HOOVER — After putting together an all-state season last year, Jacksonville Christian Academy quarterback Daylon Brackett and the Thunder offense stumbled out of the gate this season.
The lack of production, throughout the first two offensive possessions, along with an inability to stop big plays defensively, ultimately kept JCA from picking up its first win of the 2014 season. Instead, after giving up two quick touchdowns, the Thunder had to play catch up all night, and it cost them as they fell to the Shades Mountain Christian School 42-34 in the season-opener.
“The way the ball game started off, it looked like we were way overmatched and could’ve just quit,” Thunder head coach Tommy Miller said. “After we got our composure back and scored, after they ran out to a 14-0 lead, it showed we didn’t quit. We tried to fight hard to get back in there and stay in it.”
“I do think we did fight and did not quit. I’ll give them that all night.”
And fought hard they did.
After shaking off the nerves in the opening minutes of the game, Brackett finished with 184 rushing yards, 110 passing yards, and 87 return yards. This includes touchdown passes of 5 yards to Walker Messer and 39 yards to Kris Armprester, and touchdown runs of 1 and 14 yards. He also converted four extra points.
“God gave me good eyes to see the lanes,” the senior quarterback said. “Coach always gives me opportunities. If it’s a pass play, I still have a chance to run the ball. He has that faith in me, and that’s something I’ve earned over the years.
“If I see open lanes, I use my ability to move my feet and make some moves.”
Brackett showed off that ability on several occasions.
In the first half, he zig-zagged through the Eagles’ defense and went sideline-to-sideline, while avoiding more than 10 would-be tacklers, for a 61-yard gain. While attempting to lead the second-half comeback, he never went down on first contact, as well as tight-roped the Shades Mountain sideline to keep drives alive.
“Daylon still played another good ballgame,” Miller said. “He played really, really well.”
Junior running back Andre Garner scored the other Thunder touchdown of the night. He walked into the end zone from 5 yards out during the second quarter.
One of Brackett’s favorite receivers, Armprester, didn’t see much time throughout the game because of an injury sustained before the season started. However, he did come in and see action on several occasions while freshman Elijah McCormack was dealing with cramps because of the high temperature.
Next week, JCA will have an open date. Having the break this early in the season gives the Thunder an opportunity to learn and get better for when they begin region play.
“I think it’s going to help us now,” Brackett said. “I was kind of iffy about it, but after this tough loss tonight, I think it’s going to give us extra motivation to dig in and work as hard as we can for when region play starts.
“We did not give up all night. When we were down, we kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and that’s all I can ask for out of the guys. If we can keep that attitude, along with keeping our heads up, there’s no telling where we can go as a team.”
For the Eagles, Austin Patterson had touchdown runs of 51, 41 and 4 yards. Billy Parker added touchdown runs of 42 and 2 yards. Harrison Boozer also found Will Rowell for a 51-yard touchdown reception late in the game.