“I’ve been known to pitch a fit,” said the 34-year coaching veteran.
Pleasant Valley coach Jeff Davis got a surprise, too, putting a damper on his evening.
After a strong second quarter where the Raiders rallied and almost took the lead, Pleasant Valley faded quickly in the second half to fall 35-8.
“It was just conditioning,” Davis said. “We started the second half and we were dadgum dragging.
“… No, I didn’t see it coming. I actually thought we did good in our jamboree last week. We were physical and got after it.”
Pleasant Valley did the same on Friday night under the bright lights at Jacksonville State’s Snow-Burgess field. After a hiccup on the first play from scrimmage — that resulted in an 80-yard touchdown run by Chad Thompson — the Raiders stepped up and battled their way back into the game.
First-year starting quarterback Lucas Ford engineered a 14-play, 75-yard drive and capped it with a 20-yard pass to Eddie Roe. He found Hunter Green on the two-point conversion.
And Pleasant Valley’s strong second quarter wasn’t just on offense. Dustin Andrews found his way into the Sand Rock backfield twice on the ensuing drive to help put the Wildcats in a third-and-37 hole just before the half.
Jacoway said in his many years of coaching he knew the letdown was coming from his team; He knew it as soon as Thompson broke into the open field and up the left side for his long run.
“I just wished he’d ran 10 yards and fell down,” Jacoway said. “I knew as soon as we scored like that — and you see it in high school and college all the time — they just think it’s easy, and they let up.”
Whether it was Pleasant Valley’s defense or Sand Rock’s apathy, something happened. After his 80-yard run, he finished the half with four carries for 82 yards.
He quickly got back on track after Jacoway’s fire, brimstone and water-bucket filled halftime sermon. Thompson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior, finished with 224 yards on 11 carries with four touchdowns (80, 1, 11 and 87). He took his last carry with the game wrapped up just after the mandated heat timeout in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like I had a little extra hop in my step tonight,” Thompson said of playing in the college stadium and setting a new career-high mark for yards and touchdowns. “That (touchdown run) didn’t have anything to do with hop — that was all the offensive line.”
As Sand Rock’s offense revved its engines in the second half, it was clear Pleasant Valley had dropped a cylinder.
Pleasant Valley’s 200-yard, first-half performance was nowhere to be seen in the second. With just minutes remaining punter Adam Boozer turned a bad snap into a 26-yard gain,. Before that, Pleasant Valley accounted for only 65 yards in 14 minutes.
Will Hamby led the Raiders with 13 carries for 57 yards. He only had one carry in the second half.
With limited depth, Davis said the Raiders tried to keep fresh legs in the backfield, “we’re only playing 15 to 16 kids.”
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.