GUT CHECK! Resilient Tigers beat pesky Cedar Creek 28-26 for sixth straight win

The final stats showed a first down advantage of 19-7. One team rushed the ball 40 more times than the other and ran 35 more plays. Total offense yardage was 275 – 156. Third down conversions were 7/16 compared to 0/8 and time of possession was a roughly 33-15 minute advantage. Easy win for the team that had those numbers, right? WRONG! 

Fortunately for Jonesboro-Hodge, the only stat that counts is the final score and that showed a 28-26 advantage over neighboring Cedar Creek, thanks to superior special team play. With their sixth victory in a row, the Tigers moved to 6-1 on the season in their final tuneup before district 1-2A play begins next week when JHHS will celebrate Homecoming against D’Arbonne Woods.  Cedar Creek fell to 3-3 overall after their first game of the yeat that wasn’t against district 2-1A competition.

JHHS and Cedar Creek scrimmaged the week before the season opened with the smaller Cougars pushing the Tigers all over the field. In the first half of the game Friday night they did it again. The Cougars embarked on drives of 11 and 12 play drives and then one of 7 plays when they only had a short field to traverse. In the process they ate up roughly 18 of the 24 minutes played. Still Jonesboro-Hodge led 21-20 at the half. That scrimmage or the described drives on Friday didn’t include the play of the special teams but the outcome of this one sure did.

Mozee’s magic! The one time the Tigers held Cedar Creek at bay was on the first possession of the game when the Cougars went “three and out” and punted the ball away. Rule #1 when playing JHHS . Don’t let Devontae Mozee return anything, nothing, notta, zilch. Doesn’t matter if it is a punt, kickoff or interception when Mozee gets his hand on a ball to be returned something magical always seems to happen , just like it did Friday night. Mozee caught the spiral on a dead sprint in the middle of the field, broke to his left behind a solid wall built by the Tiger special teams and just nine seconds later crossed the goal line untouched with a 65 yard punt return to give J-H a 6-0 lead. 

Hanging on! For the next 13 minutes the Cougars ran 23 plays to just 3 for the Tigers to take a 13-7 lead and seemingly control of the game. Cedar Creek hardly ever gained more than four or five yards at a time from the variety of sets they ran the ball out of but J-H simply could not stop them as they marched down the field two straight times. It didn’t seem to be of much concern at the time but the best play the Tigers defense made was partially blocking the first extra point. 

A Thompson and Tydre two step! With 6:28 left in the half the Tigers took over on their own 28 after fielding the kickoff. Runs of  30 and 9 yards by Brantrel Thompson set up Tydre Malone going right up the gut untouched from 30 yards away on a delayed quarterback draw to square things up. One again Leonard drilled the extra ponit to put J-H up 14-13. 

Counter by Creek! The Cougars scored their third TD of the first half when Caden Middleton ran it in from 7 yards away to go up again by a 20-14 count. The seven play drive, that took nearly four minutes off the clock, was helped by two 15 yard penalties on the defense.  

Long pass to Lewis! With J-H starting to find success on the ground, head coach Terrance Blankenship caught the Cougars napping. Devontae Mozee and Jay Lewis spread wide right. Both went ahead for ten yards and then criss crossed with Mozee going inside and Lewis streaking up field. The move confused the Creek defenders as both went with Mozee leaving Lewis all alone in the end zone 38 yards away. Malone was under some pressure but scrambled to his right and saw Lewis with no one within 15 yards of him to give the Tigers their third lead of the half at 21-20 after Leonard made his third straight PAT.

Sudden Second Half Start! Another move that head coach Blankenship unvield for the Creek game also paid dividends.Brantrel Thompson, who rarely plays on the kickoff return team, took the second half kickoff 85 yards to paydirt by going straight up the gut and outrunning the entire Creek special teams. The quick strike opened up a 28-20 lead after Leonard made his fourth straight PAT.

Leonard kicking was no chance!  Cedar Creek would score again to narrow the margin to 28-26 but the attempted run for two point conversion came up short. In the end both teams scored four times but the difference was the four PAT’s that Leonard successfully converted. How after six games did Blankenship find his new kicker.?
“Kicking extra points have been a problem for us for what seems like years,” laughed Blankenship. “We were practicing the other day and as usual wasn’t making anything. I asked if anyone could make an extra point and Chance said he could. We put him in there and he made five in a row. Those four tonight made a big difference.”

Begginning to end! Sophomore linebacker Xavier Atkins seemed determined to show the large crowd in attendance that he was worth the invite he had received to visit LSU on Saturday. Atkins made the tackle on the opening kickoff and first three plays Cedar Creek ran. Despite the Cougars trying to run away from him or double teaming him Atkins still finished with 21 tackles and even knocked down a fourth down pass that secured the win for the Tigers. Atkins now has 110 tackles for an 18.32 average tackles per game, both leading the state and the fastest anyone in Tiger history has reached 100 tackles in a season. 

“Want To” wins out! J-H didn’t win a single statistical category except having more penalties. They didn’t play a pretty game like the way they played the week before. They even got manhandled at times but in the end it was the HEART of the Tigers that made the difference. 

“Really proud of our guys tonight, nor so much for how they played but for the will and desire they played with,” said Blankenship following the contest. “We would have lost this game in the past, but the Seniors on this team have that “WANT TO WIN” about them that overcomes all the other things. Can’t say enough about the way they have led this team this year.”

Jonesboro-Hodge (6-1) 7 14 7 0 28
Cedar Creek (3-3) 6 14 6 0 26

Scoring Summary:
1st quarter: JHHS – Mozee 65 yard punt return (Leonard kick)
1st quarter: CCHS- 7 yd run (Kick NG)
2nd quarter: CCHS – 1 yd run (Kick Good)
2nd quarter: JHHS – Malone 30 yd run (Leonard kick)
2nd quarter: CCHS – 9 yard run (Kick good)
2nd quarter: JHHS – Lewis 38 yd pass from Malone (Leonard kick)
3rd quarter: JHHS – Thompson 85 yard kick off return (Leonard kick)
3rd quarter: CCHS – 6 yd pass (2 pt run no good

Yardstick JHHS CCHS
1st Downs 7 19
Rushes -Yards 17-87 57-236
A-C-Yds,TD/INT 6-13-71, 1 TD 3-8-39, 1 TD
Total Yards 156 275
Penalties / yds 7-72 3-15
3rd down conv 0-8 7-16
4th down conv 1-2 2-10
Time of possession 15:32 32:47

JHHS Individual Statistics:

Rushing: Thompson 7/55
Passing: Malone 6-13-71, 1 TD
Receiving: Lewis 3-49, 1TD, Calahan 2-28
Scoring: Malone -6, Lewis -6, Thompson -6, Mozee -6, Leonard -4
Tackles: Atkins – 21 

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