JACKSONVILLE — In a friendly meeting between a former coach and assistant on Friday night, the scoreboard wasn’t as friendly.
In a 31-7 game, Jacksonville first-year coach Clint Smith fell to his former team, Saks, which is coached by his former defensive coordinator, Jonathan Miller.
“We came out and executed offensively and got the run established,” Miller said. “That was important, and I think our kids came out ready to play. Anytime you can establish the line of scrimmage with your offensive line, it’s going to be a good night. I’m proud of our offensive line and our backs for running the ball hard.”
Establishing the line of scrimmage early gave Saks momentum right out of the gate, and the Golden Eagles (5-5) were never able to recover.
After a big stop by Jacksonville inside the red zone led to a Wildcats field goal in the first quarter, the floodgates were opened soon after by Saks.
Ladarius Young was the first to find the end zone, making the score 10-0 in the first. His score also ended his night after Young, who’s still recovering from a knee injury, recorded two carries for 20 yards.
“We just wanted to get him a couple of plays to knock the rust off a little bit,” Miller said. “He’s been out for a while and we just wanted to shake some rust off of him. Hopefully he’ll be ready to play next week.”
Without Young in the game, Davontae Young picked up where the senior left off.
After only gaining 20 yards on four carries in the third quarter, the junior made the game uglier for Jacksonville in the fourth.
Following a touchdown reception and 55-yard punt return by Tre Smith, Young ran the ball three times for 35 yards, scoring from 27 yards out on the third carry to give Saks (8-2) a 24-0 lead.
“We have a lot confidence in Davontae,” Miller said. “He’s a good football player. We missed him earlier in the season when he had a thumb injury and missed the first four games. He’s finally got his cast off and he’s rounding into form. He’s done a good job carrying the football for us in Ladarius’ absence.”
For the Golden Eagles, things just simply didn’t go right for most of the game.
With star running back Dominique Thomas sidelined with an ankle injury from last week, Jacksonville needed quarterback Jackson Bell to have a huge game.
Completing 3 of 3 passes for 25 yards in the first half, things went the opposite direction for Bell late in the second quarter. The junior left the game after his helmet bounced off the turf while being sacked, and he didn’t return. Smith said the training staff was unable to fully diagnosis Bell on the sideline, but he did have an idea of the injury.
“Early, early indications are a concussion,” he said. “That’s all we know right now.”
Coming out after the half looking completely deflated, the Golden Eagles got a few small sparks in the second half thanks to Bell’s backup, Lavontae Lacount.
Finishing the night 5-11 for 66 yards and 96 yards on seven rushes, Lacount completed his biggest pass midway through the fourth quarter to Payton Sims, who made a diving catch at the 2-yard line.
“Lavontae came in and made some good plays for us,” Smith said. “He did a really good job. But hats off to Saks, they did a great job tonight.”
Savon Parker punched it in from two yards out on the next play, getting the Golden Eagles on the board, 31-7.
Saks will play Sylvania next week at home in the first round of the playoffs.
“Anytime you win a game headed into the playoffs it’s good, and we’re proud of our guys for doing that tonight,” Miller said. “Hopefully we can make a run. I think we’re capable and we just have to believe and come out and practice hard next week and come ready to play.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star