard line.
With just three second left Malone again dropped back and for the briefest of seconds it looked like Mozee had broken open down the sideline. Malone lofted the pass toward the endzone, Mozee leaped high in the air and just when it looked like he might come down with it a pair of Winnfield DB’s simultaneously got their hands on the ball forcing it to fall harmlessly to the turf.
2nd quarter: WHS – 71 yard interception return (2-point conversion)
2nd quarter: JHHS – Ed’Trayvious Drayton 8 yd rush (2Pt run no good)
2nd quarter: WHS – Six yard run (2pt run no good)
2nd quarter: JHHS – Malone pass to Mozee for 68 yards (Malone 2-pt run)
3rd quarter: WHS – Eight yard run (2 point conversion)
4th quarter: JHHS – Malone pass to Mozee for 39 yards (2 pt run no good)
|Rushes – Yds||19-101||40-150|
|3rd down Conv.||2-9||6-14|
|4th down Conv.||2-2||2-4|
Passing: (JHHS) Malone 16-26-244, 2 TD, 1 int; (WHS) Page 1-1-7
Rushing: (JHHS) Drayton 7-34, 1 TD, Malone 6-25, Thompson 5-25; (WHS) Nichols 17-38-1 TD, Lawson 9-57- 1 TD,
Receiving: (JHHS) MOzee 3-108-2 TD’s, Lewis 3-50, Leonard 3-45, Calahan 4-40
Photos by Jason Strickland
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