There’s nothing like starting a new season out with a win. Even better than that, there is nothing like starting the season out with a win over a long time rival.
That’s just what the Jacksonville Golden Eagles did as they started out the new season with a come from behind victory over the Alexandria Cubs 27-19.
Jacksonville, with only a handful of starters back, won the game with several players in key positions who were playing in their first varsity game.
But get ready Jacksonville fans, the Eagles showed they have talent across the board and are ready to deliver an exciting season.
Junior quarterback Quen Veasley, taking his first snaps, kept his composure and showed a lot of poise after the Eagles went down 13-0 in the first half. Veasley directed his team to a 14-13 halftime lead.
Veasley ended up 6-for-9 passing for 49 yards.
Action started when the Valley Cubs, who moved up to Class 5A while the Eagles stayed in 4A, took the kickoff and marched right down the field and scored a touchdown from two yards out. The extra point was good and the Cubs held a 7-0 lead with 5:33 remaining in the first quarter.
The Eagles were forced to punt and Alexandria, led by quarterback Luke Tucker, marched right down the field again to score this time from five yards out on a run by Jacob Heathcock. The extra point was no good but the Cubs had gone up 13-0 and seemed to control the game.
Jacksonville started the next drive on their own 44-yard line. Senior “Mr. Do Everything” Sid Thurmond took the ball to the Cubs 40-yard line. A pass from Veasley to sophomore Evan Shook quickly set the Eagles up at Alexandria’s 30-yard line.
Runs by Thurmond, Veasley and sophomore Tae Ackles put the ball at the 17-yard line. A pass to Thurmond gave the Eagles the ball on the 11. It was Ackles to the one then Ackles in for the first Eagle touchdown of the season. The extra point was no good and the Eagles were back in the game 13-6 with 6:17 remaining in the first half.
Ackles, at 6’ 190 pounds will remind people of departed running back Dominique Thomas. Only a sophomore, Ackles made his first start memorable as he carried the ball 19 times for 111 yards and one touchdown. He is definitely one to keep an eye on this season.
The Eagles recovered a fumble on the Cubs next possession on the Cub 37-yard line. Unable to make anything happen the Eagles had to punt then held the Cubs, forcing them to punt. Junior J.J. Johnson broke through the Cub defense, blocking the punt that was picked up by teammate Nie’dale Archie and returned 45 yards for another Eagles touchdown to bring the Eagles within one. Eagle Head Coach Clint Smith elected to go with the two-point conversion and converted to go up by one, 14-13 at the end of the half.
You could feel the shift in momentum; it was all with the Eagles. The team was jubilant as they raced into the locker room.
The Eagles got the ball to start the second half and started where they had left off.
Starting at their own 38 yard line Ackles broke loose and raced to the Cub 20. It was Ackles again to the ten, Veasley calling his own number to the seven then Thurmond did the rest, taking the ball in for the score. The extra point by Rico Ortiz was good and just like that, with 10:28 remaining in the third quarter, the Eagles were on top 21-13, stunning the Cubs sideline and fans.
The Valley Cubs didn’t show signs of giving up. Tyrelle Gay returned the kickoff to the Cubs 40-yard line. A holding call put Alexandria back to their own 32-yard line. Facing a third and 20 situation, Tucker hit his receiver to the Eagle 47. Woodruff broke a run to the 7-yard line and then took the ball in for the score. The two-point conversion was no good and the game had become a typical Alexandria-Jacksonville shootout with the Eagles on top 21-19.
The ball went back and forth until 5:28 remaining in the forth quarter when the Eagles struck pay dirt once again.
The Eagles started on the Cub 40 yard line after a penalty. It was Ackles to the 30-yard line for a first down, then sophomore Niko Richmond powered his way to the Alexandria 22.
The Eagles sliced through the Cub defense with Richmond picking up another first down. Ackles ran the ball to the 5-yard line where Veasley punched the ball in for the final touchdown of the game and the 27-19 win.
The Eagle coaching staff was thrilled with the win, none more so than Smith. “Alexandria did a great job of setting the tone. They took the ball right down the field and punched it in. I was proud of our kids. They kept their heads up and kept fighting.
“That blocked punt at the end of the first half gave us a lot of momentum then we got the ball to start the second half and came away with the touchdown.
“It was back and forth the second half and that’s the way we expect all of our games to be.
“The boys have worked hard all summer and played with a great mindset.
“Tae (Ackles) did a great job. He is an excellent running back but this was a win by committee. We also had great plays by Johnson, Archie and Richmond. It was just a great win for us.”
Thurmond finished the game with three receptions for 27 yards, and Shook was 2-for 21 yards.
Rushing, Richmond had 32 yards on five carries in addition to Ackles 111 yards.
The Eagles finished with 198 yards rushing in addition to the 49 yards passing.
Jacksonville will travel to face Weaver next Friday night.