Former Oakland Raider owner and general manager said it best when ask what was most important when he coyly replied – JUST WIN BABY! Attempting to accomplish that goal has been elusive for the Jonesboro-Hodge this season but by rallying past Lincoln Prep 30-26 this past Friday night the Tigers finally got a win after three season opening losses. The visiting Panthers fell to 2-2 with the loss. The difference in the game came when Tiger H-Back, Chase Leonard, bulled his way into the endzone from three yards out with just 47 seconds left to play.
It could be said that the contest was the one of the more exciting ones ever played at Caldwell Peacock stadium as both teams fell behind twice before making comebacks to take the lead. Exciting yes! Well played? A resounding NO!
In what can only be termed as a “comedy of errors,” in reality, neither team deserved to win. The stats prove the point. Both teams turned the ball over four times, albeit in different fashion. For the Tigers the main culprit was an inept passing game that completed more downfield passes to their opponent and gave up one of the two fumbles lost. All led to Lincoln Prep scores.
The villian in the “dramatic tragedy” for the visiting Panther was their special teams that allowed two block punts, a blocked extra point attempt and fumbled another attempt to punt. The offense also threw an interception for good measure. Four more times errant passes hit Tiger defenders squarely in the hands only to be dropped. SIGH!
On the positive side, out of the darkness that was result of the inept ball security demonstrated by both teams, a historic measure was acheived. That being junior linebacker Xavier Atkins etching his name into the alltime record annals for blocking two punts in one half. Alas,Atkins also became the first Tiger player in recent memory to be ejected from a game before the end of the first half as result of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalites. YIKES!
Not only was both teams generous to the opponent to a fault, often times neither could even complete a play without making an infraction of some kind. Twenty-nine (29) times the referrees threw the penalty flag. Jonesboro-Hodge has played played football games for over 100 years and this was the most combinded penalties called – EVER!
Fortunately for the Tigers it was Lincoln Prep who committed the most fouls getting whistled 19 times compared to just (?) 10 for the Tigers. The 19 penalties sets another JHHS school record as most ever by an opponent.
In the end not even the sweet taste of victory could take out the sour taste head coach Terrance Blankenship had in his mouth following the contest.
“I guess I should be happy we got the win, but we have got to get better quick or it’s going to be a long season,” bemoaned Blankenship. “There is nothing about this game that I am pleased with other than the guys kept plugging to finally come out on top.”
The contest looked like an easy win for the Tigers at the start. After forcing L-Prep to a “three and out” on their first possession, Atkins blasted through to block the punt, setting the Tigers up at the Panther 14 yard line. Ed’Tavious Drayton then rambled 14 yards ion the first play from scrimmage to give JHHS a 6-0 lead.
JHHS drove to the L-Prep 9 yard line on their next possession only to throw a pick but a bad snap on the Panthers punt attempt set JHHS back up on the opponents 39 yard line. Three straight runs by Drayton and JHHS was up 12-0 and seeminly in total control.
The score stayed that way until just a little over four minutes remained in the second quarter when the Tigers coughed up their third turnover of the first half. That set off a series of events that left Tiger faithful stunned and shaking their heads in disbelief.
With the ball on the Tiger 22 yard line following the give away, L-Prep scored in three plays to narrow the margin to 12-6. Inspired by the score the Panthers took over at the Tigers 45 yard line. With just 2:01 left in the half, Lincoln Prep managed to convert a fourth and long and third and long, the latter being a 16 yard touchdown pass that tied the score.
What happened next was almost inconceivable. With five seconds left in the half the Tigers allowed Lincoln Prep to recover a pooch kick that no one on the kick return team even attempted to retrieve. Then with just time for one play left and knowing that the ball had to be thrown into the endzone, unbelievably a Panther receiver was left wide open in the corner of the end zone sending JHHS into the half trailing by an 18-12 margin.
To the Tiger coaching staff’s and players credit, JHHS opened the second half by the offensive line leading the way to two straight touchdowns. Twelve straight time the Tigers ran the ball behind their behemoth line resulting in 115 yards gained and both Drayton and Dominick Strickland scoring that gave JHHS a 24-18 lead.
The Tigers seemed to be in total control at that point, when once again they became their own worst enemy. Driving for what certainly would be the a nail in the Panthers coffin, the Tigers fumbled again. That led to L-Prep marching 72 yards in 8 plays to tie the game. The two point conversion put the Tigers behind 26-24.
Tired of seeing his offense self destruct, when the Tigers took over at their own 39 yard line, Blankenship turned to Symeon Malone at quarterback and freshman, Jason Blackburn at tailback. The move provided positive inertia as Blackburn scampered for a couple of good gains and Malone found Zion Gray for a crucial third down conversion setting up Leonard’s game winning score.
Ed’Tavious Drayton rushed the ball 19 times for a career high 190 yards and three scores to lead the Tiger offense. Jason Blackburn added 77 yards on 8 carries. Xavier Atkins, despite missing the entire second half, led the defense with 10 tackles, two assists, one sack, two tackles for a loss and two blocked punts.
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