Junior Dominique Thomas rambled for 299 yards on 21 carries and scored four touchdowns to lead the Class 4A Golden Eagles to a 37-12 rout of Class 2A Pleasant Valley.
It was the season opener for both teams and marked Smith’s first game since leaving Saks to take the Jacksonville job. He admitted some nerves.
“You start off with a rivalry game like this and just having so many new kids on our team that just haven’t had a whole lot of experience playing under the lights, especially in an atmosphere like this,” Smith said. “I was proud of how we came out in the second half and really just kind of established the game a little bit.”
Thomas ran for 188 yards and two scores in the second half, breaking open a game the Golden Eagles led 14-6 at halftime.
Thomas’ touchdown runs covered five, 20, four and 45 yards.
“I thank the line for blocking,” he said. “They did what they are supposed to do, open up holes for me to cut through.”
Quarterback Jackson Bell added a solid performance, completing seven of 13 passes for 111 yards. Jacksonville amassed 500 total yards.
The Golden Eagles also got Savon Parker’s 9-yard touchdown run, and Mason Tompkins kicked a 26-yard field goal after missing from 41 and 24 yards.
Pleasant Valley managed 188 total yards, with quarterback Lucas Ford and receiver Dustin Andrews accounting for most of it. Ford hit on five of seven passes for 111 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Andrews to bring the Raiders within 7-6 at 4:55 of the second quarter.
Andrews broke open on a deep slant and caught the ball on the run, about 25 yards down field. He outraced Jacksonville’s secondary to the goal line.
“We knew they were in man coverage, and we knew they were coming up on the option, and Dustin can run,” Pleasant Valley coach Jeff Davis said.
Ford also broke a 93-yard kickoff return for a score that brought Pleasant Valley within 24-12 with 3.8 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Lucas can go any time,” Davis said. “He’s one of the fastest kids around, but we’ve got to do more than two big plays. We’ve got to sustain drives and move the football and keep the chains moving and keep the ball out of other peoples’ hands to win.”
Jacksonville did that and had chances to score more points. A block in the back negated an Elijah Cunningham touchdown run near the end of the first quarter, setting the stage for Tompkins’ first miss. The Golden Eagles also got flagged for an ineligible receiver on a play that ended inside the Pleasant Valley 10-yard line.
Tompkins’ 41 yard miss came after Jacksonville had first down at the Raiders’ 22, but Parker got thrown for a 4-yard loss that doomed the Golden Eagles to third down and 10.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Smith said. “Hopefully, being the first game and a lot of first-game jitters for these guys, especially these new guys, hopefully that’ll get better.”